April 30, 2011
Me and my cousin are 11-years-old. We are lying down in his room, he is on his bed and I am on the floor. We are both recuperating from our first full week of football practice.
“You think we gone make the team?” My voice seems to carry quicker through the darkness. “Yeah we both gone make the team.” He responds confidently as if he has inside information from the coaches. Right then my uncle bursts into the room wearing Gazelle sunglasses, a white tank top, boxers, and green Pumas with fat laces (even though it’s the mid 1990’s not the 80’s).
“Hey,” he says in his deepest voice. His speech slightly slurred and a camel cigarette behind his right ear. “If ya’ll hear something going on in the living room don’t worry about it just go on back to sleep. And uh, if ya’ll got to go to the bathroom then go right now cause me and Precious gone need some privacy.”
We each pull our blankets over our heads and giggle. Precious is his longtime girlfriend—his main chick. Together they made my little cousin so we know they had sex, but to see my Uncle’s compact muscular frame in his underwear announcing to us that he is about to get some was ridiculously funny. “Alright, man down,” are his final words to us before he closes the door.
I couldn’t imagine him making that announcement before we started playing football. His son signing up for youth football seemed to be the best thing that had happened to him since he had children. Five total but only one boy. He was once a star running back at Southern University and he always wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. So he videotaped our first day of practice and bought us catfish and French fries afterwards. He told us some of his old football stories and for the first time in our lives he treated us like men and not children.
We stayed awake listening to Precious’s high pitched half screams and my Uncle’s loud panting that followed. Our white teeth glowed in the darkness of that small room as we tried to feel vicariously what they felt.