Doubleday, E. Lynn Harris, Kingett Reads

Kingett Reads Basketball Jones: Prologue.

In the prologue of Basketball Jones, one of my questions has definitely been answered, but this leaves more mystery which already has me loving the book. Intrigued? It’s time for Kingett to read Basketball Jones.

Usually when I open books to see a prologue, I’m placed in this very odd place. In my experience with reading, a prologue spells everything out in the beginning of a story or hints at things to come. This can either be a good tactic or a bad tactic, with faults either way, with various other things such as pacing and mystery.

Basketball Jones opens up on a prologue, but it’s a kind of prologue that I haven’t seen. Usually, prologues have huge splotches of poor foreshadowing or excessive backstory, telling what has been or what will happen. In Basketball Jones none of that is taking place at all in the prologue. What it serves to be is a declarative statement. “This is where we are at now. Let me tell you how we got here.”

I’m introduced to both AJ and Dray in this prologue. The introduction happens as though AJ, the protagonist, and I are sitting in a coffee shop that he’s taken me to because he has something very important to tell me upon our first meeting. I’m being addressed directly, as if AJ is sitting opposite from me, slightly leaning forward.

The style of writing is frank. It isn’t using many metaphors or hyperbole. It’s not droll or dull. It’s a down to earth conversation. Given the audio book narrator, I’m assuming that AJ is black.

How do I feel about this kind of delivery? I’m not quite sure yet. It’s a definite way to draw me into AJ’s world and learn what he’s all about, as well as the choices he’s made because AJ is investing a lot by telling me his biggest secret to date – the relationship he and Dray are in, and have been in for seven years. On the other hand, I’m subjected to what AJ tells me, and I do not like this because AJ could be telling me lies, for all I know.

I’m not quite sure how I should feel about being confided in, with something so pertinent, so quickly. I’m guessing it’s because the author wanted to get it out of the way in the most engaging way possible. On the other hand, I’m wondering if this was intentionally written this way to keep certain things ambiguous. AJ isn’t telling me everything. That’s evident because there are so many questions banging around my head I can craft up 12 pages of them.

AJ doesn’t tell me everything but what he does tell me, as I’m taking notes and sipping an espresso, is the nitty gritty of how Dray and he met, along with what he’s doing now.

Can you keep a secret? Well, I, Aldridge James Richardson (AJ on the short), can. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s become second nature. I’m not a secretive person either. That came in time. Seven years to be exact. That’s how long I’ve been with Dray Jones. It’s for him–for us, really–that I keep all the secrets that allow us to stay a couple. I don’t mean ordinary secrets like “Where were you last night?” “Working late,” you say, when in reality you’re out with the bois. No, I’m talking career-destroying secrets that can make or break a guy and destroy a family. Stuff that, if word got out, your life is basically over–or in my case “our” life would be over, because Dray and I are in this together. Not that we’re in any real danger of having our secrets exposed. We’re extremely careful to make certain that never happens. Dray knows I love him with all my heart and that I’ll keep quiet as long as he needs me to.

But this hasn’t been a cakewalk for me. Truth be told, there are times I think I’ll burst from holding so much inside. Watching his back and mine is full-time work–a job made no easier by having to keep everything to myself. If there were just one person I could confide in, then some of the weight would be taken off my shoulders. Only I don’t dare breathe a word of our business to anyone, not even my best friend or my mother. Instead, I spend my life dancing around the truth with the grace of a prima ballerina. The things we do in the name of love!

Immediately I’m leaning forward, challenging AJ on his morals and his point of view as well as reasoning. Why does he love Dray so much? What on earth could Dray have done to make AJ fawn over some basketball star? AJ answers my question in this prologue, but I have many more.

Dray, or Drayton, as his parents named him, wasn’t always a big basketball star hiding out from his adoring fans, and I wasn’t the boyfriend in the background who pretended to be the star’s buddy for their benefit. I fell in love with him in college, back when he didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out. That’s real talk, people. I’d never before been involved with a DLB–otherwise known as a “down low brother”– but knew enough to guess that this probably spelled trouble. At first, I wasn’t so willing to compromise myself. I’ve known I was gay my whole life and didn’t go out of my way to hide it. That meant I wasn’t prepared to help someone else hide his sexuality. But Dray didn’t see it like that. He wasn’t gay, he assured me. He pointed out the obviously gay men on campus, and would say, “See? That’s gay. I’m not like that.” Never mind that I was gay and I wasn’t like that either. When it came to discussing who or what Dray was, you didn’t ask and he didn’t tell. In time it made less of a difference to me what he called himself or what people might make of our relationship if they ever found out about it.

I have many feelings about this particular bit because it says a lot about Dray as a person, even if I’m introduced very briefly. Dray doesn’t even love himself enough to be openly bisexual or gay. AJ confirms this when he tells me that Dray sleeps with women. So, Dray is DL.

I have very strong feelings about that as well. While I’m very much open and out to my community, even employers, I do know some people who have to remain in the closet because of prejudice, but they are only in the closet when at work, say, if the problematic location is at work. When they go away from the office, then they are open and let their hair down. That, I believe, is acceptable. I don’t like Dray already and his kind of lifestyle, or the DL concept that Dray has adopted, but that could be because I am, myself, very much out of the closet. I just believe that if you’re going to fool around with people and have a viable relationship, then you should at least be honest with them about how you feel about your sexuality. Dray isn’t even honest with himself, nor AJ.

Excuse you, Dray? You’re not gay because you don’t act a certain way or conform to the goddamn stereotype of gay boys on campus? What? I want to punch you so hard your teeth will rocket out of your skull. AJ, why did you settle for Dray? I don’t like Dray at the moment, at all.

I hate to tell you Dray, but you’re gay, and you’re going to prove it to AJ and me.

AJ met Dray when he was tutoring Dray for algebra. Since AJ had always been a good student, the faculty chose him to be Dray’s tutor. AJ fell in love with another cute black man. He thinks that Dray is drop dead gorgeous.

The thing that’s interesting is that I don’t get to see Dray’s personality at all. I’m just listening to what AJ tells me about him. AJ picks up on something that I pick up on as well. Dray has some deep-rooted issues. Perhaps he was raped, so he thinks that if he comes out, then he’ll be like that disgusting “obvious gay guy” who raped him? Does Dray have a good family? I don’t know. They are only described in the prologue as being a southern Baptist family…

Is Dray afraid? I’m guessing he is.

Why isn’t AJ afraid of being gay? What kind of life did AJ have growing up?

I can understand the attraction to potential straight guys, though, hoping that they’d be gay. I, myself, have stayed very good friends with some very special straight people in the vague hope that one day they will sit me down on the couch and tell me that they are in fact gay. While I can definitely sympathize with AJ as he fawns over Dray throughout the tutoring sessions, I don’t understand why he hangs on. To me, Dray seems like an asshole who can’t even admit to who he is.

Perhaps I’m being very hard on Dray because I’ve just met him, but AJ assures me that the two cared for one another. I don’t know how Dray cared for AJ because AJ describes their relationship in very vague words. At the moment he’s telling more about what happened, rather than the why. I’m listening, though.

Dray’s a natural ballplayer but struggles with algebra, so the two work very hard on studying. There’s a big test where Dray tries to flirt with AJ a bit by telling AJ he should take the test for him because he’s definitely smarter, coupled with good looks, including fabulous mocha brown skin.

AJ says that if he does, he’d turn Dray in. I don’t know why this intrigues Dray so much, but it does, and his secret love for AJ intensifies. When Dray passes the final exam of the algebra class, the two seniors celebrate in AJ’s apartment. Dray had stopped by with a case of beer. Straight guys don’t just show up at a gay guys place late at night with beer unless they have alternative motives. AJ realizes this as well, but he’s so thrown by Dray being there and having someone so hot in his apartment at this time of night he doesn’t question it. Naturally, they hang out in the apartment and this leads to down low sex.

AJ isn’t a dummy. That’s very evident in this prologue, but I do think that he’s an idiot for getting involved desperately with Dray. Why do I believe it’s desperate? I’ll hit that sweet spot in a bit.

AJ loves Dray’s body and touch and looks, but I have a feeling that AJ isn’t telling me what REALLY went on in his head that night as he holds Dray’s hand under the covers, as he drifts off into his own slumber watching Dray sleep. The next morning, Dray threatens AJ not to tell, otherwise he’d kick AJ’s ass. This is when AJ and I notice that Dray has some serious issues. I want to tell Dray to shut the fuck up and go screw a girl, then, but AJ tries to learn what they are. Dray doesn’t tell. AJ makes a point that he’s out and he isn’t dead, or homeless, or the like, and this is when Dray turns into a threatening asshole. AJ can see something in Dray’s eyes, though – that’s utter sadness.

Why is there sadness? I want to know, but I still think Dray is a twat and that there are better men out there for AJ. Just saying!

AJ then tells me how their relationship grew, and I have a bit of personal commentary about that. Both boys graduated, and Dray soon became a huge NBA star to no one’s surprise. He asks AJ to move to Los Angeles with him. AJ is concerned because AJ knows that if he does, this will be a full time job – keeping the secret. Dray tells AJ that he has it covered, which I call total bullshit on, but AJ doesn’t listen to me. He moves in with Dray, and this is the end of the prologue.

AJ figuratively takes a deep breath as he begins to tell me the next part of the story. I’m intrigued about the relationship, and here’s why.

AJ has such a huge hold on Dray it’s unbelievable. By keeping Dray in the closet, Dray has subjected himself to AJ and what AJ says to others. That’s a kind of trust that I would never be able to handle. I’d never like putting all of my faith in one man. I’m guessing that this is why AJ loves him, because he knows that Dray needs him. Still, though, there’s an entire side of all of this that I haven’t seen yet. I’m just wondering if AJ feels depressed. Is that why he’s figuratively confiding in me? Why did he feel that he needed to tell me this secret at long last?

This is what I believe… I’m thinking that Dray is not very good to AJ, in some aspects. I think Dray is abusive and/or controlling. I also think that he’s been cheating on AJ, but that’s because I don’t like Dray, and I want to have a solid excuse to punch dray in the face.

 Then again, I also believe that this is the strongest relationship ever. Why? Because AJ and Dray depend on one another, and all it takes is one mistake for AJ to ruin Dray’s life, so to speak. Dray loves AJ because AJ has all the power, and he has all the cards in his hand.

I believe AJ knows that Dray HAS to love him and this is why he stays in this relationship, but AJ has to tell me more. I’m waiting with bated breath

But why would Dray even give up that kind of control? Why would AJ go ahead with it, overall, because he KNEW that Dray would HAVE to love him?

Is this relationship even like this, or am I a huge idiot? What kind of issues does Dray have? I want to know more. I HAVE to know how Dray and AJ grew up. I’ve just met them. I want to dig deeper. There’s definitely more to this relationship than AJ is telling me.

I have to stay and listen more. I have to learn what these two were like as kids! Did AJ have many abusive boyfriends? Why would he settle for Dray? I don’t like Dray, but I understand him a little bit. I wonder if Dray will ever grow up and, gasp, call himself bisexual?

I’ll just have to order another espresso and listen to AJ tell me more. I’ll need a lot more cups, I reckon.


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