Doubleday, E. Lynn Harris, Guest Contributor, Kingett Reads

Kingett Reads “Basketball Jones” – Chapter One

In chapter one of Basketball Jones, exposition is definitely the forefront of the chapter, but there’s also a lot of demonstration of the relationship that I don’t know how to wrap my head around. Intrigued? It’s time for Kingett to read Basketball Jones.

Even though I haven’t been on this earth very long I have developed my own thoughts about subjects that I think very heavily about. One of these is jealousy. While I could dictate a novel about my opinions and point of view on jealousy, I want to discuss something that’s very interesting in this chapter apart from the jealousy. It relates to the writing style.

I’ve read many books, and perhaps this is just me, but I’m partial to writers showing me things rather than telling me things… what I mean by this is, through actions and dialogue, I learn things about the places I’m in or the people that I’m with. It’s a neat and quick way to get me sucked into the story and let me develop my own point of view about characters in a story. If a character tells me that Jane is happy all the time, then I’m not making a conscious deduction about Jane. I have to rely on whatever a character tells me about her. That character, though, could be very narrow-minded and may not even understand Jane at all.

If scenes pop up and Jane does things all the time that reinforce her “happy” traits, then I can make a better  judgment because I’m actively watching and listening to her do things, not passively listening to someone talk about her.

Basketball Jones doesn’t show me anything. Basketball Jones tells me everything that happens through the character. How do I feel about this kind of delivery?

It’s a good and bad thing. As I have said, I’m having a conversation with AJ. I don’t know what’s true or what’s not, and I don’t know if AJ is even telling me the entire truth. This creates senses of mystery, though, and it makes me want to continue listening to AJ tell me his story. At the same time, I believe that AJ isn’t seeing things really clearly so I don’t know what to think about his thought process. I can’t fully trust what I’m reading, because it’s colored through one point of view. Even when writing in first person I have seen authors show me a lot of things, events, and people. I don’t know if this kind of style is intentional or if this is just a style the author has. If it’s a style, I’m not thrilled about the style, because I have to listen to someone, and I don’t know him very well, so I can’t trust what I’m being told. Even though the outlines are filtered through whatever AJ tells me, I’m getting a solid picture through this chapter.

This chapter is all about the why. I use that term very loosely though because I have to take AJ’S word on everything. In this chapter, AJ tells me how good he has it and what the relationship is like.

AJ has  a swimming life. He has his MBA, but he’s never had to work a nine-to-five ever since he moved in with Dray. Dray provides for him, and AJ uses his brains to fix Dray’s house, car, computer, and fashion knowledge to make sure that Dray looks good, smells good, eats well, has the best gadgets, and the best sex. AJ is the material provider. What I mean by that is he seems to take care of the mundane things like items and endorsements, and Dray just takes care of the bigger things like houses, cars, and the like.

I’m not sure what kind of relationship this is. AJ tells me a lot but since I can’t see what’s happening, I don’t know what to make of it.

If I had to try and deduce this relationship, I’d say this was a daddy/son relationship. I don’t know if Drey is even older than AJ. I think AJ is older.

What’s puzzling about the dynamics of this relationship is the assurance – there isn’t any. There’s a lot of security, such as the “I got your back and you got mine” bit, but I don’t know if that’s something that you should base your relationship off of. I can definitely see all kinds of drama happening with that, and then some. I don’t think that’s actual security even though the principal is there – the two boys watch each other’s back, and that’s the sign of love that flashes between them, but I don’t understand how this can make any of them feel completely safe.

AJ is the kind of guy – from what he’s telling me – that’s very romantic. On Dray’s last birthday for example, AJ remembered some cologne that Dray smelled “damn good in,” and he went and bought some. He then went home, ran the tub and spa, and even sweet soft music, and surprised Dray with his first facial ever.

Dray isn’t that romantic – according to AJ. AJ told me that Dray came home on AJ’s birthday with store bought flowers, a kiss, and extra-long wild sex.

What’s baffling to me is neither tells each other they love one another. To Dray, this makes sense because he “ain’t gay…”, for which I seriously want to slap him across the face. It annoys me even more because Dray doesn’t even call himself gay when he’s alone, with no media, cameras, teammates, webcams, Skype calls, anything. When AJ and he are lying in the bed, he’s still straight.

EXCUSE ME? Dray? YOU’RE GAY. You… are… G – A – Y! GAY!

AJ has stopped calling himself gay openly as well, even when talking about himself. His mother doesn’t know, and I just don’t understand the basis behind this love that’s nested in security. I understand feeling safe, because I’d love to have AJ’s life, but I want to have my man, whomever he’ll be, love me and tell me he loves me once in a while, even if he shows it. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear. Oh, and we’d have billboards on our house that say we’re a gay couple.

I’m just annoyed with Drey’s point of view. I don’t think this is very mature, and it makes me impatient. Yes, there are homophobes, but when you’re alone with your man, be who you are… and don’t hide anything. I don’t get it. I don’t like Drey.

In between AJ telling me what he does for Dray and what he did for himself as far as school, he tells me that Dray met a white woman, Judy, at a club one night. There’s some really interesting points of view here, because AJ sounds like he just hates women in general, apart from his mother.

At first, he dated a couple of ghetto-fabulous sisters and some plain ghetto girls but got tired of them easily. I knew there was something different when he told me he’d met this young lady at a club in Miami after a road game there. He talked about how smart and beautiful she was and how much she knew about sports. Judi Ledbetter gave Dray the appearance of a socialite but sounded to me like a shrewd gold digger who gave good head, for a female, that is. I guess everybody is good at something.

I can understand why AJ’s jealous, however, even though I don’t think he understood very well what “acting straight” meant, or means. The two boys are everything to each other. Both are like a massive security blanket for one another. AJ feels that if Judy comes along and does everything he does better than him, then Dray will kick him out of the house, and AJ would have to go back to working like everyone else. I admit, I’d be freaking jealous too. I’d want to protect my spot as fiercely as I can, but AJ acts like he’s just now realized this is happening to him. AJ may seem smart to some readers, but to me he isn’t using his head very much right now.

Before I knew it, she was doing some of the things Dray had depended on me to do for him, like buying his clothes, planning his vacations, and advising him on what products he should endorse. The difference between her advice and mine was that she did it with a feminine flair, whereas I always presented my advice as one of his bois telling him what was cool. I hadn’t grown up in the lifestyle Dray and I were now living, but I’d done my homework to keep my head above water. I pored over style magazines like GQ and Esquire. I watched the Fine Living channel daily. I was constantly reading InStyle and Architectural Digest. My design background came in handy when I talked with the builders of Dray’s condo about crown molding, marble, and built-in bookshelves. When he built his first house, it was I who suggested the indoor pool and the basketball and tennis courts.

This is an awkward position because AJ can’t even talk about it with Dray, because Dray isn’t gay and he isn’t even in a relationship with AJ. Even though I’m thinking AJ isn’t telling me something very important, I still want to hug him and tell him “Oh my God, honey… there are better relationships… tougher living… but better relationships.”

AJ drops a very interesting development, though, that makes his choice to be within the security of Dray a lot clearer to me, even if it isn’t open.

My family, on the other hand, was a lot different. I’d been raised by a single mom in the small town of Burlington, North Carolina. My biological father left when I was six years old, and I don’t remember that much about him. Mama eventually started dating a guy who I called “Mr. Danny.” I liked him, but he made Mama cry a lot and disappeared when he got Mama pregnant, and she found out he hadn’t divorced his first wife. I loved Mama and would do anything in the world for her, because she made sure we always had food on the table and a roof over our heads.

His mother struggled, and he doesn’t want to go through that. I can sympathize. As I have said, if this sort of lifestyle were brought to me, I’d take it. I’d take the security, but I’d be a bit more open and honest with my partner about how I’m feeling. This hurts me a lot, seeing this kind of relationship play out. While I definitely understand the security and the “showing” of love, I still don’t think this is the ideal model to base a closeted relationship.

I have a  lot of respect for AJ because he’s willing to go through that kind of pain, such as when Dray marries Judy, to have that kind of security, but I don’t know if AJ is a brave soul or a fool.

AJ tells me about them moving to Atlanta… and about his first encounter with Judy… before I get to talking about what happens, I just HAVE to comment on the writing,

This is not a good simile.

So without further discussion, I moved to New Orleans. A couple of days after Dray was traded, two burly Mexican guys showed up at my home to pack my belongings. Things were happening so fast, I almost let the movers pack my personal journals, which I protected like the Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe.

And this isn’t a good description of physical traits… what a bad image I got! Two soccer balls? No. just, no! Stop it! Bad image!

One thing that I loved about New Orleans–the food–was already showing up on my lean but muscular five-foot-eight, 162-pound body, with a booty like two soccer balls tied together.

So after AJ describes all of that and then some extra bits about how he’s noticed Dray changing because of what Judy is doing to his shirts, wardrobe, cologne, etc… he tells me how he and Judy met. AJ was getting skin cream for Drey when he spots Judy.

I looked at her from the corner of my eye. She was not what I expected. She wasn’t pretty or plain. Like many women she had learned that with money she could create the illusion of some sort of sorority-girl-pretty look with the right makeup or hairstyle. I guess the best way to describe her was as a slightly younger version of the lady who played Edie on Desperate Housewives. Thank God I wasn’t competing with the character played by Eva Longoria, although with Tony Parker as the prize I might give it a shot.

I’ve never seen the show, so I don’t know what she looks like. She isn’t described at all. I’ll just make up some sort of hair color – blonde. By the way, that isn’t a good way to describe a main character. That was the worst description ever. I don’t know what she looks like! I don’t know the people he mentions either! Someone help me!

Judy seems like she’s eating it all up because her rich, black husband is taking care of her and her dad isn’t happy about her dating a black man. She also seems to be about as dumb as air, so I’m definitely wondering how she’s going to find out about Drey and AJ. I’m wondering how things will go down between her and AJ and what will happen between the two. This is a story about fighting for security, and keeping it. While I don’t like Dray at all, and he annoys me because of his “I’m straight” mantra, I’m still very much interested in how  Judy will find out about the two of them. I wonder if Dray will ever grow up, and I wonder if AJ will grow up also. Things are moving awfully fast, and I want to see how the battle of wills goes down. I can definitely tell this will be a battle of wits and security. I’m ready. I hope you are ready as well! Stay tuned as we read chapter two next week!


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