The past six months or so, I’ve been writing a book. A fulfilling process thus far it has been, but an equally annoying one as well. Spurts of motivation to actually complete it come and go like Roy Hibbert’s time on a basketball court. I tend to over-think things a lot.
What the final product will cover and the stories I’ll eventually tell are still foreign at this point. All I know is, writing a book is a bucket list item of mine. Something to leave behind long after I travel on to the eternal Cowboys Super Bowl parade in heaven because, you know, what else would heaven be? The book also represents a promise to a friend, one of my closest confidants, actually.
Pending you’ve called TSS your e-home away from home or followed my writings across the Internet – which I can never thank people enough for, by the way – the story about a partner of mine has been an occasional topic. Call it therapy, my way of ensuring he lives on outside the dilapidated confines of prison or, as P said years ago, I honestly do “miss my homie.”
Throughout college, I could always count on two consistent pieces of non-bill-related mail. My friend normally always sent two letters a month, basically his way of letting me know he was still alive and he wasn’t in the hole. The times when he’d go a month or two without writing, that’s when I knew he’d done something to get himself in trouble.
More often than not, each letter had a common message. By hell or high water, he would be released in time to see my younger brother’s high school graduation in 2010. My little brother was in many ways a younger sibling to my homeboy as well. He never received the opportunity to graduate from high school because of legal drama, so perhaps seeing my brother receive his diploma was him living vicariously through the moment.
The letters continued, as did the occasional visits, always ending with, “Aye, tell Ant I’m gon’ be there. I promise.” By May 2010, he received his release date. After nearly seven years behind bars, freedom was no longer foreign. Freedom with stipulations, that is. He still had to be in his house and squared away with his probation officer by 10:00 p.m. every night, but it’s better than “lights off” at whatever hour the belly of the beast commanded.
Unable to pick him up from the pen on the day of his release because I was finishing up Georgetown at the time, I saw him the very next month. The morning of my younger brother’s graduation.
For a guy who was hardened by three hots and a cot and literally fighting to survive, containing happiness was impossible. We dapped each other up and gave each other a long hug completed with four simple words, “Welcome home, my n*gga!” “Now keep your ass out for good this time!” soon followed.
By design, we didn’t speak much on the highway. He wanted to ride with the windows down and get smacked in the face by highway air, a reality extinct to his senses only a month earlier. I wanted him to. He deserved that moment. He requested to hear rap music blasted at ungodly levels, preferably Wayne or Boosie. I never asked him, but for split moment, I’m confident this was the closest he felt to heaven on earth since the days of yesteryear when we played Uno on my front porch for hours on end.
Following graduation, I pondered if he wanted to go home or if there was somewhere else he needed to be. I mean, for crying out loud, the man was just getting out of prison. The last thing I assumed he wanted was to spend an entire day with my family. “Man, I’m kicking it with you and your people. Y’all having a cookout, right?” he asked. “Well, I’m hungry. And I don’t have to be in the house until it gets dark. I’m not going in until I absolutely have to.”
So he stayed at the house. He helped throw food on the grill. He assisted my mom and grandma – his self-anointed aunt and grandma – around the house with preparation and clean-up. He felt a part of a family again. He felt alive sitting around, cracking jokes, eating hotdogs and drinking sodas. One of our favorite rap lyrics is resides on Jeezy’s “A-Town Summer,” “Love is love, you just can’t fake it/ These n*ggas really happy to see one of us make it.” June 11, 2010 was the personification.
As fate would have it years later, he returned to prison on different charges. Only 72 hours into 2014 did I learn he was sentenced to another decade. I haven’t bothered to search his release date. All but two days count anyway: the day you go in and the day you come out. The only confirmation I have is that I’ll be somewhere in my mid-to-late 30s when he’s released. God knows not said in a boastful manner, like many people reading this, I know quite a few people locked up. Some for months, some for years and a select few who won’t be getting out until they’re in a body bag.
That said, Bas and J. Cole’s “My N*gga Just Made Bail” video brought back fond memories of that June 2010 afternoon. From Bas tossing the coat to his homie (I had to give buddy a shirt to wear) to reflecting on what it took to get to that moment of unbridled pride and joy, it was almost like watching my life play out on an episode of The Truman Show.
The excitement, the anticipation, hell, the sheer innocence of seeing a lifelong friend escape bondage instantly tossed me back to one of the happier moments of my 28 years. From New York City to Los Angeles, Bas, J. Cole and the Dreamville crew celebrate with laughs, women and alcohol. And while this testament may not have been the video’s original intent, one lesson finds itself embedded in every scene.
The funny thing about life is we never truly appreciate it until given a second chance. If we’re lucky.