Panicked my dad would come home before I left, I swiftly slipped my shirt over my head and tugged it over my face. I shoved my clothes in the garbage bags behind the bathroom door, because I didn’t have a bedroom, and whipped a brush through my hair. The mirror had toothpaste spots speckled all over it, but what can you expect in a one-bathroom house with five kids? My dad wasn’t under suspicion because he wore dentures. He often revered brushing teeth to us kids by reciting the story of his visit to the dentist at 18 to have his rotten teeth removed due to lack of brushing.
Deciding I appeared presentable, I offered a smile of acceptance in the mirror and opened the bathroom door. A shadowy figure stood blocking my path. At first, I thought it was my father. My head raced at a mind-blowing speed—where was I going to tell him I was going? He always wanted to know, not because my absence would interfere with his plans, just to cause me grief and remind me I was answerable to his requests. That was the only hold he had because he’d already taken everything else away. Normally, it would be a pleasant surprise that it wasn’t him. It was my date, Terry. Let me explain why this was a problem for me.
Terry was a fantastic-looking black American man and second string on the Jazz basketball team. His eyes were gorgeous, with a never ending smile, and his height wasn’t bad either, for a basketball player. The worst thing I could imagine in the world was my father coming home on time and catching a black man in his house. Anytime my father and the word “black” appeared in reference to a person, he hit the ceiling and referred to a story he told over and over again. I never knew why.
“I was a kid and I couldn’t swim,” he always began. “But that didn’t stop me from having fun with my friends.
See, there was this river we used to hang out at, and one of my friends tied a big ‘ol rope to a tree right there on the bank. We’d always take turns swinging on out over the water, dragging our toes a bit. My friends could swim. They’d swing high, letting go over the water and splash real big but not me. I’d swing out there and hold on with a death grip ‘til I got back to shore. But one time, it didn’t work out so well.
I was doing the usual thing when I don’t know what happened ‘cept the rope slid right out of my hands. Maybe it was wet from all the other guys climbing on so many times, or maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention to the rope to hold on tight. Whatever it was, before I gathered what was happening, the rope slid through my hands leaving me in the air. A lot of time passed before the cold waters swallowed me up. In fact, just before I went under, I recall seeing the silhouette of a man standing on a bridge a little ways off. I heard my friends call out my name, and then the darkness consumed me. The water was freezing and very dark when I opened my eyes. Sticks and leaves floated all around me, and then I must’ve passed out.
When my eyes opened again, there was a man with his mouth against mine, so I pushed him off of me. It took a second for me to fully get it was not only a man but a black man putting his lips to mine.
I asked him what hell he thought he was doing putting his spear-chucker mouth on me. He told me he was saving my life because my friends spooked and left. Funny he used that word when referring to my friends. They are anything but spooks.
I put up my hands balled up in fists and asked him if he wanted some. The nigger was so stupid he just shook his head like he was disappointed. “Wouldn’t you have done the same for me?” I laughed at him and answered. “The way I see it, if you was drowning in the water, I stand here and cheer for the world having one less nigger.”
So, my dad coming home and finding out that not only was I dating a black man but the man was in his house? I can’t even guess how that would have turned out. No matter what happened, it would have been ugly and an even longer story to tell you about. But since I’m saving the pertinent stuff for my book, this is just another small chapter in the life of MJ Brewer.
But for those curious about what happened with second-string Terry and me, I explained why we needed to leave in a hurry. I never heard from him after that day.