Incidental Contact 4: Secret Lovers
A Sneak Peek
Clinton “CJ” Wright, Jr.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
My nerves were about to get the best of me. This was not supposed to be happening. This is not why we formed this super team. This shit was supposed to be easy.
I glanced up at the game clock; coach was drawing up our next play. There were less than three minutes left in the game – possibly in our season and we were down seven points. I looked directly across the arena floor and eyed in on my brother. Renzo looked as nervous as I felt. My best friend from childhood, Tyler, was next to him and he looked cool, calm, and collected.
And then there was the buzzer. Our time-out was over. My first best friend from the NBA, Keon, was saying something, but he was useless right now because he had injured his hamstring two games ago. My other NBA best friend, Phoenix Cummings, whispered something in my ear as we walked back out on the basketball court.
Our public-address announcer was trying his best to get our fans to make noise but there was a nervous energy over the arena.
The referee passed Phoenix the ball and he immediately inbounded it to me. As the point guard, I set up the play and then found Phoenix open in the corner. I slung him the ball and he put up a three that was nothing but net. I glanced at the score. 89-85. We were down four.
The Cleveland Cavaliers took the ball and headed up court. I was stuck to my man. I was not going to let him get free. And then I got caught up in a screen and I was forced to guard my former teammate, LeBron James. He knew I was the smaller man, so he quickly took advantage of it, taking me to the basket. As he went up for his shot, I slapped the ball away. The moment I slapped the ball, there was a whistle. I turned to look at the referee and he was calling the foul on me.
“THAT WAS ALL BALL!” I begged and pleaded for my life. “THAT WAS ALL BALL! LOOK AT THE REPLAY! IT WAS ALL BALL!” I chased the referee to the scorer’s table.
I could hear the public-address announcer in the background. “Foul on CJ Wright. That is his sixth foul. He has been disqualified from play.”
The crowd was booing the refs. LeBron James was smiling.
“THAT WAS NO FUCKING FOUL!” I yelled in the referee’s face. “STOP FUCKING CHEATING!”
“You need to calm down and back away,” the ref said to me as the other two refs came to his defense. “This is my final warning.”
Phoenix and my other teammates pulled me away from the ref. They were trying to calm me down, but I was heated.
“FUCK THAT BITCH!” I said as I stormed the court. “THAT WAS ALL BALL!”
“CJ, cool it before you get us a technical foul,” Phoenix said with seriousness in his voice.
I took a deep breath and exhaled. This was bigger than me. This was about the team. I had to get my act together before my actions lost my team another point.
“You need to leave the court,” another referee said to me. “You have fouled out.”
I watched the replay on the jumbotron and shook my head. I had got all ball.
I headed over to the benches and sat down. Some of my teammates tried to show me some love, but I was furious. This was game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals. A birth to the NBA Finals was on the line. How could he call that on me? But I shouldn’t be shocked. That particular referee has had it out for me all damn season. I always get fucked over when he’s refereeing our games. Bitch nigga mad because I didn’t want to fuck his prissy ass. I still can’t believe he slid in my DM’s trying to get some dick. So, because of that, this nigga is holding a grudge against me. Sometimes I just want to oust his ass, but my mama raised me better than that.
There was nothing I could do to help our team as I watched LeBron make both free throws. They were back up six points. Everything was on Phoenix’s shoulders now. He had to be the man with Keon injured and me fouled out.
“Dedrick, where are you right now?” I asked myself as I looked towards the heavens. “We need you.”
Just as I focused back to the court, that same referee called an offensive foul on Phoenix which handed the ball back to the Cavs. Our fans were losing it. Our coach was fiery red. Things were unraveling really fast. Our season – our chance to play in the NBA Finals – was slipping through our hands.
The Cavs ran the clock down and then connected on their basket as the shot clock expired. We were down nine. Our coach called our final timeout.
I stood in the huddle as coach drew up the play, but I was still in a state of shock. Keon, Phoenix, and I, came together and formed this super team nearly two years ago and it has not worked out in our favor. Last season, we lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to LeBron James and the Cavs and it looks like that shit is about to happen again. Although I was already playing on this team, Keon and Phoenix had to move mountains to make it happen, and here we are about to lose yet again. I can’t believe this shit is happening!
I sat back down as play resumed. We were able to quickly pull within five points, but luck wasn’t on our side. The Cavs had the momentum. We didn’t have any timeouts left, so we couldn’t do anything to prolong the game. There was nothing we could do to stop the inevitable from happening. Before we knew it, the seconds were ticking away, and the buzzer sounded signaling the end of the game.
I was so furious that I didn’t want to shake anyone’s hand, but I knew the cameras were watching. I had to put on for the cameras. The last thing I needed was someone talking about I had poor sportsmanship. So, I shook a few hands and then headed into the locker room.
Nobody said anything. Everyone just sat in silence. And then Phoenix jumped up, screamed in frustration and threw his chair across the room, smashing it against the brick wall. He didn’t say anything else as he headed for the showers.
Coach eventually found some words to say, but it was brief. Once he was done, I grabbed my shit and went to the showers. I just wanted to hurry up and get the fuck out of here.
After I showered and dressed, I joined Phoenix and headed over to the media room. We were introduced and immediately started getting stupid ass questions.
“CJ, what are your thoughts on tonight’s game?” one reporter asked.
I rolled my eyes and answered, “We lost.”
“That’s it?” he followed up.
“What the fuck you want me to say?” I snapped at him. I shook my head and asked, “Does someone have a real question?”
Someone else interjected, “That foul against LeBron James that put you out of the game… discuss what happened.”
“Everybody saw what happened,” I replied still upset. “I got all ball. That bitch-ass referee has had it out for me all damn season. I haven’t done anything to him. And I don’t give a fuck about whatever fines the NBA will throw at me. I don’t care. This shit is not right. This is blatant cheating. Anyone can see that I did not touch that man. These sorry ass refs are inserting themselves into the fucking game and no one is coming to see them play! Nobody gives a fuck about them. We play the game. THE PLAYERS! We are the headliners! That was a bullshit ass call, and everyone fucking knows it.”
“CJ, you’re on national television,” someone said, reminding me to watch my mouth.
“Look at my face and look at it clearly,” I said as I gave time for everyone to stare at me. “Listen to the words that are about to come out of my mouth. I do not give a fuck! Y’all force us to do these stupid ass press conferences right after an intense game. You want me to come out here with a smile on my face? You want me to say that I’m ok with losing? I’m not! I’m a fucking competitor! I’ve been doing this my entire life. And it’s not even about the press conference. It’s the stupid questions. How do you think I feel?” I paused and said, “Ok, let me calm down because I am not an angry black man. I will not be labeled as such. I am college educated. I have a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina.” I forced a smile and said, “Is this better? Is this what you want to see? Me being phony?” I rolled my eyes and yelled, “FUCK THIS SHIT! I’M OUT!” I stood up and left Phoenix sitting at the podium as the reporters mumbled amongst themselves. They had a new story and I was the centerpiece.
I headed back into the locker room, grabbed my shit, and walked over to the family and friend’s area. I knew I had just fucked up big time and I was going to pay dearly, but I didn’t care right now. I didn’t.
I sighed when I saw my brother and my best friend of best friends. There was nothing like being around family. I loved these two men like there was no tomorrow.
Tyler looked at me and asked, “What the fuck did you just do? You’re trending off the charts!”
“I don’t feel like talking about it,” I said as I looked at my brother. “Where is Bryce?”
Renzo replied, “He couldn’t make it tonight. I rode with Tyler.” Bryce was his best friend. “I’m just gonna slide with you, if that’s cool, since Tyler has to do something on the other side of town.”
“That’s fine,” I said.
Tyler stared at me and said, “You need me to come with y’all? I can cancel my plans.”
“Naw, you good, bro. Take care of your shit,” I replied.
“You sure?” he asked.
“I’m good. Renzo will keep me company,” I answered.
“Ight. Hit me up if you need me,” Tyler said as we dapped each other up. He and Renzo exchanged daps before Tyler walked away.
Renzo joined me as we headed for my Range Rover.
“That was fucked up and everybody knows it,” he said once we were inside the SUV. “That wasn’t a foul.”
“Renzo, just let it go,” I sighed. “Please.”
He took his cue and kept quiet as he began to play in his iPhone.
Once we eased into the Atlanta traffic, my phone started to ring over the car system. My boyfriend’s name popped up on the monitor. I glanced at Renzo and he just shook his head. He doesn’t like that I’m still dating this dude.
I quickly answered, “What’s up, Nehemiah?”
“Have you lost your fucking mind?” he sneered.
“I’m not in the mood for this shit right now,” I said.
“Clinton,” he said as if he was my father, “you are a public brand. Basketball makes you money, but your brand makes you more. You can’t be around here dropping F-bombs over national television, acting like you don’t have any home training! You are that angry black man right now.”
“Nehemiah, I’m not in the mood for this shit tonight, so it’s gonna be in your best interests to shut the fuck up or change the damn subject!”
“CJ, you’ve gotta do better,” he continued to scold me.
“Fuck you!” I snapped at him.
“I’m not your problem,” he replied. “I’m just here to help.”
“Where the fuck is Dedrick when I need him?” I mumbled.
“What was that?” Nehemiah asked.
I didn’t answer.
“You’re bringing up your dead boyfriend again, huh?” he quizzed.
I calmed down and said, “Nehemiah, again, I’m not in the mood right now. So, I’m gonna call you back when I’ve accepted everything that’s happened tonight. You’ve done nothing wrong, but I need to process this. I’ll call you back.”
I hung up the phone.
Renzo stared at me, shook his head and said, “I don’t know why you’re still dating that nigga. He’s gonna fuck up your life. Y’all can’t keep this shit a secret forever. That nigga still has White House aspirations. What happens when he’s the president? What happens when he’s President J. Nehemiah Reed? What happens then, CJ?”
Renzo continued, “I don’t care about that nigga. I care about you. I care about your wellbeing. The same blood runs through both our veins. You’re my priority, not him. And you’re gonna get hurt fucking with him. Why can’t you see that? HUH? Why can’t you see that?”
“Renzo, shut the hell up!” I rolled my eyes and turned up the music as I focused on the road.
He mumbled something, but I just ignored him.
I’m so tired of everyone telling me what to do about my relationship. I’m so sick of that shit. Worry about your own damn life.
I didn’t sleep good at all. My mind was still fucked over how we lost that game last night. More importantly, I’ve had time to reflect on my actions and I’m not very happy with myself. I should have handled everything much better than what I did. However, I can’t change what’s happened. There is nothing I can do about it now but apologize and move forward.
I grabbed my phone to check the time. Since our season was over, we had to go in for exit interviews this afternoon and to clean out our lockers for the summer. I still had a few hours before I had to head back to the team headquarters to take care of that. I knew this was going to be my opportunity to correct what happened last night because I know all the media questions will be focused on me and my stupid ass antics.
I also had a few missed calls from Phoenix and Keon, my agent, along with the NBA Commissioner. I took a deep breath and exhaled.
I reached over to the nightstand and flipped on the TV. ESPN’s First Take was on air and Stephen A. Smith was ripping me a new one. He said, “This is just disgraceful! Clinton Wendell Wright, Jr, better known as CJ Wright, should be ashamed of himself! Conducting himself in that manner. I’ve met his parents and he wasn’t raised like that! Cursing out members of the media because he couldn’t win the game for his team! Let me tell you something. If I was the NBA Commissioner, he’d be suspended for at least thirty games to start next season! CJ Wright would have to go on a –.” I flipped off the television. I couldn’t watch any more of that bullshit.
I got out of bed and walked into my bathroom. I looked at what used to be my chiseled, brown-skinned body. I was still toned, but the definition in my abs wasn’t how it was a few years back. I made a vow to go hard in the gym this summer because I needed to prolong this NBA career as long as I could, and the only way to do that was to stay in top physical condition. I’m 33 now and will turn 34 when the new season is starting back up in October, and in NBA standards, I’m old! I just completed my eleventh NBA season. Time is not on my side. So, I need to do whatever I can to keep playing this game I love.
I stared at and touched the scar that remained from that bullet wound that invaded my body. After a few moments of reflection, I shook it off, brushed my teeth and washed my face, pissed and shitted, and then stepped into the shower. I needed to release this tension from last night, so I leaned against the shower wall, lubed up my dick with bodywash and beat my dick to images of someone forbidden, as the water forced itself upon my body.
Once I cleaned up myself up, I dried off and walked my naked ass back into my room. I could smell bacon and eggs coming from the kitchen, so I knew my brother was awake. After I applied some lotion to my body, I slipped on a pair of underwear and sat on the side of my bed.
I leaned over, opened my nightstand and pulled out a picture of Dedrick. Even though he had been dead for nearly seven and a half years, it was something I never truly got over. I put on for people so they’d leave me alone and not think I was crazy, but in my deepest thoughts, his sudden death still hurts me.
Sometimes I still cry. Sometimes I still wish he were here, lying in bed holding me in his arms. Sometimes I wish we could still make sweet love. But we can’t. Those thoughts and wishes can only remain thoughts and wishes, so that’s the shit I must keep to myself. I have enough judgment coming my way on a regular basis and I don’t need to add that to the list of things people judge me on.
I stared at the picture Dedrick and I took at the end of my freshman year in college. Dedrick had surprised me and took me to Norfolk for a weekend getaway. That was fourteen years ago. It was on that trip when I first had sex with him – with anyone. I can still see the genuine love pouring from this picture.
That fateful day will forever live with me. I could have lost my life on January 11, 2011, too, but God spared me. The pain of losing Dedrick in the manner which he died, on his birthday nonetheless, was too much for me to bear, so I left the Orlando Magic and signed a three-year contract with the Miami Heat. I needed a new start. I had to get out of Orlando. During my years in Miami, playing alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, I won two championships. I was actually playing for the Heat when I met my current boyfriend, J. Nehemiah Reed, II. My NBA career came full circle when I signed with the Atlanta Hawks, which was the original team that drafted me, but traded me to Houston that same June 2007 night. People couldn’t understand why I left Miami for a struggling Atlanta team, but my decision was bigger than basketball. It was about family.
Renzo had moved to Atlanta for college and he wanted me close by. Renzo had to get away from our hometown of Chicago, Illinois because he was afraid he’d lose his life to gun violence. You don’t have to live the street life to die a senseless, violent death in Chicago. I still couldn’t get my parents to leave though. They were set in their ways and my mom once said, “no lil thugs was gonna run me out of my city.”
Once Renzo was in Atlanta, I knew it was the place for me. Family was everything. Besides, Atlanta was paying me money no one else was. I knew I was entering the downward side of my career and I knew that was going to be my last big paycheck. And I wanted to be close to my brother. I had won at every level, so going to a losing team was nothing. I won a championship in high school. I won the NCAA championship in college. I’ve won two NBA championships with Miami. I’ve been on several All-Star teams and I’ve won a gold medal on the 2012 Olympic team. Why not be close to family again? Once I got in Atlanta, I came up with a plan to have my NBA best friends, Keon and Phoenix, join me in Atlanta. It took a few years, but the plan came together and now we’re in the hunt for a championship every year.
I stood up and slipped on some basketball shorts and headed out to the kitchen. Renzo was in the kitchen, shirtless, talking on the phone via Bluetooth while he continued to prepare breakfast. He acknowledged me by smiling and then mouthed, “This is Mama on the phone.”
I sighed and sat down on a barstool. I stared at my brother’s backside and smiled. I was so proud of Larenzo Wright. Renzo graduated from the historically black school, Clark Atlanta University in May 2017 and then got accepted into law school at the University of Georgia. He just completed his first year of law school and has been at my crib for the past two weeks since school has been out for the summer. Even though Renzo’s law school is only about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta, it’s good to have him with me on a more continual basis. There is no brotherly love like the love Renzo and I share for each other.
More importantly, Renzo has matured. He was wild as hell growing up, opting to stray against what my mom preached and always did his own thing. I used to worry about him at times, but when I look at the man he’s grown into, I can only smile. Even though he just turned 24 last week, he’s active in the community. He’s fighting for black people to succeed. He mentors underprivileged black males. He’s in law school. And most importantly, he doesn’t have any fucking kids. I’m so proud of the man my brother has become.
When I joined back in on the conversation, Renzo and turned around and said, “Yes, Mama, CJ is right here. You wanna talk to him? Hold on.” Renzo turned off his Bluetooth and handed me his iPhone X.
I sighed and said, “Good morning, Mama.”
“Is it a good morning?” she asked.
“I woke up on the right side of the dirt, therefore it is a good morning,” I replied as Renzo continued making breakfast.
“What happened to you last night?”
“Mama,” I sighed.
“CJ, I didn’t raise you that way. Why are you out here embarrassing your family?”
“Mama, I’m not in the mood.”
“I don’t care what you’re in the mood for, but when I ask you a question you need to respond,” she said sternly. “I am your mother; I am not the media.”
“Ma,” I replied getting frustrated, “I just had a moment and I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You need to apologize,” she said. “Everybody is out here slandering your name. It’s just disgraceful.”
I didn’t reply.
She continued, “But that’s what I don’t understand. They’re out here holding you black athletes to a higher standard than they do that man who calls himself the president. If President Trump said what you said last night, nobody would be down his back like how they’re down yours. But whatever. That’s that white privilege. Black men in America will always be judged differently than everyone else. That’s not to say you weren’t in the wrong, because you were. I expect better from you, Clinton.”
I looked at Renzo and he was placing the food on two plates. I sighed and said, “Mama, I’ll fix it.”
“You better. Anyway, I need to get going. I’ve got a doctor’s appointment to get to and I don’t wanna be late. You know this traffic is crazy out here. I love you. Tell your brother I love him too, and I’ll talk to you all later.”
“Love you, too, Mama.” I hung up the phone.
“Was it bad?” Renzo asked as he handed me my plate consisting of cheese grits, maple sugar bacon, an egg white omelet, and toast.
“Nah. You know how she is,” I replied as I placed his phone down on the counter.
As he opened the refrigerator to grab some water, he said, “Mama has always had a special place for you in her heart.” He closed the door, faced me and said,
“Had I done something like that, she’d still be going off on me. I wouldn’t hear the end of it for another two months.”
I couldn’t deny it. Renzo was right. Had he done what I did, my mom would have no sympathy on him. I was always her favorite and I know it still brothers Renzo. Hell, it bothers me.
“Anyway,” he said as he sat next to me, “have you spoken to Nehemiah?”
“Not since last night,” I said as I ate some of the bacon.
“CJ, what can I do to help you see that this thing with the governor isn’t gonna end well?”
I rolled my eyes.
He paused and said, “This is about Dedrick, isn’t it? You’re with the governor out of obligation?”
I didn’t reply. It was like he was picking at a seven and a half year wound that hadn’t completely healed.
“Are you afraid to be alone? It’s been seven years.”
I tried to ignore him by eating more of my food, but he didn’t stop. That attorney sixth sense had kicked in and it was like he was in a courtroom tearing me to pieces on that witness stand. He was trying to get me to break.
Renzo continued, “Does Nehemiah remind you of Dedrick in some way? There has to be a reason why you’re still with this man. What is it, CJ? What does he have over you?”
“Renzo, stop!” I said feeling my blood boiling. “Just stop while you’re ahead. DAMN!”
He stared at me.
I stood up and said, “Thanks for breakfast, but I need to get dressed and head over to this exit interview. I’ll be back later.”
J. Nehemiah Reed, II
We were located in the State Reception Room in Florida’s Governor’s Mansion. There were about thirty people in the room as my team went through initial campaign re-election strategies. We had been doing fundraising for a few months now, but it was time to actually start campaigning. The primaries were in August and the election was in November.
Part of me didn’t want to go through this re-election campaign to remain the 46th and first African-American governor of Florida, but I had to do it if I wanted to achieve my ultimate goal which was to become the 46th President of the United States of America. I guess 46 is my number— the 46th governor of Florida and the 46th president. Man, that’ll be something if it happens that way. It’s crazy because I never had a desire to become president, but everything just happened too quickly.
I was born Justin Nehemiah Reed, II, to Justin N. Reed, Sr. and Charlotte Reed in Atlanta, Georgia thirty-eight years ago. Because I am a junior, most family and friends just call me Nehemiah, while I’m J. Nehemiah to everyone else.
My father is a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. He is the bishop in the sixth district of the church which covers Southwest Georgia, Atlanta, North Georgia, Macon, South Georgia and Augusta. Bishops of the AME church are the Chief Officers of the organization. They are elected for life, with a retirement age of 73, by a majority vote of the General Conference which meets every four years. Needless to say, I have been in and around the black church for my entire life which is why this shit I’ve gotten myself into is hard to get out. I just have to play the role; I have to play the cards I was dealt.
When I graduated high school in 1999, I headed south to start my collegiate career at Florida A&M University. Truthfully, I went to FAMU to get away from my dad. I wanted to be free in a time where being black and gay just wasn’t acceptable. It was at FAMU when I was first introduced to politics. I served as a senator in the student government association (SGA) my freshman and sophomore years, before running a successful campaign to become Mister FAMU my junior year. I also pledged my fraternity that year, too. I will always be loyal to the black and gold. I ran for and won SGA president my senior year and was then again re-elected for my first year of graduate school. I left FAMU with two degrees in 2005 and immediately headed to Harvard Law School. When I returned to Florida in 2008 with my Harvard law degree, I moved to Miami and began working as a community organizer while teaching as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Working in the Miami inner cities launched my quick rise in Florida politics.
Going out on a leap of faith, I ran for the Florida state senate in 2010 and won. I served in the Florida state senate for four years before being tapped to run as governor in 2014. No one thought I had a chance, especially being the first African-American, but I won! I knocked out the then sitting governor in an upset election that broadcasted my name into mainstream political media. People had to take me seriously. Up until that point, every race I had run, I won. And then came 2016.
The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Adrienne Fitzgerald, picked me to run with her as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in her bid for the White House. We ultimately lost the general election campaign, which is why I’m back as Florida’s 46th governor. Being a few votes away from the White House changed my life. Political pundits are naming me as the front-runner to challenge the current president in 2020. This is why I have to run for re-election as Florida’s governor. I have to keep my name in the news so I can get that bid to be the nominee to regain the White House for the democrats in two years and a half years. I also need to grab Florida’s 29 electoral votes if I am the democratic nominee in 2020. There is no way that republican is gonna beat me in my state, especially if I’m the sitting governor. If I win Florida in 2020, and I will win Florida, I’m winning the election for the White House!
Wouldn’t that be something—a potential black president whose ancestors were actually descendants of slaves. A black president who can identify with the real issues of the black community because this potential black president actually grew up and lived in the black communities. Graduated from a black college. Have two black parents. And that’s no shade to Barack Obama because I actually love the man. He was the right man at that time. But the truth is the truth. He can’t and never will identify with the real struggles of black America because he never lived that life. I grew up in the deep south. I know what racism looks and feels like.
“Governor Reed are you with us?” Jennifer, my campaign manager asked, snapping me out of my trance.
“Oh, yes,” I forced a smile. “My mind is just heavy.”
“He’s already focused on 2020,” another member of my team added.
“There won’t be a 2020 if he doesn’t win re-election in six months,” Jennifer added. “Governor Reed, no disrespect, but we need you to focus on Florida. The White House will happen in due time. We need to win Florida, first.”
I cleared my throat and said, “I am not focused on 2020. I am only focused on winning Florida. That’s it.” I checked the time and said, “Are we done here?”
“Yes,” Jennifer said. “I’ll email you a summary of everything discussed.”
“Thank you,” I said as I stood up. “Can I have the room please?” As everyone started to exit, I pointed to two people and asked them to stay back. Once the room was clear, I smiled at my two guests and said, “I really thank you both for coming and joining this campaign.”
“It’s nothing,” Barrington said. “I’m happy to be here.”
“Same here,” Dr. Zachariah Finley added.
I met Zach when I was SGA president at FAMU. He was a member of the marching band and I remember when he and other band leaders came requesting some special funds from the SGA to replace damaged instruments. As life played out, I later reconnected with Zach because he was in a long-term relationship with Drayton Wescott, which was a close, life friend of mine who I first met when I was at FAMU. Giving the things that transpired in Dray and Zach’s relationship, I made sure I asked Dray if he minded if I brought Zach onto my team. Dray, being the great man he is, didn’t object. Zach could be very influential during this re-election campaign and I have great plans for him once I win this re-election. His background in education is impressive. He received his bachelors and masters from FAMU in education before earning a Ph.D. at Columbia University. He taught educational courses at Columbia and Clark Atlanta University, and now he’s back home teaching at FAMU.
Barrington is another story. Barrington Maddox, whose nickname was Bread because he loved cornbread as a kid growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was someone I used to fuck. I first met Bread when I returned to FAMU homecoming one year and he had an ad on Craigslist. He played on the basketball team, but he needed some extra money to send back to his son in North Carolina. When I saw that younger Morris Chestnut looking dude, I damn near lost my religion. Bread was about 6’2”, 185. Mocha coffee skin. Chest and arms covered in tatts. Jet black hair with a trimmed mustache and goatee. His brush cut fade was deep with seasick waves. He kept a fresh haircut because he cut his own hair. Cutting hair was actually his side hustle. I later learned that he met a lot of his college fuck buddies by cutting hair.
There wasn’t a word to describe how sexy Bread looked. He knew he was sexy and you saw it in his walk. He was just a confident muh’fucker that you couldn’t resist. And his sex game was equally appealing. 8.5-inch dick. Phat, muscular ass. He dished the dick as well as he received it. He was the ultimate freak and had stamina out of this world. Man, we had some great times together. When law school was stressing me out, I lied and borrowed some money from my dad in order to fly Bread up to Massachusetts to break me off some dick and ass. But as is all things in life, everything must come to an end. Bread ended up being a confidant more so than a fuck buddy. While Bread is still sexy as fuck, we haven’t fucked since 2012 when I first met CJ, and I don’t think it’ll ever happen again. Speaking of CJ, I need to check on his stubborn ass when I get out of here.
Bread graduated from FAMU with a degree in finance and is a loan officer at a local bank. He is also a co-owner with his best friend of Butter & Rum’s Barbershop and Grooming Center.
I know Bread was sexy, but I wasn’t bad either. I was brown-skinned, stood right at 6’ and weighed close to 170 pounds. I worked out about four times a week because it kept me sane. I had a very defined facial structure which only added to my sexiness. Hell, I think my sex appeal is what keeps me winning elections. I know how to use my sex appeal to get what I want. My daddy taught me that.
I focused back to my fellow FAMU alumni and said, “So, as you both know I need your help to help me win this re-election campaign. I hand-picked you two because you both bring something to the table. And I trust you. I trust you both. I need people in my circle that I can trust. My wife is concerned that our secret can get exposed and if that happens, we’re done!”
Zach nodded his head in agreement.
Bread just stared at me.
I said, “So, as an incentive for you to put your all into my campaign, I want to offer you both positions within my administration when we win this election. And you know, after this is 2020. You help me right now, I bring you along with me to the White House. How does Secretary of Education and Secretary of the Treasury sound? That’s on the White House level though. Let’s talk Florida, first.”
“You want to take us to the White House with you?” Bread asked shocked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Wow,” he said with a stunned face.
“But, like I said, before we can get to the White House, we have to take care of Florida. If we win this election, I will appoint you, Bread, as the head of the Florida Department of Revenue, and Dr. Finley, I will appoint you as the Commissioner of Education. I will then take both of you with me to the White House as Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Education, respectively, if you want the position.”
“Wow, I don’t know what to say,” Dr. Zachariah Finley replied.
“Just say you’ll do everything in your power to help me win this campaign. You take care of me, I take care of you.”
Bread replied, “Shit, I’m down.”
“Me, too,” Zach added.
“Awesome,” I smiled as my phone started to ring. “I need to get going because I have a meeting to get to and my wife is calling. Enjoy the food my staff has provided. My campaign manager, Jennifer, will be in touch. You guys have a great day.”
“You, too,” Zach said as I grabbed my phone and walked out of the room.
Once I was in the clear, I answered, “Hey, darling, what’s up?”
Before I was able to attend the exit interviews with the media, I had to meet with the general manager and the owner of the team. Although I was planning to apologize for my actions from last night, they left me no choice. It wasn’t optional; it was an ultimatum. The team fined me $25,000 for my comments. They said my actions were “detrimental to the team.” The only good thing about the fine is that it would go towards a charity of my choice. Not only that, I got a stern lashing from my agent. He said the agency would issue a written apology on my behalf.
The NBA Commissioner called me again and I knew I had to take his call this time. I was reluctant, but I answered, “Good afternoon, Commissioner.”
“Good afternoon, CJ,” he replied. “I’m sure you know the nature of this call.”
“Before I get started, I just wanted to ask if you were ok.”
“Yes, sir. I’ve had time to think about everything and I just wanted to apologize to you,” I said. “I know what I said last night shed a negative light on the league. I’d never intentionally do that to the league that’s been so good to me. I was just caught up in my feelings.”
“CJ, I can’t lie, I was shocked to hear you speak in that manner. You’ve always been a respectful young man.”
“Yes, sir, I was just in my feelings. I am sorry.”
“I believe you, but you know I can’t just let this go.”
“I understand,” I sighed as I knew the punishment was coming.
“To ensure what happened last night never happens again, we will have to fine you $100,000 for conduct detrimental to the league and for your public criticism of the referees.”
“A $100,000 fine?” I asked shocked.
“Yes. As you know it all will be donated to charity, but we have to put our foot down and let other players know this will not be tolerated.”
“I understand. Will that be all?”
“Yes. Please touch base with me if you need anything. CJ, you are a great asset to this league, but we can’t have you dropping F-bombs all over live television.”
“Alright. Take care,” he said as he hung up the phone.
I paused for a moment as I realized my actions last night just cost me $125,000. I have the money, so it’s nothing, but who wants to just give away $125,000?
Once I went through the end of year physical and team meeting, we were given access to the media and they immediately rushed to me to start asking questions. I said, “I’m going to say this one time and one time only. This will be the only time I’ll address this with the media. After much reflection, I wanted to apologize to you, the media, and the American people for my actions last night. I was totally in the wrong and it was out of character. I’m not making an excuse for what I did, however, I was emotionally charged partly due to the outcome of the basketball game. I took out my frustrations on the wrong people and I am sorry. I really am sorry.”
“CJ, do you have anger management issues?” one local reporter asked.
I chuckled, shook my head and said, “No, I do not have anger management issues. Like I just said, I was upset at the series of events towards the end of the game which ultimately cost us the game, and I took my emotions out on the wrong people. Nothing more. Nothing less.” I paused and continued, “I’m only going to answer one more question about this topic and that’ll be it.”
An ESPN reporter asked, “The person we saw last night…was that the real CJ Wright?”
“Is that who you really are?” he asked.
Upset, I replied, “I’ve been a member of this league for eleven years. I’ve been an active member of whatever community I lived in – Houston, Orlando, Miami, and Atlanta. I’ve given my time and my money to help better the lives of the people living in those communities. I’ve never been in any trouble. I’ve never caused any harm or shame to my family or this league. I’ve always been a respectful young man. And I had one breakdown last night after a hard-fought series that we lost, and you want to stand here and question my integrity? Seriously?”
“But we really don’t know you, CJ. We don’t know who CJ Wright is,” another reporter interjected. “Yes, you’re a nice guy, but you’re secretive. We’ve never seen your girlfriend or wife, or kids, or anything. And to this day, you have yet to talk about what happened with the Dedrick Grant situation. It’s been seven and a half years, and no one still doesn’t know your involvement. Dedrick Grant and is dead and you were shot. Why? We’re still waiting for answers. No disrespect, but you’re calculated. You present yourself to be a certain way in front of the cameras, but is that really you? So, in my colleague’s defense, based on what we saw and heard last night, I believe he has a legitimate right to ask if that was the real CJ Wright. We don’t know you.”
“And you never will. My job is to play professional basketball. It is not my job to let you or the public into my personal life. When you go to the grocery store, do you ask the cashier about their family? No, you don’t. You pay for your food and you leave. Let me make myself perfectly clear, I don’t have to disclose anything to you that doesn’t concern the Atlanta Hawks, the NBA, or my professional basketball career. My work life and personal life are two different entities and I need you to respect that. Just because I am a professional basketball player doesn’t mean my personal life is up for worldly consumption. And as far as Dedrick is concerned, that topic is off limits. He was my best friend. Yes, it has been seven and a half years and it is still painful to think about what happened in that house. So, no, it is not your business what happened. It’s not anyone’s business what happened. I have a right to keep my personal life personal, and you and everyone else will respect that right. Furthermore, if and when I chose to talk about what happened in that house, it’ll happen when I say so. Not because you want me to, but because I am ready to talk.”
Everyone just stared at me.
I looked everyone sternly in the eyes and said, “Now, since our season is done, and I would like to get on to my summer vacation—ummm—are there any basketball related questions, or are we done here?”
Since I had an early start on the campaign trail tomorrow, I took the 45-minute flight back to my home in my adopted city of Miami, Florida. My wife was from Miami and she wanted to move back to south Florida and I had no objections to that.
Once I was seated in the tightly secured limousine, and the state police were in place, my driver left the airport to take me home. As soon as the limo left the airport my dad called my phone. I really didn’t feel like talking to him right now, but I knew he’d keep calling until I eventually answered the phone.
I sighed, cleared my voice and answered, “Hello, Pop!”
“Good evening, Nehemiah,” he replied in his deep, authoritative baritone voice.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Just finished up this conference call with the other bishops. My mind has been heavy on you. Is everything ok down there in Florida?”
“Yes, sir. We’re just getting this campaign stuff started up. I have an event in the morning in Miami and another in Palm Beach.”
“Ok, well call me in the morning before you head out and I’ll pray with you. You definitely need some positive vibes going into this re-election campaign.”
“You know I’m proud of all my children, but you’re my first-born. Your mother and I placed great expectations upon you when you were growing up and you’ve made us nothing but proud. You are a good son, Nehemiah, and I know you’re going all the way to the White House in 2020.”
“Well, let me get going. I’m meeting your mom for dinner at her favorite restaurant tonight.”
“Ok. Let her know I’ll call her soon,” I replied.
“Ok, son. Love you.”
“Love you too, Pop.”
I hung up the phone and sighed. If my father ever found out about my secret life I don’t know what he’d do. I could never embarrass him like that though. That’s why I have to keep this secret a secret.
The only person in my family to know my secret is my only sister, Fayth. She is two years younger than I am. I have three younger brothers, fraternal twins Izaak and Solomon, who are five years younger, and I have my baby brother, Thaddeus, who is eight years my junior. All of my siblings are graduates of historically black universities. Fayth finished from Hampton University and she lives in the D.C. area with her husband and two kids. Izaak and Solomon were tied at the hip all of our childhood, but they went separate ways for college. Izaak graduated from Howard University in D.C., where he still lives with his wife and daughter. Solomon graduated from North Carolina A&T State University, and he is back in Atlanta with his wife and three sons. Thaddeus is a graduate of Tuskegee University and he now lives in Dallas. Thad isn’t married, nor does he have any children. I often feel like Thad might be gay like me. I could see it growing up, but it was something I kept to myself. All in all, we’re a pretty close family and successful in our own right. That’s the only way my mom would have it.
When I arrived at my home, I thanked my driver and headed inside the house. My wife, Indigo, was in the great room talking on the phone. Based on what I could gather, she was talking to her sorority sister. I waved and headed upstairs to our room.
After I undressed out of this suit and slipped into something more comfortable, I sat on the edge of the bed and flipped the TV on to ESPN. Once again, CJ was in the news. The sports reporters were talking about his fiasco from last night and how he handled it today. They were split on the way he spoke to the reporters today. I actually didn’t find anything wrong with it. He wasn’t rude, but he was direct. I turned down the volume on the TV, picked up the phone and called my boyfriend. The phone went straight to voicemail. I exhaled and left him a message. “CJ, this is Nehemiah. I was just calling to check on you. I hadn’t heard from you all day. I saw your session with the media this morning and I just wanted to talk about last night for a moment, to clear the air. Call me when you get this message. I love you.”
I collected myself and headed back downstairs. Since Indigo was still on the phone with her sorority sister, I stepped into the kitchen and smiled when I saw a box of Popeye’s chicken. I grabbed a chicken breast and a thigh, put some mashed potatoes and poured some gravy onto a paper plate, picked up a biscuit, and walked back into the great room. I sat at the dining table while she continued to talk as if I weren’t in the house.
I met Indigo when I was a freshman at FAMU. We ended up being group partners in our mandatory African American history class that every student at FAMU must take as a requirement for graduation. There was just something about Indigo that made me blush. I don’t know if it was her wonderful and inviting personality or her natural beauty, but I had to get to know her. I was confused when I met Indigo because I knew I liked men, but I just couldn’t deny this gorgeous woman.
We became really close during the duration of that three-person project. It was really significant because we were both freshmen trying to find our way on that huge black campus. Indigo, who is from Miami, went on a few dates with me. I tried to show interest in her, but I could sense she was a bit hesitant. Nonetheless, she continued to see me, and we kept developing a great friendship. When the spring semester came around, we weren’t officially dating, but everyone on campus thought we were. We even lost our virginities to each other. Well, I used to get my dick sucked all the time from this dude in high school, but I guess that doesn’t really count. Indigo was the first person I had ever penetrated.
When we returned for our sophomore year in August 2000, there was something noticeably different about Indigo. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was there. One night after we had sex a few weeks into the new school year, Indigo said she couldn’t do this with me anymore. I was afraid that she had found out about my secret rendezvous with several men while I was in summer school and she was back home in Miami. I was trying to deny myself the desire to act on those internal, raging feelings, but I couldn’t keep lying. I could no longer hide myself from me. I loved men. I wanted and needed to be with a man. Once I actually had penetrated sex with a man that summer, I knew I wasn’t crazy. I knew those feelings weren’t insane.
While we laid in her bed in her apartment that fall night, Indigo stared me in the eyes and said, “I can’t do this with you because I met someone back home this summer. I thought by sleeping with you again, it’ll make me feel different. It’ll make me feel right. But it didn’t. And that’s no disrespect to you, Nehemiah. I’ve lived this lie my entire life and I’m tired.”
“What are you saying?” I asked Indigo.
“I’m saying that I’m a lesbian. I am attracted to women. The person I met back home this summer was a woman.”
“Wow.” I was shocked beyond measure.
“Nehemiah, you are the only person in the world to know this. I consider you my best friend. Although I was always the pretty girl in school, people only wanted to be around me for their gain. Boys only wanted to befriend me so they could fuck. Once they realized that wasn’t happening, they moved on to the next. Females only wanted to be around me because I was the popular black girl at the all-white school. They gained something from being friends with Indigo Gibousset. I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew better. It didn’t help that my dad was a member of the United States House of Representatives when I was in high school, and my mom was and still is the president of a local community college. People saw access when they saw me. That’s why I came here to FAMU. No one knew me here. I went to high school with white people. I wanted to be connected to my black roots. My parents grew up in Louisiana before moving to Florida when I was a baby. When I met you last year, you knew nothing of me. You were nice to me. Nehemiah, you were genuine. You were—are—a real friend. I feel comfortable telling you my secret because I know you won’t betray me.”
“Absolutely not,” I said as I thought about my situation. I paused and said, “Since we’re being honest, can I tell you my secret?”
“Indigo, I think I like men.”
She stared laughed and said, “Stop lying.”
“No, I think I’m serious.”
Her face straightened up.
I lied and said, “I’ve never acted on my feelings, but I know who I am. Like you, I was hoping that being with you would make me straight. But it’s not happening.”
“Well, guess what,” she smiled as she kissed me on the cheek. “This was our destiny. We both came to this university to get away from our family. We were placed in that class together and paired in that group project for a reason. It’s a higher power controlling this. We’ve both kept our darkest secret buried deep inside of us and we’re one in the same. You’re gay and I’m a lesbian. There is a reason why we’re best friends! This is our destiny!”
And she didn’t lie. It was our destiny. We both had important and powerful parents and we couldn’t dare come back home saying we were gay. This situation worked in our favor. Because Indigo and I were such close friends, people assumed we were the campus couple and we fed into the hype. It worked our narrative. Everyone thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend, but we were just best friends. We pledged our brother and sister fraternity and sorority during the same semester. I was Mister FAMU while she was Miss FAMU the same school year. We played the game. We had everyone fooled. But Indigo and I kept nothing from each other. We knew about each other lovers through college and even now.
With my parents pressuring me to get married, I came to Indigo with a proposal to act upon their wishes. She thought about it for a while and she eventually came on board with the idea. When I returned to Miami after law school in 2008, we put the plan into action. We moved together and eventually got married in 2009. To make it legit, we even slept together again a few times with the sole purpose to get pregnant. If we were going to live this lie, we had to make people believe it. Our son, Rashad, was born in 2010 and we have not had sex since early 2010. Indigo and I are nothing more than best friends who just happen to have an arranged marriage to keep our secret a secret. I know it’s a bit extreme, but when you live in our world, you have to do what you have to do to maintain.
“What are you thinking about?” Indigo asked me as she stood in front of me. “Why haven’t you eaten your chicken?”
“I was just thinking,” I said.
“About?” she asked as she sat next to me. “CJ? Have you spoken to him today?”
“I called but his phone was turned off.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about him though. I was thinking about everything. Well, what have we gotten ourselves into,” I sighed. “It’s like we’re so deep we can’t get out.”
“Yeah…you becoming governor wasn’t part of the plan,” she nervously chuckled. “And I really hope you’re rethinking this 2020 stuff. I told you in 2016 when the Senator asked you to join her bid for the White House that you were making a mistake. Nehemiah, you were only thinking about having your name in the history books. You weren’t thinking about the ramifications of what we’ve done here and how this will play out if anyone ever found out the truth, especially with your dad being so high up in the church. You—we—lucked out when you didn’t become vice president in 2016.”
“I told you then and I’m telling you now that you’re worrying about nothing,” I said. “Nobody knows except a handful of people that we both trust about our situation.”
“Have you thought about what this can do to Rashad? Our son will be eight this year. He’s of the age where he can understand what the hell is going on.”
“Indigo, you stress too much. We’re gonna be ok.”
“Had I known you were going to be this popular when you asked me to marry you for appearances back in 2008, I would have told your ass no.”
“Well, we can’t change the past,” I rolled my eyes.
“No, we can’t, but damn Nehemiah, I don’t want my life fucked up, too. If this secret gets out, your career is over. Not only your career but mine, too. I need you to stop being selfish and think about the enterprise. Our secret getting out will fuck up the lives of everyone we love and hold dear to our hearts. Have you thought about how this will affect your parents, my parents? Have you thought about how this will affect CJ? And I don’t like you bringing that Bread character into the campaign. I told you it was something about him I didn’t like. Why don’t you ever listen to me? Something bad is going to happen, Nehemiah. I can feel it.”
“Indigo, you’re so dramatic. Nothing is going to happen. We’re going to be fine. How many fucking times do I need to say that? We’ve gotten this far and I’m the sitting governor of one of the biggest states in the union. We are going to be fine! Stop fucking stressing.”
She stood up and said, “That arrogance is going to be your downfall. Keep fucking with it and all this shit will be dust. Mark my words, Nehemiah. Everything you have will be gone.”