I recently realised that it has been a really long time since I shared snippets of books of authors I connected with, so decided to restart it. Today’s Sunday Snippet is called K MY NAME IS KENDRA by Kamichi Jackson.
Excerpt K MY NAME IS KENDRA
That Weird Uncle C.J. Moment
Meisha gets quiet again, and then she finally asks about Uncle C.J., which I figured she would get around to doing sooner or later.
“Has he been by lately?” she asks as she digs around in her purse. I get the feeling she doesn’t really need anything in there. That she just really wants to hear about him, but she’s playing it off like it’s a casual question.
I remember Daddy telling me once that Uncle C.J. had come as a complete surprise to Nana and Papa, who had married young, had kids young, and had already raised three by the time the doctor told them they were pregnant again with a fourth child. Daddy had only been married a few months himself when my grandparents called to say he was going to have a little brother. He and Mama helped take care of Uncle C.J. as if he was their own son, because it had been years since Nana and Papa had a small child in the house and it was flat-out exhausting, they said.
My uncle was still around a lot when Aris and Meisha were born within the next few years, so growing up, he was more like a big brother to them than an uncle. They were tight, the three of them, even after he went off to college. On breaks from school, he would spend part of his time with his parents in Virginia in the house we live in now, and part of his time with us in Connecticut, where we lived back then. I was really young at the time, so I never really got to know him. But I’ve seen lots of pictures of the three of them together doing crazy stuff. And of him and Aris playing basketball and football with some of the boys from our old neighborhood. And of him and Meisha laughing. That I do remember—them laughing together all the time like they shared some private joke no one else ever got. I remember that she would pronounce his name Seej and he would call her Babygirl.
By that time, he was beginning to make headlines for his football skills, and some of my relatives said he started to change. Started getting a little cocky, a little arrogant, Mama once told me. He lived with us for a minute the summer before his first season as a professional player. That was the last time I remember him being close with our whole family, though I know my brothers have kept in touch with him over the years. After that summer, no one spoke about him anymore. After that summer, the two sides of the family stopped hanging out together. I could never understand why. But it hits me now that whatever had happened to change the family had happened that summer before Meisha left.
“We don’t see him too much,” I say, trying to think of a way to change the subject because I don’t want to talk about my uncle right now. And I definitely don’t want to think about what happened the last time I saw him a few months ago.
He had come into town to do some pre-game interviews one Saturday and had stopped by the house early that morning to invite my father to go with him. Daddy was so excited that he didn’t even answer his brother, but he was upstairs and in the shower within seconds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him move so fast in my life.
Mama was out grocery shopping that morning, Jada had gone to a slumber party the night before, and Philip had gone to watch Aris scrimmage with the All-City high school football team, so it was just me and Uncle C.J. in the living room once Daddy went upstairs. He sat down on the couch beside me and started asking me how school was and what my favorite subjects were. He wanted to know if I had any hobbies and what I liked to do for fun. After I answered all his questions, he told me how much of a young lady I had become since he last saw me, which had to have been about three years ago, I think, because Mama always seemed to have something to do outside the house whenever he called to say he was in town and wanted to visit with us, and she always took me and Jada with her. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend and I told him I didn’t—that Mama was not having that. He laughed and said that with a body like mine, Mama was right to keep boys from around me. Something about the way his eyes dropped to my chest and then down to my hips made me really uncomfortable. I was glad I could use the excuse that I had to get dressed to meet up with Nita. I got out of there quick and fast.
“But he does come around sometimes?” Meisha presses.
“Every now and then,” I say. I figure she must really miss him, so I promise to call her the next time he stops by.
She nods and then stares off into the distance like she’s lost in a memory, probably thinking about all the fun she used to have with Uncle C.J. I promise myself right then and there that I’ll never tell her about that day three months ago. Especially the part about him popping into my room a few minutes after I had left him sitting downstairs on the couch. He had claimed that he’d come up to see what was taking my father so long, and that it’d been so long since he’d been in the house he grew up in that he’d made a wrong turn at the top of the stairs. But the way he looked me up and down as I stood in the middle of my room in my bra and panties told me he was no different than the boys Mama was trying to keep from coming around me. Then he had called me Babygirl and asked me if I wanted to hang out with him some time. Stupid me said okay, because I just wanted him to leave.
He had stepped into the room instead, though, closing the door behind him softly as he mumbled something about giving me a hug because it would probably be a while before we would actually see each other again. I remember trembling as he held me because it just didn’t feel right. He didn’t do anything nasty to me. But he did hold me too close for too long, and his hands moved over my bare skin in too many different directions for an uncle hugging his teenage niece, especially when she’s not dressed in anything more than a bra and panties.
We both heard the shower in Daddy’s bathroom shut off down the hall, and that’s when Uncle C.J. pulled away. He gave me a soft kiss on the cheek, put his finger to his lips as if to tell me we had some secret to keep, and then he was gone.
I’m not sure why, but I cried for half an hour behind that. I never told anyone about it. And I wasn’t going to do it today, especially not to someone who loves him the way Meisha obviously still does. I can’t break her heart like that. If she wants to see Uncle C.J. again, I will just have to put my personal feelings aside to make sure they get together to catch up on old times. More than anything, I want to see Meisha laugh the way she used to with him.
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Next week, Kamichi Jackson will be doing a book reading of K MY NAME IS KENDRA on my podcast The Segilola Salami Show. Please make sure you stop by to listen to it.