For the past few days, my much younger cousin had been giving me dating advice. Yeah . . . more on that later.
And I guess that’s where my phone must have died. I was pretty busy in the studio and didn’t have a charger there, so I didn’t really think much about it at the time. however, it looked like Bennett pro- ceeded to text me about the Wi-Fi several times while I was MIa.
That was it. Bennett walked into the kitchen as I was finishing the texts, still dumbfounded. I glared at him as he filled a massive bowl of cereal for himself.
He chewed a minute, swallowed, took a thoughtful pause, took another scoop of cereal, chewed and swallowed again, then pro- ceeded with, “to answer your question. I dunno why he wanna kill us. I ain’t racist, my nigga. I’m more in tune with my black incesters than my white ones.”
I knew he meant to say ancestors, but whatever. Bennett butch- ering the english language wasn’t new, surprising, or important at this point.
However, the term incesters struck me as weirdly appropriate when I thought about Bennett’s part of the family. Nevertheless, I had learned to pick my battles, language and otherwise, with him. even though I’ve done extensive research on both sides of my fam- ily lineage, I had sworn to never engage Bennett in a discussion where we debate about whether we have african in our bloodline. Never again, that is.
“Okay, well, something happened. Did you leave the house today?”
“Did you listen to any loud rap music, with the n word, that he could have misinterpreted as being racist?”
“Did you, your mom, or Leshaun, do anything today that Mr. cole could have perceived as racist, uhhh . . . offensive, or disrespectful?”
“What did you do today? tell me your entire day,” I said as he took a seat at the table.
“Okay. It go like this. I woke up and eated some cereal. I smoked a Newport out front. Then I watched TV in the basement. I watched some show named MacGyver about a white nigga who can make a bomb out of a watermelon and a vibrator battery. then I jacked off to Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals show. I ate cereal again. I rolled a blunt. I smoked it in the garage, since I’m not allowed to smoke weed out front no more. then I smoked a Newport out front ’cause you never told me I couldn’t smoke cigs out front no more. I rode my bike to the store to get more cigs. I rode back. Uh . . . I did some push-ups. the internet guy came to hook up your cordless internet. I smoked a Newport, then went downstairs and turned the tV off, then I came upstairs because SpongeBob is on the DVR up here. and right when I turn on SpongeBob I hear Mr. cole yelling outside.”
“And that’s when you went outside?”
“Well, at first I ain’t think he was yelling at me. But the more I looked at him, the more I noticed he was talkin’ shit. So I ran out- side to see what was up. We argued for a couple minutes, then you showed up.”
I had nothing. I’ve learned to tell when Bennett is lying. Bennett is usually lying. But he was unwavering and stern, so I decided to chalk it up to Mr. cole’s being a loon. there are numerous elements of Mr. cole’s dossier that would point to him being a batshit crazy loon, like, for example, kidnapping a sixteen-year-old for driving like a sixteen-year-old.
“God, what a crazy fucker,” I said to Bennett and patted him on the shoulder. he guffawed and took another bite of cereal. I sat down next to him at the table, and opened my laptop. I was just going to have Bennett listen to the new song I created in the studio today.
I right clicked on the Wi-Fi icon and the menu of neighborhood networks dropped down. I slowly scanned the list top to bottom. at first it didn’t register. Maybe it was denial, maybe I just didn’t notice it. But after adjusting my retinas and mouthing the words silently to myself, I caught it. I found it. My heart stopped. My life flashed before my eyes. My jaw was on the floor.
“Oh my fucking God, Bennett! What did you do?!” Bennett was so startled that he slammed his hand into his bowl of cereal, flipping it over, drenching himself and the table with milk and soggy Frosted Flakes.
“What? What? What?” he barked as he squinted his untreated, astigmatic eyes at the screen. “What this stuff mean?”
“Look, dude.” I pointed to the Wi-Fi menu. “this is why Milton thinks we’re racists!”
“What? I don’t get it!” he pled. Bennett was clueless.
I swear we both read it a good twenty times to make sure what we were seeing was real. I pushed my fist in front of my cousin and counted off his mistake on my fingers. “One K . . . two K’s . . . and a third, racist, K.”
“What do you mean ‘racist K’? It was ’posed to be funny!” Ben- nett bellyached, perhaps close to tears.
He leaned back in his chair, covered in cereal and milk, with the eyes of a crushed little boy. he wanted to be black more than any- thing else in the world, and he had just committed a mistake that a highly skilled, white-haired, samurai warrior would commit seppuku over. Well, if the code of ethics that this particular samurai warrior lived by involved never saying anything racist, accident or not.
Also, accident or not, this was the third neighbor in three months who Bennett had infuriated to levels of disrepair. after all that had happened lately, I was a little shocked to realize that it had only been that long since Bennett and his family had been living with me and my life was changed forever.
At which point the thought occupying my mind was, Just give him the money before something bad happens. . . .
But hang on. I can’t start the story here, let’s back up a bit to the beginning and the email that started it all.