It was a late night before my high school graduation. I was sitting on the bottom steps of my house staring at the full moon up above that was so bright it outshined the street light on the block. Any chance of a good night’s sleep was lost in the anxiety I was feeling. I was so distracted by wild thoughts of life after high school that I was easily scared and startled when slow deep-voiced “Whad Up doe?” seemed to had come out of nowhere. My two-second heart attack was paused when Amp appeared out of the shadows from in between the houses(one being his grandmother’s). The light revealed his white tank top and long black khaki shorts with matching black air force 1’s. He(Amp) sat next to me on the steps and extended his hand toward my direction to offer me a sip of the small bottle of half juice he had.
Amp: “Why you up so late? Don’t you gotta be out there early?”
Wiping my mouth I humped my shoulders and said:
Amp: “Really now?..”
Me: “Yea, no reason. Hey, looks like your mans Jordan gonna get another one.”
I hoped Amp would take the bait so we could change the subject. I truthfully was in no mood for his usual reckless teasing that had tortured me during my elementary years. He then took a small swallow from the bottle, wiped his mouth, sat up straight and look at me directly.
“A yo, what’s wrong with you?!!,” he said
Amp’s voice had deepened and his dark brown eyes were now glaring down on my now face that was developing a nervous sweat across the forehead. Seeing no way out, I took a deep breath and poured my feelings like Kool-Aid at a family reunion. I ranted for at least 13mins straight while Amp only response was a slight head nod every so often. I expressed that I felt like an underachiever who had no real plan with big dreams and no clue how to pursue them. When I was done, I felt exhausted as if I had been holding my breath underwater for days. Amp looked at me to make sure I was done, took a breath, finished his juice and spoke:
“Yo, it’s like this, maybe you’ll lose, maybe you’ll win. That’s life, unpredictable as fuck. This game….This game don’t wait for nobody!!! The important thing is that you at least try at the muthafucka!!! To not try is some bullshit. You have a chance, got a shot. You’re young and you have you’re whole life ahead of you at 18 so by the time you’re my age or maybe older you’ll really start seeing life. I’m damn near 30 yrs old and I’m supposed to be NOW just tasting life, just getting the adult things that I was SUPPOSED to have worked hard for in my 20s. Niggas is Puff and niggas is in politics, all around MY age, and I’m here sitting on these steps with my life, with no real work to show for it. I’m supposed to, but what I do? Nothing. Nothing with my time. I fucked it all away and now….. now I can’t get it back. I’m starting now to see and do what my ass SHOULD have done years ago!!! Shit is gonna be hard, like real hard, but it’s what I get, it’s what I deserve. But not you, you have a chance, it won’t be easy!!! Shit won’t be easy at all!!! You see it’s just you, nobody else, ain’t nobody else on this block buying no cap and gown, it’s just you. So naw, it wont be easy, but fuck, at least try. Fail over and over again, but fuckin try!!! Don’t be this(points to the block)…., don’t be these clowns, don’t be……… don’t be……”
Amp then began to get quiet, drifting away and never completing the last sentence. He then stood up abruptly pulling his shorts up to the waist and stared into the dark light, still not saying anything for at least a minute. He grabbed a small fro comb from the back of his head and began picking his hair upward while reaching over to dap me up for the night. “Alright,” he said, “Get some sleep.” As he walked across the grass I stood up and asked if he was “Coming out there in the morning?!!” Amp never broke stride picking his hair while still walking forward he said: “I’ll be around.”
The next morning my graduation was held outside an arena with a roof that covered the seats of future graduates and parents. My mother stood at the top of the hill right outside the seats waving so I could see her and signaling that I make sure to cross the cap string once the ceremony was over. When my name was called I hugged every adult on stage and waved to my mother who was jumping with excitement using a man’s she didn’t know shoulders to keep from falling. Once I stepped down from the stage holding my diploma to the bottom step I looked up to see Amp standing further from the top of the hill than where my mother was jumping. He was standing by himself, wearing a blue blazer with a white button-up shirt and no tie. Both hands were inside his pockets looking down at me with a straightforward facial expression as both our eyes locked for seconds that felt like hours. A teacher tugged at me so that I could look at the camera and wait for the flash. Blinking my eyes several times I looked back up toward the hill to see that Amp was not there. As I joined my fellow graduates in the line I was greeted by my cousin GP who had reached the top of the hill first with arms wide open for a hug, wearing a full cap and gown while holding his newly received diploma. “Yeeeeoooooooo we did it yo!!!,” he said. I leaped and hugged him screaming a loud Rick Flair “WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” Once I came back down to my feet, I glanced downward at the crowd to see the now open sea of people walking upward towards us. GP took a step next to me and said:
“You see your brother?”
Me: “I think so.”
GP: “You wanna wait and see?”
I paused for a second, smiled, slightly smacked GP in the chest and said:
“Naw, It’s cool, he’ll be around. Let’s go find Mom…”