An Exclusive Except from the forthcoming book, Sweet Cornbread and Hot Green Tea
By Sundiata Alaye’
“Dear Diary” tells the journey of two college freshmen swimmers who find love amidst the madness of competitive sports, the cycles of predetermined masculinity and manhood, and an innocent friendship turned romantic.
From regional champs, to State champs, straight to the National Championships! We did it and we did it breaking records in the process! All the hard work paid off and we walked away undefeated. This has been a dream come true! We medaled in every single category and swept the gold at the national championships. Man, the whole school showed up to cheer us on and we didn’t disappoint. The 100-meter freestyle was the easiest. I broke the record like Kahlil expected I would and he was so siked! It’s like he’s my biggest supporter outside of my mom. I have to admit I kicked ass in it!
I was still nervous going into the relay but Kahlil calmed me down right away. He said to keep my focus on getting back to the podium. We gripped and hugged like we always do and agreed we would win and break records. It was all we could think about. It all started out just like we planned but somehow our second leg got behind by a couple of seconds and we looked like we lost our momentum. By the time Kahlil got into the water we were almost five seconds behind. But he was killing it. I mean the brother was working hard! I don’t think I ever saw him swim so fast. On the final turn we were only two seconds behind but as much as he was pulling past the water he couldn’t catch up. We were cheering and hollering like mad! About half way to me he looked at the clock and on the next stroke he looked up at me and in that one second, in that one glance, he told me that it was all up to me. His eyes said it. They said he was depending on me to pull this off – that he was depending on me period! I gladly took the responsibility off his shoulders and put them onto mine.
When he touched the podium it was like he was touching me and I stretched into the water like a wave finding its way back to sea. When I hit the water I could feel myself joined with it – in perfect syncopation with it and every single stoke blended into the rhythm of it. Every breath after every other stroke was life breathing into me. I kept my form and kept my focus not on the time or the other lanes but on his voice. Kahlil’s voice. I could hear him calling to me even through the cheers and screams from the team and the crowd. I could hear his voice encouraging me like he had done so many nights before in the pool practicing for just this kind of scenario.
He kept calling to me and I kept listening for him – hearing him – trying to get back to him. When I made the final turn and felt the rush of the water push me forward I felt like there was nothing or no one around but Kahlil and me. I could still hear him calling to me – calling me to him – and I sliced the water faster and more precise.
I looked up midway to see him standing there aside the podium waving to me, smiling, cheering, and glad. On the next stroke I met his eyes and we locked in almost the same moment as when he was in the water and before I knew it I was there with him. All I heard was bells and whistles and cheers. I looked up into his eyes for a sign and he gave it to me.
He smiled and nodded his head, “We won. We did it. We broke the record!” he said as he knelt down to help me out of the water. He grabbed me and hugged me as the rest of the team ran over to us to hug in celebration. We did it. We won! The team and us, me and him. We won! We celebrated for days after that! The school had a parade and an award ceremony and the whole city was on us for interviews and appearances and other stuff. We met the mayor who declared an official day in the city for the team.
They called me and Kahlil the “Dynamic Duo” and we’re starting to believe it. But it hasn’t gone to our heads. We put a lot of hard work into training and finding our rhythm. And I know our friendship helps that out. We’re best friends without a doubt and we love each other. We look out for each other and push each other to be our best and over the last year since we’ve been friends we’ve come to depend on each other for everything. I know I’m blessed to have him in my life and just thankful that he’s here. He fills many voids for me. The places where I used to miss my father I don’t miss anymore, and the places where he always wanted to have a brother has been filled. We’re as thick as thieves!
We’ve got exams coming up in the next couple of weeks and we’re trying to decide what to do for the summer. Coach has been getting a lot of interest letters about us possibly training for the Olympic team. We’re both siked about that. That would be off the hinges if that could happen! But we’re not thinking about that too hard. Right now, we’ve got to make it through finals and see if we can figure out our next steps. Whatever it is though we want to do it together. We’re a package deal. We tell everybody that.
Finals are over and we’re free for the summer. My first year of college was everything I expected and more. I had an unbelievable time. My grades are through the roof, I’ve broken all kinds of records my freshman year and I have a best friend I can share this all with. I don’t know what I’ve done to please God but whatever it is I want to keep right on doing it!
Kahlil blew up the spot too! Things couldn’t be better. Monica and Cynthia are still hanging in there strong though it’s pretty official that Monica and Kahlil aren’t dating anymore. They made that official right after nationals. Everybody’s life is getting hectic and we’re finding no more time for dating and stuff like that. They’ll be plenty of time for that later on in life. Right now we all have to stay focused.
Monica and Cynthia are headed to Paris for the summer in an exchange program, and Kahlil and I are headed to swim camp. We won a scholarship sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee. It’s a hook up deal too plus there’ll be money left over to pay for school next year. All of it! So, goodbye to cleaning offices! I can relax and be just a regular student now. We had coach and the schools lawyer look at it before we committed to taking it. We wanted to make sure it was just a scholarship and it is. It doesn’t lock us into any obligations to try out for the Olympics but does give us first priority option at the trials if we decide to do it.
I’m really looking forward to camp because it’s in California! Another dream come true. Two months in LA! Kahlil is even excited. I tease him about it because this is the first time he’s gotten excited about going to California. But he says it’s different because we’ll be staying in dorms at the facility and he doesn’t have to go home except on weekends if we want to. It’ll be cool because there’ll be swimmers from all over the country – some we already know from meets but I’m sure there’ll be new people too. Besides, he says, we’re rooming together so we get to spend the entire summer together with the exception of the two weeks we have before we have to report. I’m going to see my mom and he’s headed to Cali. I agreed to come a week early to hang out with him so he can take me around. His parents will be there so I’ll have a chance to spend some time with them too.
I feel like I’m on my way. I’ve managed to do everything right. I kept my focus and my cool and it all worked out for the best. One year down and three to go. I feel like me and my best friend are going to conquer the world!
We just got back from the Thanksgiving holiday and had a ball! My mom loves Kahlil and him and my brother are like best friends. We ate like crazy and slept our asses off! It felt good to be home. We hung out with some of my friends from high school and a couple of my cousins. The time went by too fast though. I could have used another week. Kahlil says so too.
Before we left for Thanksgiving break though, we had three meets that we slaughtered the competition in. Me and Kahlil kept our focus and I kept swimming to him in the relay. We haven’t quite broken our record from last year, in fact in one meet we came in over the record time by 1.5 seconds but we won anyway. We didn’t have much time to prepare for that meet and didn’t spend as much time as we did last year practicing after team practice. We agreed when we were at my mom’s to correct that and we have. Already we’re feeling the syncopation again and just in time for our last meet before the semester ends. Time flies so fast.
We got finals coming up in a couple of weeks and we’re both ready to get that over with! We’re all set. We have no choice but to be! All we’ve been doing is swimming and studying. We did hang out with Monica and Cynthia last weekend – went to a movie but that’s been it as far as a social life is concerned. We usually don’t leave the pool until around 11 p.m. or so and then study for an hour, talk for about an hour more in the room in the dark and then we pass out. Our days begin at 6:00 a.m. so every break we get we just sleep. Especially on Sundays. It’s the only day we don’t practice. We’ll get up early enough to get to worship service on campus, grab something to eat on the way back, and pass out again. But Christmas vacation is coming soon so that means nothing but rest.
Kahlil’s headed to California for the “fake out” as he calls it and I’m headed to my aunts. The guy mom’s dating is taking her and my brother on a cruise. They invited me along but I really didn’t feel like being on a boat in the middle of winter no matter where it was headed. So I’ll hang out at my aunt and uncles and catch up with my cousins. Kahlil’s not looking forward to another temporary separation. Lately, he doesn’t look forward to breaks where we can’t be together and the truth is neither do I. He’s like my strength and my inspiration, and I don’t like to be away from him for any length of time. It doesn’t seem natural that we’d be so close or does it? I don’t know. I just know he makes life good. He makes all of what we’re going through worthwhile. I’m just grateful to have him.
A couple of days before we were supposed to leave for Christmas vacation Kahlil’s parents called and said they had to leave the country for Christmas. They didn’t invite him to come along. He was devastated. I know he hates going home for Christmas anyway but I think to him it’s his only link to his mom and step-dad. I was upset for him.
He tried not to show that he was upset but I know him. I know him better than he knows himself. We were sitting on the floor and after he hung up the phone he just put his hands over his face. So I sat next to him on the floor and put my arm around him and he laid his head on my shoulders. I kept telling him it was cool that we’d figure something out but he just sat there crying. I kept rubbing his shoulder and head trying to reassure him and calm him. After a while he did. We sat there holding each other like that, like we belonged together in a warm embrace.
When he was calm enough to talk he looked at me and said that I was his best friend in the world and that he didn’t know what he would do without me. He told me that before we became friends he was thinking of committing suicide because his pain was so deep. He said I saved him – that I made life worth living. He stood up and stood me up with him and told me he loved me. He looked me dead in the eyes and told me he loved me. And then he kissed me – on the lips.
He kissed me on my lips and I kissed him back, melting into him – melting into us – breaking all barriers if there were any that existed between us. We kissed each other long and hard and soft and tenderly, and held onto each other, soul-to-soul; heart-to-heart, beating from the known and the unknown. We kissed and held onto each other not knowing what to say, not feeling we needed to say anything. We stared into each other’s eyes not looking for anything but finding it anyway. It’s like we found freedom – freedom for our secrets and a secret place for our freedom. All of our pains, regrets, longings, and desires seemed to gather together in that moment and we heard each other calling though we spoke no words, and all of the places where our fears and hesitations were hidden; where misery and disappointments were once swallowed now leaped out and we cut our spirits free.
That night just like every other night since we held onto each other and slept peacefully in each other’s arms. Kahlil didn’t want to be alone for the holidays and I didn’t want him to be. I changed my plans and we spent many nights in each other’s arms at his house in California in his bed. We were like newlyweds on honeymoon, him and me, loving each other beyond description. Discovering something new in us; something we never knew but glad we found. We ran in the mornings and worked out in the afternoons. We’d swim in the evenings and at night we made love, melting into each other and cutting our spirits free.
Our lovemaking brought us so much closer. It was sacred to us. Much more than just sex, but a unification of sex and spirit – interconnected and divine where we found this kind of transformative light. It streams from his body and mine like an energetic force of love. We feel fulfilled and enlightened. It’s our divine celebration of life – like when we swim and we only hear and see each other.
We’ve established a deep karmetic connection that extends itself beyond who we are alone and apart, and who we believe we are alone or apart. All that exists is mutualness – mutual love, mutual support, mutual care, mutual tenderness, and a mutual appreciation that we are love itself. In our lovemaking we transcend everything we know or think we know and we heal. We love. Just Love. I love him and he loves me. I feel it. He does too.