Many of the Men

­­­­­­­­­  ­­­­­­­­­  ­­­­­­­­­  ­­­­­­­­­  ­­­­­­­­­  From the Spring 2017 issue of the New England Review.

Jackson’s in stop-and-go traffic on Dorchester Avenue with Darius in the back. They’re on their way to the chicken place, both of them regretting the lost opportunity to buy season tickets when Danny Ainge grabbed the last leg of the Big Three and all the good seats got taken.

“Yeah, my buddy had four spots in the second row behind the basket, just waiting for my go-ahead to click Purchase. Right there. Where the players fall into the cameras,” Darius says.

“And over where the cheerleaders sit,” Jackson adds.

“Indeed. Over where the cheerleaders sit.”

They laugh and then they both ride quietly for a while. Jackson turns up the XM station he’s floating through a weak frequency in the car radio, and sees his passenger in the rearview mirror, nodding out the beat pensively to Sir Mix-a-Lot.

“Now that the Celtics be winning, nobody’s lettin’ go of that gravy,” Jackson muses.

“I’d rather watch games at home, you know, Jacks? I can do without all the distraction.”

“Not me.”

“The T-shirt cannon, the dance cam, the whole Jumbotron in general. You know what I’m sayin’?”

“The fanfare,” Jackson sums up his customer’s point.

“Yeah, the fanfare. The flashing lights, the kids everywhere, the leprechaun on the trampoline.”

“Yeah, what’s with the leprechaun? That’s some racist shit.”

“I know, huh? Lucky.”

“Riiiiiight. Lucky the Leprechaun.”

“Crazy-ass white people.”

“Oh yeah!” Jackson says when the next song comes on the radio, and turns it up. Both men jump in from the beginning, phrasing fast and wordy, spreading out the cluttered parts to prove they know them, then trailing off on the rest.

“I’m not gonna lie, I’d of snatched those up. Second row? Shhhh, either way, you’d been gold,” Jackson says into the rearview. He knows he’s not hearing the whole story. Jackson puts Darius at just under six feet, three hundred fifty pounds. He’s been driving Darius Green long enough to know he’s got going-out issues, and possibly seating issues. Darius is a light-skinned, big-headed black man whose barber’s edged a clean line across his top that angles in above his temples. “Lookin’ shaap,” Jackson says to his passenger in the mirror, then aims it to size up the usual crisp dress shirt tucked into dark blue jeans and belted. Darius wears his pants a shade above his waist, not too high. “Real shaap.”

They ride, both men moving their heads to the beat, Darius with a smooth up-and-down yes, and Jackson with his slight back-and-forth no.

“Those seats are yours as long as you want them,” Darius says, and moves the subject to the advantages of being a season ticket holder, as far as they understand; neither man’s held seats at the Garden. Jackson’s gone to exactly three games in his lifetime, the first, as a kid, on a rare outing with his dad. Then in his twenties, when nearly the whole team went white, he saw Patrick Ewing play in his rookie season the day the Knicks came to town. Jackson knew Ewing growing up, and played as good or better than the pro that last year he stayed in high school. This past winter, when he saw a live game at the Garden, it was called the Fleet Center. Lucia took him on a whim. The sales guys at her job threw her their extra tickets: tenth row center, with Jo Jo White sitting right behind them.

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This story closely borrows from the first chapter of Mary’s novel manuscript Cambridge Royalty, a book about race, love, addiction, and urban renewal that takes place in Cambridge, Massachusetts.