Cousins, the surrogates for a sister or brother. There was no limit to the care that my older cousin would give me. We played basketball , chugged soda at family cookouts, spent ten hours at a time on the phone; a best friend who showed me nothing but love. The older we got — the colder the world got and the less time we spent with each other.

Cousins… something… we became, but nothing, nothing remains — only the disdain from the pain of losing part of your frame. My Aunt, your mother, a huge part of the picture. Escaping through liquor and it’s tough, the end coming towards the end of the December, watching as she got sicker. It became clearer that our era turned into errors, Aaron. Christmas missed us, we tried to help you get through, but none of us never knew. You lost your ways as you age, our friendship was starting to fade. Life became a tirade.

We used to say “I love you,” now we only think that shit
It feels weird that you’re the person I took sink baths with
Street took you over, I want my cousin back
The world sayin’ what you are
Because you’re young and black, don’t believe ‘em

“Outside” by Childish Gambino, the opening track to his Camp album —  I played the song on my iPhone 5 in 2013 — with repetition and in hopes of escaping the turmoil of existence. Hoarding memories, I couldn’t surmount the demise of a friendship, a friendship that I shared with my cousin. Nothing has been the same since my Aunt passed in 2013. I can vividly remember the agonizing feeling that swept over his body as he watched his mother lay in a hospital bed without a breath to take. The doors closed and we didn’t even know what was taking place.

That leads me to wonder: the relationship between Earnest “Earn” Marks and Alfred Miles (aka Paper Boi). I know their relationship takes a turn as Alfred’s mom passed away, but why? The separation between my cousin and I came during a time of family issues and ultimately him going down a separate path than I was. The shift occurred, one that only can be done by defeat or death.

Photos: FX Atlanta. (Right: Alfred Miles (aka Paper Boi)[played by Brian Tyree Henry] Left: Earnest “Earn” Marks [played by Donald Glover])

Through music, Earn and Alfred linked back up. Family matters and the cousin dynamic in Atlanta became my favorite element in the show. Two cousins merge focuses in order to reach a greater purpose. I love it. Earn and Alfred leaves me hopeful that my cousin and I can find a purpose that we can work together for. Or, even, just simply kicking it. The good ole’ days of playing basketball outside of D.C.’s Anacostia skate pavilion. Remember your mom would leave us money for the ice cream truck and pizza? Man, those hot summer days of just walking the property of H.D. Woodson, Spingarn, or Eastern.

Insulation from my cousin for me until his mom passed. Donald Glover’s cousin, was that for him, until Donald’s cousin’s dad stopped being around. Alfred and Earn seem to split the role of the protector, both helping one another out in various ways.

As humans, we draw away from change and neglect acceptance, innately. Sometimes this can have a major impact on relationships you carry. I don’t have the best relationship with my cousin — not at all due to the loss of my Aunt, but for a multitude of reasons; I wiped away a middle ground.

The foundation of empathy took a sharp right turn as we left. The empathy is empty in our symphony but the music goes on, even when we’re off.
I find myself always asking what can the older people in my life do for me, when, there’s possibly more I can do for them. Message.

Photos: FX Atlanta.