Aint Brittany

by Brooke Champagne | Some bodies are built for flight.

Aint Brittany

Certain bodies are built for flight. Take, for example, Saints cornerback Tracy Porter, who in Super Bowl XLIV intercepted Peyton Manning and ran seventy-four yards for a touchdown, whooshing his team toward its first ever championship. And also Brittany, the only of my four little sisters to follow through with their plan to jump from the single-story roof of our Foliage Drive house down to the trampoline. She didn’t make it over the fence, as they’d hoped—didn’t propel herself into the vast untouched swampland on the other side—but she did seemingly float, in that slo-mo suspension of secondhand memory, before crashing into the grass, cackling even through road rash. A regular flier, she swung across monkey bars and shot vertically up slides, her small, adaptive body like a gecko’s, slippery and everywhere. Her chin-up reps were faster than any boy’s, and she chattered through them, what-like-it’s-hard, though she could be quiet, too, and sneaky, her dark eyes always scanning. Once, during hide-and-seek, she tucked herself silent inside my mother’s dryer for two hours. Usually her ideas, the games she and my sisters played. And usually, she won.

In the near decade between my birth and Brittany’s, the New Orleans Saints perfected their status as perennial losers. In that era of mostly losses, the Saints became the Aints. Fans wore grocery bags over their heads to the Superdome, painted Aints across their own faces. But decades later, after the city’s nadir during Hurricane Katrina and the team’s ensuing Superdome exile, our collective fortunes turned. For the 2006 season, the Saints hired a new coach, Sean Peyton, and a second-round draft pick quarterback, Drew Brees. Early in their first game back in the ’Dome, safety Steve Gleason dramatically blocked a punt that led to a Saints touchdown. They’d best the Falcons in that Superdome opener and go on to earn their most accomplished season ever, making it to the NFC Championship Game for the first time in team history. Just three seasons later, they won the Super Bowl. How could the team, the fans—all of us—celebrate this unprecedented win? Tracy Porter’s hometown of Port Allen changed its name for one day as tribute—Porter Allen—then renamed a street after him.

But victories are fleeting, easy to squander. A few years after winning Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints were fined, penalized, and roundly excoriated for “Bountygate,” a targeted system of paying out bonuses, or “bounties,” for deliberately injuring opposing team players. As if bodily trauma in football isn’t already ubiquitous. As if there’s a need to inflict extra pain.

Brittany’s pain began legitimately enough. A car accident with a bad boyfriend, who was high, caused a back disc to slip, which led to prescription med dependency. Then, St. Bernard narcotics agents arrested her and the bad boyfriend for possession and distribution, leaving the biggest win of Brittany’s life, her daughter Layla, in the care of her grandmother. That same month, the Saints released Tracy Porter. Traded to four teams in four years, in perpetual flight. Once released from the Bears and back home in Louisiana, he was arrested on domestic abuse charges and, just like Brittany, for possession and distribution. His legal issues, plus the wear and tear on his knee, have since grounded him, Aint Porter, more familiar now with losing than winning.

For years, my sister, too, was ground down—by boys and pain and the drugs that masked both—but all that was Brittany’s story begins and ends with flying. One night when she was in her mid-twenties, some dealer or deputy came pounding down her hotel room door. She and some friends owed someone money, or owed them justice, but either way they were trapped within the cramped square footage of a second story room. What options did she consider? Did she recall her hopeful Foliage Drive trampoline takeoff?

What’s not in question is Brittany irreparably injured her hip from that daring leap into the parking lot, and that untreated fracture escalated her addiction, and the subsequent infection spread throughout her body, forever impairing her gifts of flight. Aint Brittany of the soft cheeks, Aint Brittany of the constellation of beauty marks, Aint Brittany of the eyeroll, the lip smack, the cackling laugh. To Aint Brittany we do not pray, but we toast, we rebuild her, we remember. I cannot know what she believed or wished to win on that eve of her final difficult years, but I can say with damn near certainty that jumping was Brittany’s idea, and that she jumped first.

Brooke Champagne is the author of Nola Face: A Latina’s Life in the Big Easy, published with the Crux Series in Literary Nonfiction at the University of Georgia Press. Her work has been selected as Notable in several editions of the Best American Essays anthology series, and she is the recipient of the 2023–2024 Alabama State Council on the Arts Literary Fellowship in Prose. She lives with her husband and children in Tuscaloosa, where she is assistant professor of creative writing in the MFA Program at the University of Alabama. More at

This essay is a Short Reads original.

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