9010 Blankenship

I’m never going to forgive you and I am about to tell you that. As soon as I have the nerve to walk into our house. First, I have to park the car in the driveway. I can’t do that until I finish this lap around the block. I just turned on our street. I can still remember the first time I ever came down this street. Mom and Dad had just sold the old house and wanted to downsize. I always thought it was funny they bought themselves a place just small enough to make it uncomfortable for more than two people to live in. I think that was their way of trying to nudge us out of the nest. It wasn’t until after they closed on their new home that they remembered they never taught us to fly. I’ve always suspected a sense of guilt is what inspired them to buy another house to throw you and I in. Honestly, I’m sure it was more Mom’s guilt than anything else. I don’t think Dad was too keen on the whole idea. I was fairly confident 9010 Blankenship was going to be our new house before we even went in. The listing price was right up Dad’s alley. Especially for a home that he viewed as storage for his underachieving sons. The entry opened up to a large family room. The carpet was stained in several spots all the way from the front door to the sliding glass doors on the other side of the room. There was an opening in the wall to the right of the front door that took you to a hallway. Both ends of the hallway had a bedroom. One for each brother. Each complete with scratched and scuffed hardwoods. The single restroom had emerald tile on the floor and walls. It looked the way seasickness felt. The color reminded me of Oz’s castle. I hated the house then and I still hate it now.

I’m about a quarter of a mile away and I’ve never related to the Cowardly Lion more. I’m just not sure if I am afraid of the confrontation or of how vicious my bite will be. Am I doing the right thing? Even if I am, is this the right time? Should I wait? Do I need more time to process? I’m almost back to the house. I’m not ready yet. I’m going around the block one more time. Just one more time.

My Ford Focus has become my only sanctuary as of late. I was at a stoplight on a rainy day when another driver took a turn too fast. They collided with the Civic I used to own. This Focus is all that I could afford with the insurance money after they deemed the Honda totalled. I don’t hate the Focus, but I miss the Civic. This car used to be a rental, so there is a governor on it. It won’t go above 80 and the volume on the radio is limited. I usually don’t mind, but right now I wish I could turn my music up loud enough to drown out my thoughts. The conversation I just had with Mom and Dad keeps cycling through my head. Their words get louder and more piercing with each replay. I’ve never cared about the speed ceiling until tonight. I’ve pushed the governor to the limit a few times on the trip from our parents’ house back to our own. 80 isn’t fast enough. I don’t want the heat of my anger to subside before I am able to press your face against it. I want you to feel it all. That’s why I need to get there as fast as possible. Once I step through our front door I’m ripping your pathetic heart out of your chest.

I wonder which memory would make the best blunt object to hit you with. I know I want to hurt you. How can I make you cry? Are you too far gone to be sentimental anymore? I could bring up the time you took me to see Atmosphere at Emo’s in Austin when I was 15. That night changed my life. I think you knew that it would. You told me that I could be just like them one day. I believed you because you believed in me. You told me how talented you thought I was. You said that you were proud of how cool I was becoming. You pushed all sorts of people out of the way so that I could be in the first row. They opened up with the last song from their most recent album. I was ecstatic because Always Coming Back Home to You was my favorite song off of that album. I’m sure everybody thought they would play that song at the end. I know I did. I looked over to you and you told me this was going to be an awesome show. Then you told me you were going to go get a quick drink. Then I didn’t see you until after they left the stage. As everybody was leaving, I caught up with you and likely hit you with a million words a second. I don’t know how long I talked about how inspired I felt before I noticed that your eyes were completely glazed over. I didn’t realize it then, but you probably didn’t hear anything I said. That wouldn’t dawn on me for years. For months after, I told everybody how that was the greatest night of my life. You took such an interest in my music. You planned our time together that weekend to help nourish my budding relationship with hip-hop. How awesome is that? That’s ultimate big brother stuff. I was so honored. I idolized you my entire life and all I ever wanted to do was impress you. I finally did when I started to share my music with you.

I’m a few lights away from the entrance of our neighborhood now. I select Always Coming Back Home to You on my iPod and let it play. I wish I could ignore the relevancy of the song’s name. Maybe I could if the volume would go louder. I sit at a red light and twist the knob over and over and over again. Nothing changes. Nothing ever changes.

My car really doesn’t have the sound system to do the song justice. Ignoring the limited volume, it still isn’t nearly as capable as the one you had in your Mustang. I remember you and I revisiting the song together many years later. We played it back to back several times on our way to Rachel’s. I think about that trip often. I think about Rachel frequently as well. It was obvious that she loved you. She probably still does. Hurricane Ike left our house without electricity for over a week last year. After two days, she insisted that we go stay with her in San Marcos. I was eager to go. Work was cancelled for the foreseeable future and you didn’t have a job so there was no reason not to. She came from money. It was obvious once we stepped foot in her apartment. It always perplexed me how somebody from such great means could also have so many demons. I noticed all her different medications the second night we were there. I wonder how long it took you to notice. She was a great host. It was nice not to have to worry about work. She introduced us to The Office during that stay. It is still my favorite TV show. She also had a PlayStation 3. That was the first time we ever got to play one. You stayed up for what seemed like 48 hours straight playing it. I woke up on the fifth day and you were missing. So were all of Rachel’s meds. On the sixth day, work called me. They were open again. You didn’t answer any of my calls the day before, so I didn’t answer any of theirs. On the seventh day, my boss left me a voicemail firing me. On the eighth day, I woke up to Rachel yelling at somebody on the phone in her bedroom. She opened her door and told me you were outside. She told me she didn’t want to see either one of us ever again. We didn’t talk for the entire drive back to Houston. I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t want the answers. I bounced between rage and pity so many times during that ride that I can still feel the whiplash to this day. Sometimes I wish my neck had just snapped completely. I didn’t give up on you then. I should have, but I still believed in you. As I laid down that night, back in my own bed, I prayed for the first and only time in my entire life. I prayed for the strength to save you. That may have been the night I truly started the process of losing both of us. I would soon learn that the ROI on hope is pretty fucking terrible.

The song is winding down. I am back in our neighbourhood. I am going to park a few streets away from Blankenship for a minute. I’m not stalling. I just need a minute.

I haven’t listened to that song in a while. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Hip-hop as a whole has soured on me in the past year. Even performing seems pointless lately. That reminds me, Mom and Dad replaced the money you stole from me before I even knew it was gone. Eventually, months later, they told me what you did. You don’t know that I know yet, but you’re about to. The same person who pushed me to rap in the first place took every single cent of the ticket sales from my very first show. The moment they told me is when I realized you were gone for good. The intense anger I felt because you robbed me didn’t last long. That’s when the numbness took over. That’s when you just became the ghost that haunted the house I lived in. I was numb for a long time after that. I was numb all the way up until tonight.

I’m parking a few houses down from ours. I can see our shared hellhole in the distance, but I’m not quite ready. I can feel my eyes swelling up but I refuse to let a single tear go tonight. I’m starting to realize that numbness was my armour and the fact it is cracking is making me uneasy. I need to tape it back together before I walk inside.

Truthfully, I was pretty damn numb prior to learning about the stolen ticket money. I feel like that has been my default setting for a long time now. Nicole helped to mitigate that feeling for a few weeks though. In retrospect, I don’t know if she and I would’ve been much more than friends, but back then I felt like I loved her. Maybe I just felt that way because she was the only ray of light I had seen in quite some time. Maybe I was going blind from staring directly at her. You, obviously, didn’t notice when I brought her back to the house and you were barred out of your mind on the living room couch. Good thing for you, Xanax throws entire moments into the void for those on it, but I was sober. So was she. You looked disgusting passed out with your head tilted all the way back and your mouth wide open. Snoring and snorting while sitting upright. Dad has told me on several occasions that you look just like his father. His dad was a junkie also. Looking at you that night, I finally saw what he meant. You were in the middle of eating yogurt but judging by the amount you spilled on yourself, you only got a few bites in before the pills took over. You could’ve at least turned the lights off. You were the first sight we saw when we walked in. Talk about a cold shower. The shame invaded my chest instantly. Eventually, it settled in the pit of my stomach and lingered there for weeks. She tried to comfort me. I told her she had to leave. I ignored all of her attempts to reach out to me after that. Eventually, she stopped trying. She was the last person I ever brought over. The house felt forever filthy after that. More than it already did. I can’t even walk through our front door without a flash of utter repulsion washing over me. Our home is forever married to that image of you in my mind.

I’m parked in the driveway now. I can’t bring myself to turn the car off. I know once I do I have to go inside. This is my last chance to stop the fire from engulfing everything. I’m at the halfway point of the tightrope and I just now realized there isn’t a safety net beneath me. I can feel my balance giving way.

I can’t believe Mom and Dad believed you when you told them I was on cocaine. Less than an hour ago, Mom asked me if I needed rehab. All three of you know I work for slightly above minimum wage. In what world can that kind of income sustain a coke habit? Granted, they don’t know how much it goes for, but you certainly do. You knew that they would just take it at face value. Why did you even say that? They must’ve been asking you the wrong questions. I was just a sacrificial lamb, slaughtered to momentarily divert attention. I was at their house because I needed to tell them how guilty I felt anytime I didn’t stop you from getting in the car after using. I needed to tell them that I felt like I was going to be complicit in a murder soon. Maybe you knew what I was going to do. Was it a pre-emptive strike? If it was, your strategy worked. They hit me with a “we have to talk” as soon as I walked into their house. They told me how worried about me you were. After everything you’ve done to all three of us, how could they believe you? I bolted out of their house before the conversation finished so I could come confront you about this lie. For all of your lies.

I don’t know how to describe what I’m feeling. What am I going to do when I see you? Am I going to hurt you? My mind is sputtering. My attempts to remember the good times are failing. I don’t know what to do with my hands. I keep rubbing them up and down the sides of the steering wheel. Can I please get a genie? I put the car in reverse but my foot is still securely on the brake. Should I go back to Mom and Dad’s? That’s a stupid question.

A few years ago, you were pulled over for the second or third time. You swallowed down your entire stash so the cop wouldn’t find it. When Mom and I picked you up from jail, you were still deep in the abyss. Ten plus bars at once will do that kind of thing. You were gone for days. Mom started crying once you got in the car that morning. You smelled homeless. You looked worse. We were driving to the impound to pick up your Mustang. Mom would ask you questions and your answers were so slurred it sounded like you had a chunk of your brain removed. She couldn’t handle it. She pulled over and begged me to drive. She spent the rest of the trip hunched over like she just got shot in the stomach, wailing with her face in her palms. You spent the rest of the trip asking where we were going. I answered you every time, but you still kept asking. Mom must not remember that. Now, Mom thinks I’m the one with the problem. She thinks that because you said it. She and Dad are just as lost as you. I wonder how many years you’ve taken off of their lives. Do you ever think about that? I think it about it all the time. Despite everything you’ve put them through, after a week of sobriety they’ll put you right back on your pedestal. I don’t respect them anymore. I can’t respect them anymore. They’re all yours now. I’ve been abandoned. I’d rather drown alone than to share a lifeboat with any of you.

My hand is on my keys but I can’t bring myself to flick my wrist and kill the engine. What am I waiting for? I have nowhere else to run to. Mom and Dad aren’t a safe harbour any longer. Just last week, during an argument he and I had, Dad said, “Your brother needs us more than you.” They’ve been trying to save you for years. They’ll die trying to save you and you won’t even cry for them. The car is off now.

I was a junior in high school the first time you went to rehab. It was a cushy place. It wasn’t like the facilities the state would send you to a few years later. There was a big emphasis on healing the family. I must’ve heard that addiction is a family disease 100 times during your stay there. Mom, Dad, and I came to visit you as often as we could. We had your back. We would sit around in a big circle with other addicts and their families. Family members would hug after telling one another how much they’ve hurt each other. Sometimes they would yell. Every time they would cry. The counsellors seemed to encourage it. Mom cried almost every time we went. I cried a few times also. Even Dad cried once. You never did though. Towards the end of your stay, when I knew you were going to come back in about a week, I hacked into your Myspace account. I read the messages you sent to your friends when you knew you were about to be sent away. You said cruel things about all of us. I never felt betrayal like that before. You hated all of us for sending you there. I didn’t have a say in the matter, but you said how much you blamed me because I told our parents that I found you passed out on the bathroom floor. I was just scared. I didn’t confront you about it. I never told Mom or Dad either. I didn’t go to the last family therapy session. It didn’t take long for me to feel the guilt of that decision. I knew that you were just sick. You didn’t mean the things you said in those messages. That was your disease talking. That night, I resolved to never turn my back on you again. We were going to get through this together. You were going to overcome. Everything was going to be okay. I knew that deep in my heart. You came home three days later. You went to jail for the first time five days later.

I’m unlocking the front door.

When I was 11 you would come hang out with me in my room after Mom and Dad had gone to sleep. We would watch MTV or I’d cheer you on as you played a video game. One week, we watched Biodome literally every night. Throughout the day we would quote lines from the movie back and forth to each other. Making you laugh hard was a huge accomplishment. There was a big window in my bedroom back at the old house. It was an easy way to sneak out. Most nights, after we would hang out for a few hours, you would sneak out through my window. I wouldn’t see you until the next day, but I never told on you. It was a small price to pay for a few hours of hanging out with my big brother. The best nights were the ones when you didn’t sneak out the window. We’d hang out in my room for a bit and then you would eventually invite me to yours. I would sleep on your floor. We would crack jokes and try to make each other laugh late into the night. Still, most of the time, you would sneak out the window. One night I begged you not to. I asked you, “Where are you going?” You replied, “I am going to go meet up with some friends.” I protested for a bit and I think that you could see how hurt I was. You put your hand on my shoulder and said to me, “Don’t worry though, you’re still my best friend.” That meant the world to me because you had always been mine. Those memories used to be some of my most cherished. Now they are shards of glass floating inside my skull. Most of the time I can ignore them, but every so often I can see the trail of blood they leave behind as they try to rip themselves out of the part of my brain I’ve locked them in. I wonder how deep they’ll cut when I turn them on you.

I’m inside the house now.

Let’s find out.

Kyle Hubbard

Kyle Hubbard is a Houston, TX native who relocated to Little Rock, AR in 2018. Hubbard has always been passionate about writing and used music as a means to facilitate that love throughout his 20s. He was immensely honored to be invited to SXSW in Austin, TX, as an official performer in both 2016 & 2017. "All Good Things Come," his most recent album, won several awards from Houston media outlets and landed in the top 5 of Houston Chronicle's "The best Houston albums of 2017" list. Hubbard hopes to nourish his desire to write by pursuing a degree in Technical and Professional Writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock while maintaining his current career as a Product Manager in the tech space.

Kyle Hubbard is a Houston, TX native who relocated to Little Rock, AR in 2018. Hubbard has always been passionate about writing and used music as a means to facilitate that love throughout his 20s. He was immensely honored to be invited to SXSW in Austin, TX, as an official performer in both 2016 & 2017. "All Good Things Come," his most recent album, won several awards from Houston media outlets and landed in the top 5 of Houston Chronicle's "The best Houston albums of 2017" list. Hubbard hopes to nourish his desire to write by pursuing a degree in Technical and Professional Writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock while maintaining his current career as a Product Manager in the tech space.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *