“Do you maybe want to call your brother and see if he wants to grab coffee before you go off to college?”
I didn’t respond.
“I think you should give it some thought, Thomas. You don’t know the next time you’ll see him, or if you ever will. You know how he lives…”
My mother became choked up as she spoke; my older brother Blake was a drug addict and a possible sociopath, but she missed him dearly. I did too, although it was easier for me to cut him off - I could count on my fingers the amount of times I’ve seen him in person. She still remembered when he left the house at the ripe old age of fifteen, though.
“I’ll give it thought.”
I stopped doing my hair and left the bathroom where we had been getting ready. I hadn’t told the full truth: I would consider it, sure, but I had no intention of acting on her request.
I grabbed my backpack, my lunch, my keys, and quickly left the house.
I couldn’t get my mom’s words out of my head. I wanted to, but they stuck like a bad habit. I mean, don’t get me wrong - I don’t think I hate Blake. In fact, a friend told me once that the reason I was so angry with him is because of the fact that I loved him so much, I didn’t want to see him throw his life away. Fair enough, I guess. Despite that, though, I never want to see him again. Never. Every time I see him when he’s high, wired, stoned, whatever, he makes my stomach turn in knots. He is a source of anxiety, and I think of him as being dangerous, and the sooner that someone can promise that I don’t have to see him again, the better.
I freaking miss him so much, though. About half of my fingers are good memories - when he dropped his pants to make me laugh when I was five years old, when he talked to me about God and how Jesus loves me when I was twelve, when I talked to him and told him that I missed him when I was seventeen - crap, the sheer number of dreams I’ve had about him pulling his life together and us hanging out, they’re innumerable.
I need to stop this, because I can feel my eyes getting heavy with my heartbreak in Calculus. I need to refocus.
One time I told my mom that if he weren’t doing drugs, and if he weren’t crazy, I would totally have invited him over when my friends were over at the house. He would be so much fun to have, he’d be one of us.
Find this derivative, find x, find something! Quit thinking about Blake, Thomas!
One time I had a dream that I helped him escape from getting caught by my school (dreams can be weird, bear with me) and we ended up at the end of our street, and I gave him a hug and told him how much I missed him. That was painful to wake up from.
Thank goodness, the bell’s ringing. Finally, I can move on to something else, some other stimulus, I’ll take anything, really.
“So you’re asking if you should contact your brother on social media or something and see if he wants to grab coffee?”
“Yeah, that’s the idea.”
“Do you want to do this?”
“No? More than anything? Both. I really don’t want to see him, but it’s about two weeks before I leave for school, so I wanna see if there’s any way I could see him one more time. Also, my mom wants me to - please just give me a good reason to not reach out.”
My friend Shea pursed her lips. “I can’t do that. This is your decision, dude.”
I buried my face in my palms. “Dang it, Shea.”
She sighed sympathetically. “I know this is hard. I think what you should do is what you won’t regret doing-“
“I’m trying to!-“
“Ahp! Let me finish! You need to weigh the risks and benefits of reaching out, and seeing if it’s something you want to dive into. Okay, so worst case scenario, he starts trying to establish a manipulative relationship and follows you to the city you’re going to for college. Best case scenario, you have a really good conversation, you make your peace, and you dip.”
“I hate that you’re right.”
Eight days before I get on a plane to the Midwest. It’s nine o’clock at night, I’m staring at my iPad, and I’m on the precipice of getting facebook just to have one conversation with this guy.
This psychopath. What happens if he’s been using when we see each other? What if he stands me up? What if his brain finally craps out and he goes feral on me? I click out of the App Store.
What if he dies? What if years down the line, he recovers, but doesn’t want to talk with me, because I never reached out to him? I would totally get that. I would hate myself, and I would be heartbroken if he was finally okay, but didn’t want to talk with me. Gah, what if this is the conversation that inspires him to change? Am I really going to throw that away just because of my pride? Didn’t Jesus reach out to me in my crappiness? Why can’t I forgive my brother and reach out to him?
I pull the App Store back up, but I don’t download Facebook. I stare at my iPad for ten minutes, not doing a thing. Screw this.
Why can’t I make a freaking peanut butter sandwich without thinking about this guy?! This pisses me off! I just want to live my life!
Blake had lived through hell. My mom had been with a guy before my dad, and this guy was just a piece of crap (my mom wasn’t too saintly, either, from what I hear from my other siblings) - Blake, from what I understand, got the worst of it. He couldn’t even go to school to escape, since a teacher had told him in third grade that he wouldn’t amount to anything. He had always been a people person, too, and started hanging out with the wrong crowd in middle school, and got into a bunch of fights throughout his time in high school.
No wonder this guy is so screwed up. I wish I could just hug him, and tell him how much I loved him, that he’s okay, and that he can get back.
I shoved down the sandwich. Ten o’clock. Time for TV.
I get on my plane in two hours. My mom hasn’t said anything about Blake, and I was happy that she hadn’t. I know he’s my brother, and I know that I can never know his world, but I just can’t do it. I don’t want to talk to him ever again. He’s too far gone; sure, a miracle could happen, but I don’t think it’s going to.
I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling. I had wanted him to die for so long, just so that the stress and pain could stop. I hate myself – what makes me better than him? How sick does someone have to be for him to want his own brother dead? The stress, the episodes, they were awful, though. The worst time was when he barged into the front door and ran to the bathroom after being repeatedly told that he couldn’t enter the house, after weeks of him on-and-off coming onto the property without being invited. I felt powerless. I didn’t hold him back, or threaten him with the cops, I just stood there paralyzed in fear.
That was the worst part - he wasn’t afraid, and he was unpredictable. I never knew what was going to happen next with him.
I’ve been in college for three months. I never reached out to him. I haven’t dreamed about him in a while, either, nor have I heard about him from my mom. He still sticks in my head, though. Like, what if God could do something about him? What if a miracle actually could happen? My church has been talking about fasting, recently, and even though it’s taken years in some cases, real change has occurred in others’ lives.
You know what, I’m going to. I’m not sure what will happen, but I’m going to fast for Blake. I don’t know how long I’ll be fasting, and I’m not really planning on making it a whole day thing. I’ll probably just skip Monday’s breakfast. Yeah, that should be good.
Dear God, I just want to see something happen with my brother. If anyone can do anything, You can.
I’m home for Christmas. I just got off my plane yesterday, it’s now Sunday, and I feel like having a meal with someone. I turn to my mother, who’s cooking post-church lunch.
“Mom, can you give me Blake’s social media handle?”