wild bubba's

A Letter To An Old Neighbor (Fiction)

Dear Bubba, you wild madman, you angry drunken trucker, you probable junkie, you loudmouth, you thief, you scoundrel, I need to thank you, Bubba, and apologize.

I don’t think we ever exchanged more than an awkward, forced “Hello.” For the eight years that we shared a common wall in our double on Sycamore Street, I was admittedly afraid of you, but more than that, I hated you. I thought you were a Bad Man.

I heard you screaming late at night, arguing with your dying mother about money, and I saw how angry it made my parents, and their anger made me angry too, Bubba, you unshaven, unshowered, unkempt mulletman.

Without you, I may not have learned that adults can be Bad People, that they can be wrong. Remember the time you shot off fireworks during the drought? Five feet from our very tiny backyard that contained a very flammable wooden patio? You were wrong that night, and although the booze made you disagree with both my mother and the police, I knew even at that young age that you were wrong. That was important for me, Bubs, you educator, you lover of dirty denim. You helped me question the status quo. Could my own parents, dare I say it, be wrong about things too?

Sycamore Street was, as I’m sure you remember, like a snapshot of watered-down, Easter-lily suburbia. We waved to our perfect neighbors as they walked their perfect dogs with their perfect children. The houses, and the people they contained, were exactly same, the combined effect of which, produced a quiet, comatose feeling of separation from the real world. Growing up in that sun-drenched, ice-pop atmosphere can be dangerous for a child. I could’ve easily developed false securities, false beliefs, false surety in the rightness of things, like the grown up’s sneers when the poor children rode their bikes down the sidewalk.

But you, Bubba, though I doubt you intended to, shook me from that dreamy sleep and brought the Real World snarling in to exhale its rotten breath in my face. You made everyone uncomfortable, including myself. We didn’t want you at the annual Block Party, but there you were, shotgunning beers and screaming bingo when you didn’t have bingo. I needed you, Bubba. I needed to understand that Sycamore Street was just one very tiny street in a very big world, and that people were different, and that sometimes we hate different people, which is a feeling I eventually learned to distrust.

Lastly, Bubba, you engine-revving asshole, you tire-squealing ignoramus, I need to sincerely apologize. Although I was young and didn’t know any better, I really did come to hate you, and to some extent you deserved it, but I knew nothing of your life.

You taught me so much, but I was so afraid of your lessons. I am sorry I avoided you. I am sorry we didn’t talk more. I’m sorry your mother was dying, and you were left to take care of her. I’m sorry you needed to drink. I’m sorry there wasn’t more money. I’m sorry you had to drive trucks for hours and hours with no stops even to pee.

I’m sorry, most of all, that I never even bothered to learn your last name. So thank you, really, and I’m sorry.

I hope you’re doing okay now,