Gerard made a sudden decision to sober up all those years ago? Why was that? - one shot.
That was me - I was that child; so lost.
You guessed it, I’d been drinking myself into a stupor again and I have no idea what time it was. It could have been breakfast, it could have been any fucking time because I had no clue where I was or what the hell I was doing most of the time.
I was leaning heavily on Frank’s arm telling him how much I loved him, how much I loved all the guys, but especially him, because… well, because he was there. If it had been Bob or Ray, they would have been on the receiving end of my outpouring of drunken affection. Mikey was never there and as much as I knew it was my fault, I blamed him, because it was easier.
“I love you, Frank!” I slurred. “I fucking love you! You’re a real brother to me, you know? A real brother! You know? You know, don’t you? Sure you do!”
Frank laughed awkwardly and tried hard to divert his eyes both from me and from Mikey who was standing near the tour bus just staring. He was only there for a few moments then he was gone. I didn’t know where, I honestly couldn’t say that I cared. Mikey was hurting me. It was like he couldn’t bear to be around me and I couldn’t take it.
“See!” I yelled, hoping that Mikey would hear. “He doesn’t love me, Frank, not any more. You do, don’t you?”
“Gee,” Frank pulled me towards the spot where Mikey had only moments ago been standing and tried to talk sense into me. “Of course he loves you, but he just can’t take what you’re doing to yourself, man!”
“What? I’m just having a good time. What’s wrong with that?” I argued, severely missing the point.
“You’re killing yourself, Gerard. At this rate, you’re not gonna make your next birthday. Mikey can’t take that; how can you ask him to?”
“Huh!” I snorted stumbling forward as the conversation slipped from my beer soaked brain. “I love you, Frank,” I slurred again as he stood on the steps and half pulled, half pushed me into the bus.
Mikey wasn’t in the bus, well, at least nowhere in sight. Dragging me to my bunk, Frank made sure I was lying face down with my head hanging over the side overlooking a truly revolting orange bucket. If that wasn’t enough to make me hurl, I didn’t know what was. As it was, I closed my eyes and sank into a drunken oblivion.
It could have been five minutes later, it could have been hours, I couldn’t say but I woke to a persistent sobbing sound coming from the lounge area. At first, I thought I was dreaming or, well, really, a nightmare. My head was still hanging over the bucket and I was grateful just to see it was still empty. The sobbing broke into a voice and the knowledge of who that voice belonged to nearly choked me.
“I… I don’t know what to do, Frank.” Mikey’s voice was stilted and afraid. “It’s like he won’t even look at me any more.”
“He’s not himself, Mikes. I wish I could tell you what to do, but it’s tearing me apart too. I smile with him because it’s the only thing that stops him tearing into me too. I mean, God knows someone’s got to look after him and he won’t do it himself.”
“It should be me!” Mikey cried unhappily. “He’s my brother, but it kills me to see him like this. I feel so helpless, like he’s pushing me away. I don’t know what to do, Frank, I… I just can’t reach him any more!”
I heard Mikey break down in floods of tears and the knot in my stomach built. The tension was mounting from the moment I woke up, but I just hadn’t connected. But now, at the sound of Mikey’s overwhelming sadness, I couldn’t contain it any longer and the entire contents of my stomach, and if I’m honest, it was mostly beer, came forcing it’s way back up in tight ball of pure acid. I coughed and retched as tears flooded my eyes, partly with the pain and partly from what I realised I had done to Mikey. I heard Frank sigh and his words spoken as a matter of duty.
“I’ll go sort him out. I’ll be back in a few minutes, Mikey.”
I knew I couldn’t tear him away from Mikey; my brother needed him way more than I did at that moment. I knew what I had to do. Wiping my mouth on my sleeve, I staggered to my feet and with my head still swimming, I pushed past him and forced open the door. Behind me, I could hear voices emerging from the other bunks and as I stumbled outside and saw that it was dark, I realised that it must be very late.
It broke my heart to hear Mikey’s cracked and pained voice calling after me. I’d hurt him so deeply and all the while I was blaming him. Fuck, I was blaming everyone but myself! I found a quiet spot between the tour buses and slumped against a tree. This was it. I had decided. But, God help me, I’m such a coward, I wanted Brian to do my dirty work. As the phone rang, I wondered what the hell I would say. If I could say. What could I say?
“Hello?” Brian began. “What’s up, Gerard?”
I was silent for what felt like an eternity, I knew exactly what was wrong – me! But I couldn’t honestly say I knew how to put it into words.
“Gerard?” Brian spoke again. “It’s gone four in the morning. What do you want?”
“I’ve upset everyone,” I finally managed.
I heard Brian sigh, somehow, I think he felt he was here for the duration – I wasn’t making much sense.
“Who have you upset, Gee?”
“Everyone,” I repeated. “I just saw Mikey in tears, because of me.”
“I see,” he said sombrely. “Did you speak to him?”
“No!” I cried, horrified by the question. “How could I? Haven’t I hurt him enough? I can’t do this any more, Brian.”
“Do what? The band?”
“The band. Me. Any of it. I can’t do it. I don’t know how.”
I could almost hear him sitting up straight as he realised I was serious. But I was beyond all that; I’ve been close before, but this time, I was truly ready to say goodbye for the last time. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, yes, it’s a coward’s way out, but I wasn’t thinking about it in any other way than a way to escape. A way to end all the pain, all the hurt, not just Mikey’s, but my own. I wasn’t me any more, I couldn’t remember who that was anyway. I couldn’t remember the last time I was sober and it shocked me to the core. I was on a roller coaster, I had been for so long, and there were no brakes – this time I was coming off the track.
“Gerard, tell me what’s caused this.”
I sighed. It all felt so hard, like everything was such an effort now. I’d made up my mind, why did I have to discuss it?
“Look, Brian, it’s just the way it is, okay? I wanted to let you know… because…”
“Because you want to go off somewhere quiet to slit your wrists and I come in and tell Mikey and the guys. Is that what you’re thinking?”
I was speechless. It was exactly what I was thinking, but in my mind, it didn’t sound so utterly heartless.
“The way you say it makes me sound like a coward!”
“You are a fucking coward, Gerard!” Brian snapped. “How can you seriously ask me to tell Mikey that you called to ask me to let them know you were going to kill yourself?”
“How can I tell them?” It made perfect sense to me. “I’ve let them down so much, how can I do it one more time? How can I tell them I’m…?”
I trailed off. I knew the only reason I couldn’t was because I was terrified that they wouldn’t care, that they’d just hand me the razor blade and leave me to it. God knows, I deserved it.
“You’re doing this over the phone. You’re telling me, because I’m not there. Because I can’t physically stop you? Because you’re afraid they won’t?”
My heart nearly stopped. Had I said my thoughts out loud or was I that transparent?
“I understand, Gee, I really do. You’re punishing yourself for what you see as failure, but you shouldn’t. You’ve just… got a bit lost. You’re not far from where you want to be, but you have to let us help you get back.”
“It’s too late, Brian.” I sighed hopelessly. “You didn’t hear Mikey tonight. I… I’ve never heard him so unhappy.”
I think my heart fell through the floor before bouncing back into my throat.
“When?” I asked, my voice little more than a whisper.
Brian paused before answering. “Almost every night this tour.”
I started to cry. Mikey was so unhappy, I’d caused it and I hadn’t even noticed. Brian had to raise his voice to pull me from my morbid thoughts.
“Gee! Yeah, he’s upset. But he wants his brother back! You hear me? Not gone! Back!”
I was speechless. I’d heard Brian. I’d even understood, but I was lost for words; still wallowing in my own self pity.
“So, what’s it to be Gerard? Will you make an effort for Mikey?”
“I can’t,” I whispered, lost in my own thoughts.
“Gerard, if you can’t do it for Mikey, do it for yourself.”
“What?” I was really confused now. “I’m the last person I’d do it for. I’m not worth it.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Gee. Does Mikey love you?”
“I… he’s my brother. I… I guess so.”
“He’s always there for me.”
“I let them down… all the time.”
“But they’re still there, taking care of you?”
“Why is that?”
“I… they… I don't know. I don’t deserve them.”
I was, by this point, staring off at nothing. Brian had made me see my brother and bandmates in a way I hadn’t for a very long time and I felt utterly worthless.
“Gee, you do deserve them. They’re not your friends for no reason, but you’ve got to start giving back to them. You’ve got to stay with them. You have to sober up.”
“It’s been too long,” I shook my head, refusing to believe they’d accept another drunken promise from me. “It’s too late.”
“No,” he said firmly. “You’re better than that. Stronger than that. Do it for Mikey. He needs you Gerard, just as much as you need him.”
“You…” I took a deep breath and swallowed hard. “You think I can do it? Really?”
“Yes. We’ll help. It’s not gonna be easy, but, yeah, you can do it.”
“I have… If I’m… Oh!”
I couldn’t breathe properly. The idea was too much and I was starting to hyperventilate.
“Gee!” Brian shouted sternly.
“I… I’m okay.” I answered taking a deep steadying breath.
“What are you thinking?”
“If... if I do it, it’s all or nothing. I can’t let Mikey down again. I… I can’t do that to him again!”
Brian’s voice, his tone was certain, so sure. Mine wasn’t, not by a long stretch. I don’t know how, or even if he really believed what he was saying, but he gave me the strength to try. I stopped drinking then and there. And, I won’t tell you it was easy. It was the hardest two weeks of my entire life, but oh, God, every time I looked at Mikey, I knew why I was doing it.
I'll never let him down again.