What if he was just one of those stars who shined bright in the night sky but faded out of existence long before its time?
Chapter 18 - Nothing Comes From Nothing
“Three little birds pitch by my doorstep. Singing sweet songs of melodies pure and true. Sayin’ this is my message to you. Singin’: don’t worry ‘bout a thing, oh—“
“Someone turn that damned thing off, or I’ll—“
“I’m calling Brian, he’s sick. We can’t let him keep—“
“Maybe we should cancel this—“
“It’s too late to—“
“Don’t worry! Cause every little thing is gonna be all right!”
Gerard heaved into a trash can backstage, letting the numerous noises in the background pass through his ears in a jumble. Inside and out, he felt pain. His stomach had pushed itself into his throat and his knees were wobbling. The only thing he could clearly think about was the putrid stench of his own vomit wafting up to his nose from below. He shut his stinging eyes as his involuntarily let out an unpleasant belch. At the bottom of his heart, he knew that this was completely his fault, but he desperately needed something to blame or he’d explode from all that self-hatred filling up his brain. The first thing that came to mind were those Tylenol pills he had taken this morning. They must have caused some sort of stir in his stomach mixed with all the other shit that was in there. Before the next logical thought could pop into his mind, his stomach lurched forward and spat more of its contents out through his mouth. Gerard groaned loudly, clutching the sides of the garbage can with all the strength he had left in him.
The entire room fell into a state of unnatural silence.
Mikey stared at his older brother, chewing his lip worriedly. With his hair sweaty and disheveled, and his skin extra pale, Gerard looked dead. Mikey couldn’t help but wonder if all this was his fault. Maybe it was because he just didn’t care enough. Maybe Gerard hadn’t told him, but maybe he was just supposed to know, like a brother’s intuition. Maybe he was too concerned with his own petty problems to spend even a second thinking about Gerard. Why hadn’t he noticed how sick his brother was? Why did he need Frank to prove it to him? Mikey sighed sadly. He needed to think about something else. He glanced over at Frank, whose eyes focused on the floor. The guitarist wouldn’t tell anyone what exactly had happened the previous night. However, everyone could notice a change in them: Gerard and Frank. They seemed closer, if that was at all possible. And Gerard…he had actually been smiling. Mikey hadn’t seen his brother’s face light up like that for years. His mouth twitched into an unconscious grin until he remembered that just a few feet away, Gerard was throwing his guts up. His shoulders slumped. Would Gerard ever get better or was this only the beginning of his relapse? What if this was it? What if he was just one of those stars who shined bright in the night sky but faded out of existence long before its time? Mikey gulped down the giant lump in his throat. Suddenly, things seemed so… hopeless.
Gerard breathed heavily, aware of his band mates’ eyes resting on him. He blinked a few times, lifted his head up, and spat into the trash can in an attempt to get rid of the rancid taste in his mouth. His stomach slowly sank back down into place, but he felt like a dead battery. All the energy had been drained from him and he was ready to faint or fall into a coma or something. Yet, he couldn’t; that would mean skipping the concert. He’d just have to rest afterwards. Just a glass of water would strengthen him for the time being. Nevertheless, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to turn around: see the air of sympathy that would surely be lingering in the room. It would make him cry, like a little weakling. Nervously biting his lip, he took that chance and spun around. Four worried men stared at him. It was quiet except for a Bob Marley record playing from some stray CD player. A bead of sweat trickled down Gerard’s neck. He wiped his brow with his palm, bringing back a wet hand. His nose wrinkled with disgust. Still, no one spoke.
Gerard could think of only one thing to say, “I’m so sorry about this.” His voice came out strangely shrill and shaky, but he forced himself to continue, “I know I fucking screwed everything up. Look, I have no idea how I’m gonna do this show clean, but I will.” The only responses were expressions of surprise. He forced his mouth to form into a weak smile, “So how long do I have to get ready?”
“About a half hour,” Ray answered quietly.
The silence drifted back. Gerard had only one thought clouding his mind; was he going to mess up? He was determined not to let his self-doubt show through. This was essentially his last chance to start anew. He had no clue whether that cool, exciting frontman that his fans and critics raved about actually existed. He didn’t want to think about what would happen if it turned out that it was just the drugs making him that way; if he was just some loser cartoonist in reality. His eyes dropped to the floor and then darted over to Frank. The guitarist was gazing at either his shoes or the wooden ground below him. His long fringe hung over his heavily made-up eyes. With his button-down shirt and red tie, he looked somewhat like a punk version of Angus Young. So hot. Gerard cleared his throat to distract himself before Frank caught him staring.
“Uh…so where’re we going after this? Iowa?” he asked no one in particular.
Frank and the others exchanged glances.
“Gee, I called Brian,” Mikey began, “We’re all flying back home to Jersey tomorrow. We all think you need some time to rest and you know, deal with this whole thing. You shouldn’t strain yourself anymore.”
Gerard felt a familiar burning sensation rushing to his face, “Bull shit!” he yelled, “The fans pay good money for these shows and they’re not gonna have to suffer just because I was being a moron. And anyway, I feel fine. I don’t need—“
“Yes you do!” Frank interrupted, voice cracking with emotion, “You just spent a whole hour puking your insides out!” His tone softened, “Baby, you’re sick.”
Bob would’ve laughed in any other situation, “Yeah. And anyway, we’re not cancelling the rest of the tour. It’s just gonna be postponed for a little while. Until you get better.”
Gerard scowled, “I told you guys, I feel fine! I just gotta wash my face and put on some make-up. Then we’re gonna do this show. And the next show. And the next show, and the one after that, until we’re done with this whole fucking tour. Okay? Okay. End of discussion.”
He blocked out all the protests coming from all around and took a step forward. His knees trembled, threatening to let him collapse. He held onto the garbage can for support again and determinedly, he hobbled over to the dressing room. He left behind an awkward stillness. It broke with a loud sob from Frank. Nobody said a word.
In the privacy of the dressing room, Gerard sank into a chair. burying his head in his hands. He wished he believed half the things he had just said. How was he gonna do this? The tour wouldn’t be over for another month. He let out a tired moan, grabbing a bottle of water from the nearby counter. He drank half of it in one big gulp. He stood up, feeling a little better. Approaching the mirror, he stopped to look at himself. Running a hand over his face, he realized how thin he was, how chapped his lips were, how weary his eyes had become… He ruffled his hair, trying to make it less limp and lifeless. It didn’t help at all, but Gerard wasn’t really expecting it to. Sighing with exhaustion, he grabbed a stick of eyeliner.
“I won’t worry, ‘cause every little thing…is gonna be all right,” he sang under his breath.
A few minutes later, the singer stepped back into the backstage area, where the others were tuning up their instruments.
He strolled over towards Frank and leaned close by, only having the courage to say, “Hey.”
“Hey Gee,” Frank played a random chord progression before looking up, “You look nice.”
Gerard beamed, “Thanks. So do you.”
“We’re on in two minutes,” Ray called out.
Gerard’s smile slipped off his face as he fell into a state of panic. He heard Frank’s voice telling him he was going to do great, but soon, the sound of his heavy heartbeat blocked it off. Oh no, oh no, oh no. Somehow, he found himself walking to the stage, someone pushing him forward. The loud buzz of amplifiers was drowned out by the high pitched screaming coming from the dark abyss that was the audience. Gerard turned around, putting his back to them. He hoped that was how he was supposed to start. “Microphone!” a voice hissed. He wasn’t sure if it was in his head or if it was someone real. Nevertheless, he strode to the microphone stand and pulled it out. Now, it would be pointless to turn back around…right? He ran his tongue over his lips nervously. The screaming sure was distracting. How had he ever managed to do this before? He looked backwards. Ray stared at him and nodded. Was he supposed to start singing now? Or did the guitar intro come first? Frank played a few chords. What song was this? What were the lyrics? Oh!
“He calls the mansion not a house but a tomb…” /he sang /“He’s always choking from the stench and the fume…”
At that point, there was a guitar transition that Gerard couldn’t recognize. He glanced back again, puzzled. Frank was mouthing something to him that looked like, “Wrong song.” Shit, what was he supposed to be singing? He closed his eyes. Sharpest Lives. God damn it! He was making a complete idiot out of himself! He stood there, staring at an audience he couldn’t see, and tapping his feet until the chorus came around.
“I’ve really been on a blender," /Blender?! "And it shows, so why don’t you blow me…a kiss until h—” No, that was wrong, “She…” Gerard corrected himself quickly, “…goes. Gimme a shot to remember…” /
He could feel his face flush bright red as he continued to sing the bits and pieces of the song he could remember. Applause was weak. The lights over him were hot and bright. Gerard blinked a few times, before talking into the microphone.
“Hello, Wisconsin!” he shouted. There was a confused murmur from the audience and he realized that this wasn’t Wisconsin. Fuck. "Um…you all look beautiful tonight. We’re My Chemical Romance. We’re a band from New fucking Jersey. Scream if you...if you… If you’ve ever been…I mean…“ Sweat dripped down the back of his neck while his vision began to blur. The whole stage seemed to spin. Gerard felt his stomach lurch upwards. No, not now! He held a hand over his mouth and turned around, wordlessly begging for help.
“Booooo!” someone screamed from the audience. A few other voices joined in, but the taunting jeer died out. It didn’t take a doctor to realize something had gone wrong.
Gerard ran to the side of the stage, throwing up a little inside his mouth. His whole body shook and he felt himself teeter backwards. He landed on the hardwood floor with a thud. As he looked up, a light flashed right in his eyes, making them flicker shut. He wondered if he was going to die, right here onstage, embarrassing himself. No, he couldn’t! He made a frail attempt to sit up, but his body had no strength left in it. His consciousness started to abandon him.
Loud feedback shrieked from an amplifier as something heavy, probably an instrument, slammed onto ground.
“Gerard!” somebody’s voice came closer.
Deafening screams were followed by complete silence.