Frank is in denial about the death of the pretty corpse in his bed. :Frerard:
“You’re gonna be fine by tomorrow Sweetie…” he remembered saying soothingly, “… close your eyes. It’s gonna be alright…”
The words sounded different now, being repeated in his mind. As if they had not been plucked from recent reality and were instead figments of a surreal daydream. As Frank’s head hung low over the kitchen sink, he was assaulted by panic once more.
Palpitations. A stomach lurch. Glass of water. Chair. Aspirin. Calm… almost.
Common sense was shining a light in his mind, trying desperately to get through. It had almost succeeded, and would have done, had it not arrived hand-in-hand with tragedy. He would not listen to his ‘common-sense’, for the words it had to speak would surely break him. It would be the final nail in the little heart-shaped coffin buried deep within his chest, and he would not allow it.
He would not make lachrymose phone calls to the uninformed relatives. He would not notify the morgue, or the funeral parlour, or the sweet old lady next door with the unhealthy penchant for cats. He would not start planning grievously for the days and years to come.
And he would not break down into tears and cry in defeat for the man he loved. Because what Frank wanted to believe, he would believe… And so according to him Gerard was only sleeping the temporary sleep, his eyes alive and waiting behind those closed lids.
Frank consciously ran over this plausible scenario and accepted it as a survivable alternative to what others would have called the truth. The subconscious doubt over this decision was losing dominance rapidly as a contented façade fell down over Frank’s mind. In ten minutes he would ascend the stairs to be welcomed by a tired smile and the romantic pleasantries reserved for him and him only. The mental image provoked from him a tear-shaken half-grin.
He rose to his full height, warily releasing the countertop and breathing deeply, counting the seconds between breaths in his head.
Right… cereal, cereal… what type of cereal does Gerard like…? he pondered inwardly as his hands opened the doors to the pantry, then the cupboards, lightly tapping each shelf as if physically checking them off. Most were sparsely stocked, a few were empty. A half-full box of colourful children’s cereal caught his eye and was snatched from its shelf mercilessly. A bowl of Frankenberry was then filled with shaking hands; the milk splashing partly in the bowl, partly out. Surveying the mess, he didn’t dare attempt a glass of orange juice.
If he wants some later he can come down for it.
Frank peered down at his feet, bare against the cold linoleum… himself only dressed in boxers, fresh from waking up. The house was silent but for the generic buzz of the refrigerator , constant in its harsh tone as if to remind Frank that he was indeed awake and not lost in dream. He let a contented sigh shake off any remaining doubts and cautiously made his way to the staircase.
The steps yielded a warm, comforting carpet and a familiar song of creaks and groans as he moved from one step to the other, anxiously cradling the bowl in both hands. Gerard’s house always smelled, as it did that morning, of warm vanilla and faint cigarette smoke; an altogether strange mix which filled each room in different proportions. Frank stood on the landing stirring the cereal spoon nervously around in the bowl, his eyes staring a hole in the bedroom door. His resolve was not holding well, and he almost wanted to individually count then eat every warped little nugget of cereal just for an excuse to postpone entering the room.
What the hell are you thinking? he asked himself, incredulous, Gerard will be hungry, you fucktard, you can’t eat this…
He painted on his smile, lips being drawn upwards in feigned contentment, brows pulling back warily, ruining the effect. The threshold was braved and his smile itched and morphed into a genuine grin at the mere sight of the other man on the bed. Lying exactly where he had left him, the thick duvet sitting twisted and heaped at the foot of the bed after the warm night, its function not required.
“I brought you breakfast”, the living said to the dead.
And, of course, the dead did not reply.
Setting the bowl down on the adjacent end-table, Frank knelt beside the bed and rested his eyes on the motionless face before him. Gerard’s skin had finally lost its loathingly unavoidable summer tan and was now the palest shade of peach-ivory. Frank didn’t dare let the comparison to deathly pallor occur to him as he traced his fingertips over the other man’s face, rubbing his eyebrows delicately… absent-mindedly. Fingers trailed down over a strong jaw line and tingled upon contact with frozen white-washed lips. Frank pulled his hand away, his brows pulling together with concern. I guess it’s quite cold now, he reassured himself, neglecting to look at the thermostat for fear of being proven wrong… Ah, shit, the window’s still open.
“Oh crap, I’m sorry. Sorry…” he apologised to the man on the bed, mentally scolding himself like a weary mother to her hyperactive child. He rushed to the south-facing wall and drew back the curtains, making a conscious effort to ignore the heavy smothering of intense sunlight that engulfed him as he reached out a shaking hand and pulled the window closed. With a fearful glance back at the bed, he hastily forced the draped together. Stupid, stupid Shitfuck… motherfucking idiot, he cursed silently. “Oh man, sorry Gee…” his mumbled apologies continued whilst he unfolded the thick sheets, considering ways he could improve conditions in the room.
“I’ll be back in a sec,” he whispered, gathering the bedding in his arms and making his way downstairs once again. His insides felt like cold custard, moving around sloppily and creating a frozen, sickly feeling in his gut. As he tossed the armfuls of material into a pitiful amalgamation of metal that called itself the Turbo-Dryer mark II, he could not help but try and recall the events of recent days to somehow figure out what was wrong with Gerard. Frank’s body slumped against the yellowing wall and slid to the floor; his boxers riding up, exposing his skin to the freezing, dust coated tiles.
It had not just been the past few days that Gerard had lain in bed, he knew. The man had been unwell now for a couple of months, consciousness eluding him some days more than others. In light of the recent family tragedies it was not surprising, but then, he seemed not to be depressed. Just tired; exhausted like the white-hot corroding engines of the two cars that sat forlornly in the backyard. Exhausted, but unable to sleep.
The fluorescent tube light in the kitchen flickered irritatingly from the corner of Frank’s eye, its strength waxing and waning with every nerve-wracking second. Dozens of Soneryl tablets, sleeping pills, lay static and piled at complete random in a 4”x4” Tupperware container: the smallest the store had. Frank had decanted them from the prescription bottle, only ever leaving Gerard with two at a time as a precautionary measure.
Strange as it was, with Frank being happily married, his greatest fear was, and had been for years now, losing that man. He feared a few things, both major and minor, but that was the worst. He saw all life as precious and yet one in particular seemed to have a chain through his heart, attached to the stopper. One tender pull and he would just bleed away.
Some minutes later he was bundling piping-hot bed sheets into his arms and creeping back upstairs to the room that smelled almost entirely of rich vanilla pod. It had a mild calming effect, but at the same time it made Frank hungry, reminding him of freshly made cupcakes and fairground ice-cream… and Gerard Way. With the door closed not a single draught or breeze could penetrate the room and, content with this, Frank lay himself down on the bed behind Gerard and covered them both with the duvet.
Hot was the only word for it. Indescribably warm and embracing; like being swathed in layers of slow-baked dough, and it smelled just as delicious with Gerard’s trademark vanilla scent impregnated into the sheets. Frank sank comfortably into the mattress and sighed deeply, imagining Gerard to do the same. He ran his hands over the other’s cold arms in a futile attempt to warm them, continuing down his body until he reached Gerard’s still-supple legs. Frank moved them up closer to his body so the two men would fit together more easily, and entangled them in his own. “Please wake up soon Gee.” He sounded like a child but he didn’t care.
He was ironically reminded of similar words he had spoken to his first, and last, childhood dog. Maisy was only a puppy when she died, and Frank could remember only too well his five-year-old self wandering out into the garden to find her small body sprawled limply on the grass. His mother had said that Maisy would be going to better place, but that she wouldn’t ever move again. Wouldn’t move, wouldn’t make a sound, would not even look the same. And so Frank had held his eyes firmly shut until she was safely in the ground, wanting to remember her the way she had been. Still, it was no use pretending that she was still around: the once refreshing scent of mown grass and damp soil mutated into the vile stench of death and hopelessness, reminding him painfully of the sweet animal whose life drained away mysteriously.
He caressed the frigid bare skin on Gerard’s back with his cheek and lips, still ardently blockading himself from the truth, but filtering through the man’s unique aroma as he inhaled it cherishingly.
“Don’t leave me Gerard…”
The difference between this life and others, or rather, its importance over others, was difficult for Frank to pinpoint… The only reason he could fathom, besides obvious attraction, was that he’d been there at the lowest points in Gerard’s life. He had stood awkwardly in doorways whilst others rushed past to administer help in tough times. He had been on the receiving end of panicked, weeping phone calls that cried about having ‘messed up again’. He had kissed this man on the forehead when he’d overdosed and collapsed on the street somewhere, and he’s been labelled a fucking pansy and a fag for it.
But the moment Frank remembered most vividly from his early involvement with Gerard was a quiet one. In the public toilets at the back of a gas station one night, a biting 2003 winter blared outside, and an emotionally lost twenty-six-year-old held his aching stomach after hours of cocaine-induced vomiting. His head collided with the floor for the final time that night, and as it did a pair of arms wrapped themselves around his waist. It wasn’t at that exact moment, but it was sometime soon after it that Frank made the subconscious decision that this would always be the most important person in his life. That he would try and keep Gerard safe and well, and loved, even if he didn’t notice. He never told him that. He never dreamed of telling him that, but for the small portion of the back of his mind that just wanted to be such a fucking girl and have the guts to say ‘I love you’; to scream the obvious.
So for just a few seconds longer Frank Iero pretended that the man beside him was still alive, and calmly whispered those three words into his ear. He prayed that this beautiful scent would remain a sweet reminder of the beautiful person, and not end up as others had…
And like that one night on the floor of that vulgar 3x4 cubicle Frank wrapped his arms round that same waist, held on tight, knowing this would be the last time…