I missed him. A lot.
I hadn’t heard from Gerard in a month. I was still in physical therapy, just having finished my twelfth session, and he didn’t visit once. Not once. After the fight, Mikey decided he’d be the one to stay with me until I could move on my own because Gerard and I wanted nothing to do with one another. Or, at least, he didn’t want anything to do with me.
I was slowly beginning to wonder if he even loved me anymore. Want to know torture? Try sitting around for four weeks, only able to move enough to keep from stiffening up, succumbing to your own torturous mind. A mind that was particularly fond of creating various scenarios in which the man you loved suddenly denied your existence.
Mikey reassured me a lot. I knew Gerard, he would say, so I should know that he wouldn’t give up on me so easily. I should know he just needed time to cool off. Well, maybe that was true. But maybe it wasn’t.
Not a minute went by that I didn’t think about him, wonder why he didn’t want to make amends. Did I say something that offensive to him? I couldn’t even remember. It all happened so fast up until the moment he walked out that door. After that, every second was agonizingly slow.
It would have been easier if he had at least called to yell at me or tell me he hated me. At least then I’d know I was alive to him, whether he wanted me to be or not.
Sighing, I lifted my guitar and eased her into my lap. After the sessions I was able to move the majority of my body much better, but I still felt a bit of pain now and then from muscle fatigue since I still wasn’t up to par. The cast on my arm was off, but still, my doctor warned me to be easy on my torso since my ribs would need another month or so to heal completely. The pain wasn’t as sharp and the bruises were much less noticeable, but my flexibility was still pretty restricted. My nose also wasn’t bruised anymore, nor was the rest of my body, and the headaches from the concussion were well gone. Overall, I felt great compared to how I did when I first woke up. Physically, that is.
I plucked at the strings a few times, working out the still-stiff joints in my fingers as I moved from fret to fret along the smooth neck. My guitar always was and always will be my primary source of comfort. When Mikey’s reassurances didn’t do the trick, this baby sure did. A smile worked its way across my lips at the beautiful sound as I strummed down once to check the tuning. ‘Atta girl, take me away…
My fingers moved on their own accord and I soon found myself playing my melody to Early Sunsets Over Monroeville – something simple. I repeated it until I could move my fingers more naturally, then moved on to Ray’s part of Disenchanted to practice moving from string to string. Soon I was playing much better, but I still felt like an awkward beginner. I had to get better soon; the guys were already writing up their parts to a new song that Ray proposed. I didn’t want to be a nuisance and slow them down.
How much progress had they made, anyway? After my fight with Gerard, everything came to a standstill. Mikey shuffled back and forth from my house to his, checking on me and getting me comfortable before returning to Gerard to keep the liquor out of his hands. I hadn’t heard much from Bob, who only visited on a rare occasion when Mikey had his hands full. And I could have sworn that Ray, despite his efforts at being supportive, was downright furious with both of us.
So the only updates I’d received in terms of the new album were snippets. A new riff here, a catchy verse there. From what I was told, Gerard spent his days and nights locked up in his room writing. There was very little mention of the bottles I was sure sat by his side, and I found myself angry with Mikey for trying to keep it from me.
I had to come up with something. Posing my guitar on my knee, I rolled my wrist to work out the stiffness and began improvising a new sequence of chords to match Ray’s parts. Mikey had brought over a CD of some of Ray’s latest work and I had pretty much every riff memorized.
The strings dug into my newly softened fingertips, igniting a sensitivity I hadn’t felt in years. Every few chords my finger would slip and set my teeth on edge with a jarring distortion. Two months without a guitar in my hand... how long had it been since I last allowed that?
I sighed in frustration and put my guitar down. Silence. The only sounds came from the ticking of the clock above my bed; even my stereo speakers, which hadn’t seen a quiet day since I first bought them, were watching me soundlessly.
Mikey brought me out of my daze as he pattered around in the kitchen. He was on the phone, probably with Gerard. He was calling him at least twice a day to make sure he was staying sober in-between visits. Knowing he was so accessible, his voice only a staircase and a reach for the phone away, drove me mad. But if he didn’t ask to talk to me, then he didn’t want to. It was pretty clear that we were over. I had my seven minutes–seven days–in heaven. Now it was time to make up for it with an eternity in hell. Life had to be fair, after all.
Sometimes Mikey visited him, and that was when I really lost my mind. I wanted to go with him, to grab Gerard the second he answered the door and make him kiss me. To apologize for whatever it was he wanted me to apologize for. Those were the times my “condition” made me miserable. Being limited to the house and certain activities was something I’d grown used to, but if I could drive, I could at least go to him if he wouldn’t come to me.
But who wants to chase after someone who doesn’t want to be chased?
The indecision brought me down the stairs, guitar in hand. For a second I considered playing only a room away from the kitchen so that Gerard could hear me. He’d have to be reminded of me then and hopefully it would make him suffer.
But I wasn’t going to stoop to passive aggression. I left my amp upstairs and settled into the couch with only my guitar. Grasping the pick gently, I let gravity pull my hand down in a soft strum. Ahhh. If there were one sound that helped clear my thoughts, it was that one. My left hand made its way almost sensually across the neck as I improvised a soothing riff.
Better. Much better.
I shook my head to clear it of all Gerard-related thoughts and continued playing for a good hour or so. By then I was playing almost as well as I had before and Mikey was off the phone. I was about to tuck into the solo of one of my own songs when he quickly swept through the room, shoving his arms through the sleeves of his denim jacket. He was quickly yanking on his left shoe, hopping to keep his balance, when I asked him where he was headed.
He looked up at me and his breath caught for a moment. Then, when he finally decided to breathe:
“Gerard seemed a little bit tipsy on the phone. Ray and I just want to stop by and have a little talk with him. I’m going to call up Bob and have him come hang out with you while I’m there, okay?”
Something was up. He was talking as fast and jittery as a teenage girl with a crush.
“Uh huh… so what’s really going on?”
He glanced back up at me when he finally managed to get his shoe on. Slipping on Converses without untying them is quite a feat.
“I just did. Seriously, it’s nothing big. I gotta go; I’ll call Bob now.”
“Wait, I want to come.”
“You can barely walk a mile!”
“You’re driving,” I said pointedly, nodding at the keys in his hands. He was way too eager to get out that door. He huffed and shifted his weight away from the door, pausing long enough to take a deep breath and speak to me like a condescending parent.
“Look, it’s too much of a struggle to get you there and you two haven’t even made up yet. I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to fix your problems and stop him from drinking at the same time.” He took out his cell phone and dialed a single digit, putting it to his ear halfway out the door. “Bob’ll be here soon.” And then he was gone.
I stood abruptly to chase after him, but pain shot through my ribs and my legs gave out under me. Collapsing back onto the couch, I found myself wondering just how much I didn’t know.
It was pretty obvious, though. He was regressing back to his old self, addiction and all.
I sat in silence, staring at the front door and waiting for Bob to come so I could figure out what the hell was going on. Playing guitar was suddenly very unappealing, as was any other option. So I waited.
I woke up to an oddly sadistic combination of chuckling and an aching in my ribs. Sitting up from the painful, twisted position I fell asleep in, I glanced up at an amused Bob.
“Did I interrupt the two of you?”
I blinked in confusion and traced his gaze down to my arm, which was wrapped around my guitar.
“No,” I mumbled, wincing. Bob moved my guitar out of the way and helped me into a standing position as gently as possible.
“Come on, let’s get you some pain killers and get you to bed.”
“What time is it?”
“Just a bit past ten. Mikey is going to spend the night at Gerard’s, so it looks like you have a new buddy for tonight. And thankfully, you can barely walk so I don’t have to worry about you jumping into my bed.” He grinned jokingly at me, but his smile faded when he saw the expression on my face. Mikey was staying at Gerard’s? That couldn’t be good.
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing, Gerard’s just been really down lately. He needs some company.”
“Mikey said he was just tipsy. Is that true?”
He hesitated. “Yeah, it is.”
“Bullshit, don’t leave me out of this! I want to know the truth!”
“He’s fine. He’s just been drinking a bit more lately and we want to make sure he doesn’t get any worse.”
With a bit of coaxing, Bob started to lead me up the stairs to my room. I stopped mid-stride, halfway up the stairs, and refused to move. “Does he really not want to see me?”
“He… didn’t mention you. I think he just doesn’t want to talk about it.”
I lowered my gaze to the carpet and slowly hoisted my dead weight up the next step. Once Bob helped me into bed and pulled the covers up, he left the room to fetch my meds, and I made a silent vow to see Gerard as soon as I was independent again.
“You’re healing very well, Frank. What did your physical therapist say?”
I stood shirtless in the doctor’s office, staring at a poster about Attention Deficit Disorder while my doctor prodded the soft flesh above each of my ribs. The second month of healing for the damaged bones had finally passed, and all of the pain and bruising was completely gone. I was getting my final checkup and then I could be free of this mess.
“I asked how physical therapy was going.”
“I see you’re walking much more on your own again. Did you drive here by yourself?”
“Yeah. I’m As good as new, now.” Snort. Hardly.
“I’m sure you have to continue the sessions though, right?” He stood up straight and started scribbling on a pad of paper in the stereotypically jumbled handwriting of his profession.
“Mmhm.” I was so not in the mood for conversation. Please be almost finished.
“All right, then we’re done here.” Yes! “You can pay and be on your way.” He flashed a white smile, shook my hand, congratulated me on the healing, and left me alone in the office. As if letting your body run its natural course merited a gold medal. I slipped my shirt back on and was soon out the door.
I settled into the driver’s seat of my car a few moments later and sighed, pulling out my cell phone. The date on it seemed to glare at me tauntingly. Yup, exactly two months without a single call. I wasn’t sure if that made it easier or harder. I was actually leaning more toward the latter, since being away from him for so long was beginning to make his memory fade. There was nothing to be afraid of if he wasn’t real.
But was I ready for what I was about to get myself into?
I jumped and would have nearly hit my head on the ceiling had I been a few inches taller when the phone lit up and blared my loud Misfits ringtone. Without glancing at the caller I.D., I answered it in a hurry to quiet it.
My heart leapt into my throat and I nearly dropped the phone. Pulling it away from my ear, I looked at the screen incredulously and verified that the voice was, in fact, real.