Yeah, we really suck.
The stage is dark except for a single light falling from the rafters, illuminating the faces waiting expectantly for me to do something other than stand there looking incredibly uncomfortable. Ms Maitland looks up from the notes in her hand and surveys me from behind bejewelled spectacles.
“Names?” she asks with a clipped, slightly bored tone.
“Gerard and Mikey Way, Frank Iero, Ray Toro,” I tell her.
She writes it down. I can tell that she had spelt “Iero” wrong from the way she fumbled over the pen. How hard is it, people? Four simple letters spelt exactly as it sounds. Honestly. She looks back up and makes an irritable gesture. “Well off you go then, boys.”
I glance at Ray, unable to keep the smirk off my face. He nods and with a drumstick click of “One-two-three-four” we start to play.
My fingers, made for thick lumps of charcoal and punching buttons on an Xbox controller seem too big for the frets and too short to bend for each chord. I play wrong note after wrong note, cringing at the metallic sound issuing from my poor, abused guitar. It really deserves better than this. I’m a bad parent. Ray misses ever beat as always and compensates by hitting the drum as if it had done him a great personal wrong, sending the vibration of the cymbals crashing around my ears. Frank is playing as if he’s the one and only Jimmi Hendrix but the affect is spoilt by the fact that he can’t stop laughing. And Mikey is standing there looking bored. Nothing new there.
He looks at me and glares. Frank attempts to kick over an amp and succeeds in only busting his foot but he jumps up, limping but still laughing. And I can’t help it. I start laughing too.
And we’re not the only ones. The audience are cheering, clutching their ribcages and cat-calling, apparently oblivious to the fact that we kinda sound like nails scraping across a chalk-board or a felt-tip pen squeaking across sugar paper or...or...well, you get my point. Some of them are even clapping along to the non-existent beat. I grin at Frank. He grins back. I grin at Ray. He grins too. I grin at Mikey. He offers a reluctant half-smile. Achievement!
Ms Maitland, however, is not smiling. “Alright boys, that’s enough,” her nasal, disapproving voice sears through the bass line.
We stop playing abruptly, ribcages now aching with hysterical laughter echoed by the audience. She continues to survey us, eyebrows raised.
“That was,” she purses her already thin lips into a tight line. “Awful, frankly. Quite dreadful.”
“In an amusing way, right?” Frank manages to gasp out, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. “Do we get marks for effort?”
Her eyebrows disappear into her perm. “Get off my stage.”
Still giggling uncontrollably, we pick up our instruments and make to swagger carelessly away. I can still feel Ms Maitland’s eyes on us, her face stony. A few people start to clap. Frank salutes them, earning himself a few giggles from the girls in the crowd. It’s just proof of the world’s unfairness that he is gay and therefore they all fancy him whilst I am straight and they won’t look at me twice. Does that seem right to you? But whatever. I’m too adrenaline high to wave my arms around and scream “Look at me! Am I really so undesirable?” so instead I slap Frank playfully on the shoulder as he sends a wink to someone in the audience.
“Well there goes our showbiz career,” I joke and he laughs.
“Just a second, Mr Way,” Ms Maitland is frowning.
What Goddammit? Okay, I’m sorry I ruined your audition. But to be fair it was kind of a fail from the start. I mean, seriously. What self-respecting guy would squeeze himself into a leotard to perform gymnastics in front of a bunch of people he knows? I stop and look back at her. She looks very much as though she’s regretting what she’s about to say.
“Give me a high C,” she says.
Bless you. “Um...Sorry, a what?”
“Sing me something!” Ms Maitland snaps her fingers impatiently.
“Sing you what?”
“Something. Anything. Preferably this year.”
I glance confusedly at the others. They shrug back at me. Okay, I’m not gonna lie. I am rather terrified at the moment. I sing her something. I was so nervous I couldn’t really hear myself but it sounded a little like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Sniggers from the audience confirm my horror. Oh my god. I just sang a nursery rhyme in front of the entire A-List.
“And the chorus again.”
“The chorus Mr Way, sing me the chorus!”
I try and concentrate my nerves a little to sing something a little cooler than what first came to mind – Baa, Baa Black Sheep. This time I can hear my voice coming out smoothly and Ms Maitland cracks a rare smile.
“Alright,” she says as I end quickly. “You’re in.”
My eyes widen as I stare at her. I can’t have heard that correctly. I had an ear infection a couple of weeks ago and I was convinced everybody was telling me “cheese” all the time. Maybe it’s come back again? “W...What?”
“We’re in?” Frank repeats. He looks ready to explode into another fit of hysterics. “But we suck!”
“Not you,” Ms Maitland replies with a scathing look. She nods at me. “Him.”
What. The. Goddamn. Fuck. Can’t. Think. Must. Do. Something. Laugh. Now!
I laugh to break the awkward silence. I’m the only one who does. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“What Gerard means is,” Frank swoops in, hooking an arm around my shoulder. “He’ll be glad to do it.”
I push him away. “What are you doing?” I whisper.
“Come on, Gerard!” he replies. His eyes are flashing excitedly. “How hilarious would it be if you, Gerard Way, High School reject and bonafide loser were made the star of the A-List Jingle Town Musicale?”
“Totally humiliating,” I shake my head, not able to believe what he’s suggesting. “And it goes against all my principles! Guys like me do NOT mix with guys like them.”
“But it would be ironic!” Frank insists. “You can show them all that it’s not only the plastics who can sing! Strike one for the losers of the world! Strike two for your friends who will never be beaten up again! Strike three for rock and roll!”
I just stare at him. Of all the years I’ve known him, and believe me there have been a few, he has done some crazy things. But this? This is beyond insane. “No,” I tell him plainly. “Never.”
“Well,” Ms Maitland snaps her binder shut and gets up to go. “Rehearsal’s at 1.45 in here if you change your mind, Gerard.”
She walks off, her vast variety of multi-coloured scarves bouncing from around her neck. The musical cast jump up to follow her, Samantha rising a little more slowly than the others. She looks my way and my heart leaps to my throat as she offers a small smile before following her friends out the door. I turn back and Frank looks disappointed.
“Way to go, Gerard,” says Ray. “Stick to your principles. You don’t wanna be one of them.”
“Yeah,” Mikey nods. “Better to be a bonafide loser for life than be a showbiz plastic.”
Frank doesn’t say anything. Neither do I.
“Well,” Ray stuffs his drumsticks into his pocket and smiles. “That was fun, guys. Did you see the looks on their faces?”
“Classic,” says Mikey. “I will admit to that.”
“Yeah, great work guys,” Frank shoulders his guitar and fixes on a grin. “I think we really showed them the awesome power of rock today.”
Ray and Mikey say goodbye and head off to their various classes leaving Frank and I alone. I fiddle with the edge of my schoolbag, unwilling to meet his eyes.
“Look Frank, I’m sorry,” I burst suddenly when the silence between us gets overwhelming. “I really am. But...the school musical-”
“-It’s not me you should be saying sorry to,” Frank shrugs. “It’s yourself.”
I look up despite myself. “Huh?”
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” he continues. “If you don’t wanna stop your friends from getting their faces busted in then whatever. But what really gets to me is that you want to do it.”
My face feels cold. “Erm...Do I?”
“Yeah,” he looks at me fixedly. “You do. You’re just pretending you don’t because it’s “not your thing” or some shit like that.”
“That’s not it-”
“-Yes it fucking is, don’t deny it,” he says irritably. “You love being on the stage, Gerard. And you’re fucking good at being on the stage. You have a great voice and you should let people know that you can use it even though you’re not popular or charismatic or athletic or fashionable-”
“-You can stop that now.”
“Or laid back or glamorous. And your hair looks really stupid when you wake up in the morning. And you can’t run track or dance and the music you like is outdated and out of style and you’re more into comic books than actual human beings-”
“-Frank shut the fuck up right now or this microphone is going straight up your tiny ass.”
“But you can change that,” he ignores me. “All you have to do is make a couple of rehearsals and pretend to be into neon leggings. It’s not that hard.”
“Then why don’t you do it?”
“Because I don’t sound like a fucking angel when I sing.”
Which makes me blush. Seriously. I mean, Jesus, I look like a sunburnt tomato in a ketchup bottle. “Don’t be gay.”
“Can’t help it,” Frank shrugs. “And I’m being serious. Your voice could give a straight man a boner.”
“WHAT THE FUCK, YOU BETTER STOP FUCKING TALKING RIGHT THE FUCKING NOW, FUCKER!”
He just laughs at me and slaps my ass again. Sniff. Why do I let him violate me in this way? Oh yeah. Because he’s been my best friend since we were about three years old, he’s always been there for me when I needed him most, he actually fucking listens when people talk. You can tell that we’re really close whenever I call him a faggot and he doesn’t pull my tongue out through my ass because that’s what he’d do if I was anyone else and in return I don’t hit him when he calls me “Cinderella” or “Gerard Way, Virgin Queen”, even though I want to make him bleed internally. He’s my brother and I love him. In a brotherly, heterosexual way of course.
And because of that, I have to give him this.
I turn to him and I’m pretty sure he can just smell the defeat raising from me into the air. “Alright,” I sigh. “I’ll do it.”
He hugs me. One of those camp, girly hugs he only ever gives when he’s feeling really camp and girly. “You are awesome!”
I really am.
So. Here I am at 1:45. In the Drama Studio. Alone apart from the musical cast hopping off and on the stage and choosing to ignore me. Here I am dressed in black skinny jeans, guy-liner, Doc Martens and a black T-Shirt with a picture of a sweet little rabid deer tearing the throat out of a cartoon rabbit with the caption “Bambi Bloodlust” on it among others dressed in the latest Gucci, Prada and...those are the only designers I know.
I. Am. So. Fucked.
Frank asked if he wanted me to go with him. I said no. Why oh why did I say no? Was it some vague attempt to prove my manliness? Come on, we all established in third grade that I am as far away from manly as you can get! Frank is manlier than I am and he’s gay for Chrissake!
Maybe if I sit down someone will notice I’m here. I sit down. No change. Wait, wait, I think someone just looked at me! Nope, that’s a manikin. I wish I had my iPod with me. Or a stress ball. Just something to take away the feeling of drowning would be nice. I twiddle my thumbs. I shake my leg. I plait my hair. Sniff. I want Frank.
In a brotherly, heterosexual way, of course.
I really am quite uptight about my sexuality. Which is quite stupid considering, as my best friend merrily points out every second of every day, that I’ve never actually had sex. I don’t get how Frank can be so sure at...how old am I? Sixteen. I mean, I’m sure that I’m straight. So I guess it’s only natural for him to be sure. Except, Ray, Mikey and I all knew that he was gay before he did. So how did he realise? Did he just wake up one morning and think “I’m homosexual” or did he see a guy dancing around in a mankini and think “Hey, that’s not so bad!”
Or maybe I watch too much TV centred on homosexual stereotyping. But what I really don’t understand is how Frank could find anything in a mankini attractive.
“Gerard, hey. It’s Samantha.”
Oh my God. Samantha is talking to me. Samantha is talking to me and I’m thinking about men in mankinis! Quick, say something cool and intellectual. “Ego sum lectum.”
“Erm, excuse me?”
Did I just tell the most beautiful girl in school that I’m a couch? “Sorry,” I grin sheepishly because a sheepish grin is all I can manage. “Brain block.”
“Oh, right,” she giggles. It sounds like snow falling onto a frozen backyard. The first laugh of a newborn baby. Icing spread onto a sponge cake. The shocked cries of a man as he is pushed down from a giant mosh pit.
Wait, no. Not like that at all.
“So I just wanted to say,” she clears her throat awkwardly. “You were amazing at the audition. I didn’t know you had a voice like that.”
“Well, I generally don’t let people into the bathroom when I’m in the shower.”
She laughs again. So she thinks I’m funny, not a moron! My face burns like the underside of copper saucepans.
“I’m playing the other lead,” she explains. “I guess we’ll be partners!”
“Yeah,” I say, suddenly uncomfortable. “Except...I don’t know if I’m going to do it...yet.”
Her beautiful eyes green as a cats widen in disappointment. “Oh, but you’ve got to! You’re the best I’ve ever heard!”
My stomach lurches. “Really?”
“Hell yeah!” she nods vigorously. “And trust me, I’ve heard a few.”
Samantha is talking to me. Samantha thinks I’m funny. Samantha thinks I’m the best she’s ever heard. Ever.
Maybe this won’t turn out to be such a bad idea after all.
Sorry this is a little late. I’ll be better next time, I swear!
I still don’t know whether to make this a Frerard or not. I’m thinking about it but I think I’d prefer it to just leave it as it is. You guys tell me what you think.