"I’ve got nowhere to go and nobody to run to." Read, review, rate and feel my love :P
“Hey, are you alright, Mikes?” Frank asks as we round a corner and come to the high street, him holding Misfit’s leash because my hands are still too sore for me to be able to hold it with any sort of force and the last thing I desire is to make the only person who actually seems to like me angry at me by losing their precious pet; a pet that is more like a person than a dog.
Without thinking twice, I don’t want to make him feel bad for taking me out, I nod.
But as we walk down the grey pavement of Belleville high street I want to tell him that no, I’m not alright; I want him to hold me like I matter; I want him to ruffle my hair like Gee used to, before the ruffle became meaningless to his hands and before his reckless lifestyle turned it into a gesture that almost ripped my head off amidst his old drunken laughter; I want him to rub my back as though it doesn’t deserve the wounds dotting it; I want him to reassure me with his smile, a smile that makes me want to believe that I can be happy; I want him to listen to my pathetic, uselessly worthless voice like it’s coming from the mouth of someone who is actually a normal, significant person. I want him to listen and then to make everything better. But I can’t tell him. The more I say, the more he’ll realise that I’m too fucked up for help.
Just like Gerard said.
Gerard. I want him to be walking down the street next to me, for him to be asking if I’m alright, apart from he wouldn’t need to ask; he’d just know and then hug me until he squeezes the words from my constricting heart. No, I can’t let myself think like that; he wouldn’t do that and I know it. He might have done once upon a time, a time so long ago that it may as well just be some silly fairy-tale, but now I think he’d rather shout at me instead. Not shout through meanness, he’s way too nice to ever be truly mean, but through frustration that my own stupidity forces upon him, like a struggling toddler dropping a heavy brick onto his undeserving feet, and through honesty. He’s only ever been honest with me; honest about the reasons that I make him angry and sad and frustrated. He always says that he didn’t mean it afterwards, but I know that he did; why else would he say it? He only says sorry and that he was lying because he feels like he has to, like guilt will grab him if he doesn’t. He shouldn’t feel guilty for being honest though; none of the others do.
It’s surprisingly crowded for a Sunday morning and it feels like everyone is looking at me as though they can see my stutter and already hate me for it. But that’s not really why they’re staring; they’re staring because of all the cuts and bruises that my face is adorned with, as though Fate has decided to give people visible warnings as to what my face conceals. Which is a deplorable waste of space who would probably make everyone a hell of a lot happier if he just fucked off and died. That may be true, but it’s still frightening to think about. I don’t deserve anyone’s care or attention, only their hate and torments, but that doesn’t mean I don’t ache for it like someone without a heart aches to hear it beat once more. Not so much the attention, just someone who’ll care if I were to die instead of finding it a relief. Someone to be nice enough to dry my tears when I cry myself to sleep at night, someone to wipe away the dried blood from my nostrils whenever one of my classmates decides he needs some stress relief; someone like Frank. But I know deep down that in the end he’ll realise that I’m just a waste of his time, just like Gerard did. I suppose I should try to enjoy experiencing being liked whilst it lasts. But that will only make the loneliness hurt even more when it’s icy blasts of realism berate my soul once more.
An old woman walks past, all hunched back and beady eyes, staring at me like I belong in a cage. She must think that I’m dangerous, that I got in a fight and that’s why I’ve got a mashed-up face. She doesn’t look afraid of me like I would if I saw some tall guy walking along with blatant battle scars; she looks furious with me, like she wants to lecture me on being a good citizen. Perhaps that’s what I need. Perhaps I need to be told not just all of the things that are wrong with me, but how to fix them too. That’s what I don’t get about the kids at school; they’re always quick to tell me what’s wrong with me and punish me for it, but they never explain how I can change into someone that they’ll want to be friends with. I think that’s what makes it bullying, right? A few of them yell that they’re doing it for my own good, helping me to realise my place in the world and that I get; but the kids who are just plain horrid to me without explanation, I don’t get them at all. I deserve it, I must do, but I don't get it.
The old lady scowls violently at me as we walk past one another, her distraction from her path causing her to swing her plastic carrier bag of shopping into my leg and it digs into a far-from-healed gash. I doubt that it really was an accident though. I guess I deserve it for angering society.
But it still stings, stings worse than the disinfectant that Frank rubbed caringly into it on Friday night. So, like the idiot that I am, I flinch in agony; a hideously pathetic, yet embarrassingly loud, cry launches itself like a spear of pain through my nervous system and out of my worthless mouth. Oh, and my arm reflexively hits out; just like it always does whenever it thinks I’m getting hurt, self-preservation mechanism I think. It hits the old lady, causing her to drop her bag of tins and sharp-edged packets.
By this point all of us (excluding Misfit, who’s constantly moving around like a fish darting through a stream) are stopped still. The old lady is glaring at me with the intensity and hatred of Satan looking at a damned soul somehow slipping into Heaven. Me looking at the ground, my hair tumbling into my eyes like it knows how desperately I want to hide the tears that are welling up in them from Frank; I don’t want him to pity me anymore than he already does. Frank’s state of stillness is the worst though; he’s staring dead ahead, the hand not holding the leash forming a fist. Oh no. I’ve made him mad. I’ve made him mad and now he’s going to take a swing because I hurt a poor defenceless old lady. I didn’t mean to. Honest I didn’t.
I don’t want Frank to hit me; I want him to hug me and make me laugh like he did earlier. But I was bad and now he’s going to make me bleed again. I deserve it, deserve it like all of the times someone’s hurt me, but I don’t want it from Frank. I thought that he could maybe, just possibly be my friend; someone to make me feel better after receiving a hit. Not the one dishing them out.
“Look where you’re going, stupid little boy.” She goes about picking up her shopping, huffing little insults about the ‘youth of today’ and I bend down to help her. Maybe if I make up for it Frank won’t hit me. “Aren’t you going to apologize?”
She wants me to talk?
I can’t, not now. I know what I should say but my heart's beating too loudly for my mind to be able to send the words to my vocal chords. I know from experience that if I say anything now, it’ll only make things worse; it will come out as jumbled up and indiscernible syllables that will only make everyone shun me more. But I can’t not say anything, that’d be rude and then people will start yelling at me. Yelling hurts more than hitting, especially when the right tongue-sharpened weapons are fired at me.
My thoughts are washed away by the trickling poison that constantly infiltrates my eyes and by the throttled cry that slips from my slit-able throat like the call of a lost sheep.
“I think that you owe him an apology, lady. I saw what you did.”
Is that… Is Frank really sticking up for me after I was the bad one?
A soft hand finds my own, trembling one and curls my fingers out from digging into my grazed palm so that these new, friendly digits can grip my hand. And it feels excitingly empowering. No one’s ever held my hand before, nor has anyone ever wanted to; people usually try to avoid being associated with scum like me unless they want the glory of being the one who makes me bleed tears and cry blood. Is Frank really holding my hand, really rubbing his thumb up and down my knuckles like he a gentle breeze drifting over choppy ocean waves? He is. He shouldn’t be, he should be shouting at me for hurting someone, but I like it. Like it a lot. More than a lot. I love it. Love it like someone who only has days left to live loves all of their best memories; love it like a gambler loves Lady Luck; love it like I want to be loved.
My fingers find the courage in my sea of doubt to wrap themselves around his hand, not tight enough to stop it from turning into a threat should he realise how much he ought to hate me, but tight enough for him to know that I like it. Who wouldn’t?
“I beg your pardon? That piteous freak of yours nearly knocked me down!” Her sharp words should rip me to shreds but it’s like Frank’s hand is shielding me from it. It’s not nice to be reminded of what I am, but feeling Frank’s fingers tickling my hand makes it hurt a little less; kind of like his delicate fingertips are erasers, scrubbing out all of the hatred that the lady is trying to load onto me. Hatred that I know I deserve, but Frank makes me feel like I’m worth more than dirt; like I’m not the shitty little bastard that everyone thinks I am. That I know I am.
“Go tell someone who actually cares. The vet’s is just around the corner.”
“Just what are you implying, young man?” She snarls, making me want to giggle like Frank is at his quick-witted joke.
“That you’re an old bitch.”
“Oh! Honestly, kids today! I don’t know who’s worse; you or you’re roughed-up little mute.” Frank’s grip tightens as she leans into my face. “What’s wrong with you; did the fight knock your teeth out? I hope that it blooming well did; it’s the least you deserve.”
I flinch, like the word ‘mute’ physically stings. It isn’t the jeered laugh that I normally hear it as, but that doesn’t mean it hurts any less. Old people are meant to be smart, they’re meant to know stuff and so she must be right. Just like everyone else. Apart from Frank. Frank doesn’t think that I deserve to be hurt and I’m glad that he doesn’t; I want him, no, I need him to like me.
People need heart transplants; doesn’t mean that they’ll get one any time soon.
I want to cry out again, let Frank know that a hug would be really nice right now, but I don’t; they might laugh at me.
“Wanna know how he got ‘roughed-up’? He was fucking attacked! He doesn’t deserve anything bad. And he isn’t mute; he’s just smart enough not to waste his breath on old bitches like you.” Frank snorts out hot, angry breaths like a bull seeing a red flag and starts to stride away, pulling me gently along with him. “Have a nice day.”
We carry on walking, hand in hand, and Frank’s strides get more furious with each pavement panel we walk across.
I knew it! I’ve made him angry and now he’s going to tell me what a stupid little freak I am. I’ve heard it so many times now that I should be numb to it, but I think that to hear it from Frank will be like pouring fresh lemon juice into my eyes over a period of drawn-out, tediously cruel hours, then rubbing chili seeds into them. No, it’ll be worse than that. Compared to how losing Frank will feel I imagine that the scenario I have just described would be relatively pleasant. Perhaps it will be even worse than when Gerard hit me for the first time. No. Nothing will ever be worse than that. Nothing. Other than the idea of Gee hitting me again with his entire conscious present. That would kill me and not in a nice, quick way either; like being stabbed repeatedly with ice-hot needles until the tiny pinpricks are enough to bleed me to death.
Maybe I should have gone home with Gerard. That way at least I’m safer; not happy like I think I could be with Frank, but safer than trying to keep up with the stormy steps of an obviously pissed-off saint. A saint that I pissed off. I know it was what that lady said that did it, but she wouldn’t have said it if I hadn’t shown her the words to use; therefore his anger is my fault. And if he is as smart as I believe him to be, he knows that I’m to blame. Now he’s just going to do what everyone else does when I mess up. I won’t hold it against him, I’m beyond holding it against people.
But friends don’t hurt each other! I don’t want him to hurt me because that means he doesn’t want to be my friend anymore; doesn’t want to hug me anymore; doesn’t want to be patient with my motherfucking silence and stutter anymore; doesn’t want me to stay with him. What if he kicks me out? Where will I go? I could go back to Gerard, but he’s probably even angrier than Frank.
I’ve got nowhere to go and nobody to run to. I would be better off if that guy in the alley had just killed me. So would everyone else.
Panic grips me in it’s manically tight fist, exactly the opposite of the hand that’s delicately cradling my own, and I can’t breathe. Not just metaphorically; I really can’t breathe. It feels like everything that I know to be true, all of the horrible and terrible things about me are mosh pitting onto my chest with the force of a vengeful murder orphan slaughtering his parents’ killer. The cage holding my lungs and heart has become unbelievably tight, like the strong fingers of a sniper fastening around the trigger, causing my breathing to fight a losing battle to exist and my heart beat to gallop like a wild horse escaping the threat of capture at the hands of some barbaric human. I can’t walk, my legs buckle and I slump haphazardly into Frank, who has been observing this… this wave of something since it’s start.
Shit; what if he really is mad? He won’t appreciate me leaning on him will he? With that thought my quest for breath becomes even more of a struggle than a conman’s search for trust.
Is this a panic attack?
“Mikes? Mikey! Kid, what is it? What’s wrong?” He sounds scared. Scared because I’m being stupid and panicky. I’ve hurt someone again. Someone that I really do care about. “Where does it hurt?” He’s holding me upright by this point, Misfit’s leash wrapped tightly around his left wrist so that he can dig both of his hands under my collapsing shoulders, and trying to guide me away from where a crowd is forming. Forming and thinking how stupid I am, ready to tease me and shout at me. I want to risk answering him, but my chest is too tight to allow enough air for speech.
I look up with my weighted head to see his eyes, those absolute windows into his benevolence, shining with his own brand of panic. It’s different to the kind currently pulsating through my veins like a storm of locusts; it’s like he’s panicking that he caused this and that he won’t be able to make it better. Why would he want to? I desire his help and his presence, but I know for an undeniable fact that if there’s any justice in this world then I won’t get it. Won’t get him. Get him? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?
“Do you have asthma?” I manage to shake my head through my frighteningly disorientating dizziness; I can’t even focus on his face right now, it keeps swirling into some terrifying ‘The Scream’ style artwork. Special and beautiful, but creepy just the same.
And I can’t deal with creepy right now.
Just like when I couldn’t stand to watch a horror film with Gerard on one of those many mornings I woke up with fresh, brother-inflicted wounds. He’d always beg me to, after quizzing me on the origin of my bruises, as his own little way of trying to make me feel better after I spun him one of my feeble lies about getting beaten up at school instead of unleashing the merciless truth upon him. Feeble lies that I longed for him to see through. He never did. Maybe he just didn’t want to. Either way, I always wanted to refuse because he still reeked of the stuff that had driven him to hitting me like I deserved to be smacked around, but I always went along with it anyway. Always pretended to find the ridiculously fake special effects spooky so that he would hold me close and not question my shaking; I think that’s what he wanted too, actually. Wanted to feel like he still had his little brother behind those wounds of a one-sided war. And that’s when it all started to fall apart, because I couldn’t bring myself to be honest. But he can’t ever know. It’s been too long; it wouldn’t be fair to bring up his past. Not like he’d listen to me now anyway, not after the way I’ve been.
Yet I can still feel slice of his fingers as they clawed red streaks down my pale face like a cat on it’s least favourite piece of furniture; I can still hear his clown-like laughter whenever I couldn’t even stand back up again; I can still see the wild look in his glassy eyes that were smashed with the ruthless fist of drugs and alcohol; I can still smell the fear-induced sweat that streamed past my nose in it’s bid to vacate it’s wreckage of a vessel; I can still taste the coppery blood that filled my mouth that one time he repeatedly slammed my face into the sink. That was him at his worst, that night my face became well acquainted with cold porcelain of the sink of my en suite. I don’t know what I did that time, but it must have been really bad. He just wouldn’t stop. Not until he heard Mom and Dad’s car pull up outside. He’d stopped then. He’d stopped and looked down at me, curled into myself and crying almost as much as I was bleeding; and then he’d just walked off as though nothing had happened. To him I guess that it was nothing because he didn’t really mean it; it was just whatever he’d taken that day forcing him to do that. Yeah. He’d never actually hurt me. He’s too nice for that.
“Mikey, c’mon, eyes open, kid. Keep your eyes open for me, Honey.”
I hadn’t even realised that they were fluttering shut. Wait.
‘Honey’? Did he really just call me that? How does he mean it; in what kind of context?
I don’t care, if he wants my eyes open then it’s the least I can do.
“Good boy.” He studies my face, still supporting my weak and pathetically limp frame. “Panic attack.” He mumbles. “Is that was this is, Mikes? Do you think that you’re having a panic attack?” I nod. “Oh, Honey, I… I didn’t scare you, did I?” I shake my head. He gives me a look that’s begging me for an honest answer. Friends don’t lie to each other, right? Besides, that’s what cost me Gerard in the first place.
So I nod. And he looks like he might cry. I don’t want Frank, kind and lovely and caring and my friend Frank, to cry. He swallows past the obstruction that I should never have caused and nods firmly.
“Okay; I did first aid training so you’re in good hands, Mikes.” He smiles lightly down at me and, although even I can tell that it’s meant to be a light-hearted comment, it really does reassure me. “I’m going to guide you to a private place, somewhere nice and quiet.”
Sure enough, he’s soon practically carrying me down the street and along a tiny path that I never knew existed. I can hear the sound of everyone else, everyone that isn’t Frank’s strong heartbeat, fade away into the breeze. I think that I can hear running water, like a stream or river. And it really is calming. Like my panic is flowing downstream at the command of Frank’s golden and velvet touch. Perhaps he really isn’t mad at me. But what if he is?
The question spikes my lungs like a brain on the iron gates of a mediaeval fortress and what little regularity my ragged breathing had regained plummets back into the negatives.
What if he’s just pretending so that he can take me away, make it so that nobody sees him hit me? Like anyone would care anyway. They would most likely be cheering him on. I would be if I wasn’t cursed with being me.
“Honey, it’s alright. You’re safe; nothing and nobody can hurt you here.” He’s placing me down on a bench and I lean right back onto it immediately, almost jumping when I realise that he’s sat next to me, arm around me once more. I don’t wait for him to pull me in; I bury myself deep into his Slipknot hoodie, not caring that it impairs my ability to breath even more. I just want to feel the safety that he’s promising me. He rolls my head around so that it isn’t smothered in fabric and washes the hair out of my eyes with his serene fingers. My eyes droop again, this time in pleasure. A pleasure that I can’t quite get my muddled head around. “Eyes open. For me, Honey; eyes open.” I nod, already feeling my breathing relax to it’s normal, quiet sighs of oxygen intake. “There we go, just focus on taking deep breaths. Think of a place you feel safe and imagine that you’re there.” I already am. Well, the place that’s the closest to safe I think that I can get.
A few minutes of heavy sighs and slowing heartbeats drift by, filled visually with Misfit looking up at me in concern. I look around to see that we’re in some sort of forest clearing, a place that was perhaps once a park before society let nature claim it; only leaving this old, wooden bench behind. I can just make out a shiny glint of water slithering downhill across the dirt path separating us from the stream’s grassy bank. The sunlight falls through the oak trees like tiny golden angels descending from Heaven and dances through the air, illuminating Frank in a perfectly angelic light. He really is my guardian angel. Yeah, I like that analogy; it means that I know he will help me, even if I don’t quite believe it. And I think that sums it up pretty well.
I nod and slowly sit upright, not trying to remove the security blanket of Frank’s arm from around my unworthy shoulders.
“Good.” He gives me a smile that makes me truly proud to have caused it. It’s quite a nice change to the feeling of dread that overwhelms me every time I mess up and make someone feel bad. Which I always manage to do. Because I'm a shit person. “I’m really sorry that I scared you, I wasn’t cross with you, Honey. I was cross with that mean old bitch for saying nasty things about you.” I look down, remembering with a heavy heart the truths that she reminded me of. “Don’t believe any of it, Mikes. You don’t deserve any of it.”
He’s feeling bad now. I have to say something, I don’t want him to think that this is some irregularity that I’m not at all used to. Because it isn’t and I am. I expect it.
“No! No, you don’t and anyone who says that you do is stupid.”
He’s lying. Hundreds can’t be wrong.
Hundreds of people used to think that the world is flat.
“Why d’you think that you do, Mikes? Tell me about the hurt so that I can heal it.”
“The wor-orld ca-can’t be wrong-ong-ng, Fran-ank.”
A/N: Thank you very much for reading; I hope that you liked it! I tried really hard with this chapter, especially with the dialogue aspect of things, so I hope that it came out alright. I just have a quick question for anyone kind enough to help me out; ficwad keeps setting off my anti-virus software and I can only get in by typing the address straight in (as opposed to Googling it) or else everything falls to hell. Does anyone else have this problem and am I putting my laptop at risk? Thank you very much to the lovely, fantastic people who have been amazing enough to review previous chapters; reviews always brighten my day and help me to write! Anyway, thank you very much for reading and please, PLEASE, in the name of Frank Iero, please review! :)