Introducing Frank Iero, a teenager who's just about had the life stamped out of him by his abusive father and school yard bullies.
And after all you have survived,
How could you allow them to win?
It was all going wrong again.
My mother was screaming at him. My father was hurling abuse back. I was in my room crying, pretending that it wasn’t happening.
There goes another glass. Or plate. Or vase. Or whatever my abusive alcoholic father had gotten his hands on. I prayed that it hadn’t smashed anywhere near my mom.
This was the part where I would start blasting out music to drown out the shouting, but that just caused my dad to come upstairs and take his anger out on me. Often I would do it just to give my mom a break, but I couldn’t take another busted lip or black eye. I knew my mom felt guilty every time he had done that. Guilty that he’d taken it out on me instead. Guilty that she couldn’t stop him. But most of all, she felt guilty for staying with him, for allowing things to stay this way.
There were times when I hated her for it. I hated her for staying. But what could she really do? If she ran, he’d come looking. We had no money; he spent all of her wages and most of his own on his alcohol addiction. He made sure to act like the perfect husband when anyone else was around, no one would believe how he truly was. No one would help us if we tried to get away.
It was him I hated. His presence made my blood boil. I couldn’t believe that we were related. I always thought to myself, if I turned out anything like him, I would kill myself. Or hope someone else would. Because I couldn’t live with myself for causing all of the hurt he caused.
I heard the door slam, followed by my mother’s sobs. It almost sounded like she was choking.
I ventured out of my room, hanging onto the banister wondering whether to go downstairs. I hated to see her cry, it tore me up inside, but she needed me. I crept down the stairs.
“Mom? Mom, are you okay?” I whispered, peeking around the kitchen door to see her slumped on the floor. In response, she held out her arms, and I ran into the embrace.
“I’m so sorry… so sorry...” She kept mumbling.
“Shhh…” I whispered, stroking her hair, trying to soothe her.
After about an hour she was all cried out, she mumbled her sorries one last time and went to bed. My stomach grumbled. Another night of all shouting and crying and no dinner. I sighed, trying to remember the last time I had seen my mother smile. There were many times, just before my eighth birthday, before my dad began drinking morning, noon and night. But they seemed so distant now.
I grabbed some bread and a glass of water and made my way upstairs, to my sanctuary. To the one thing that keeps me sane. My guitars.
I grabbed my acoustic and played for a couple of hours, abandoning all of my schoolwork. What was the use in it anyway? I was failing everything except for music, and my dad had made it clear that just passing that would never get me anywhere in life.
With a sigh, I put down my guitar and got ready for bed. Hopefully my dad wouldn’t come back tonight. I wished that he would run away. Or that we’d find him in a gutter somewhere. I felt guilty for wishing it; after all he was still my father. But what kind of dad hits his wife and son? Spends all the money for bills on drink? I couldn’t wait to hear his excuse this time.
That night it took me hours to get to sleep, and even then I kept waking up every hour. I was considering skipping school when my alarm went off; I made no movement to get out of bed, and just laid there, wishing I was old enough to go to college and move out. Well, with my GPA, I would have to forget the college and just move out. Get a job somewhere, anywhere. It wouldn’t matter as long as I was away from here. I imagined what my life could be like. I could be in a band, I could move out and tour, and send my mom money so that she could run away somewhere. Somewhere like California, she always loved the sun, and he probably couldn’t get his drunken ass all the way there. I looked at my clock. 8:15. I’d be 15 minutes late even if I left right this second. I closed my eyes, might as well make the most of my day off by catching up on my sleep.
I heard a gruff voice and footsteps in the hallway. Shit. He had gotten home, and he must have sneaked in at some point whilst I had been asleep. I jumped out of bed and started to get dressed; he didn’t like it when I skipped school.
“Boy! Why ain’t you at school?” He said when he saw me, his voice still slurring a little. I could smell the alcohol on him. It made me feel sick.
“I… er…” I dithered, standing there with only one leg in my jeans.
He stepped closer, reaching out and grabbing a fistful of my hair, pulling my head upwards so that I was facing him.
“I said why ain’t you at school?”
“I… I overslept. I’m going now.” I silently pleaded in my head that he would let me go. But he didn't.
Next thing I knew, his fist collided with my jaw. He finally let go of my head, and I reeled backwards in pain, tripping over my jeans that I still hadn’t fully put on.
“If I hear you missed any lessons…” He threatened, holding his fist out towards me before leaving the room.
I put a hand to my jaw, sitting on the floor in shock for a couple of minutes before I managed to regain my composure and finished getting dressed. I didn’t have time for anything except grabbing my schoolbag and having a quick glance in the mirror at the already forming bruise on my jaw line.
It was going to be one of those days today. One of those days where everyone asked where I had gotten my injury, and I would lie and pretend I had gotten into a fight with some kid, and then everyone would either be wary of me or laugh at me, because they’d joke that I’d been beating up by a 5 year old.
In fact, most of them will laugh. They usually do.
I still don't know the origin of the 'beaten up by a little kid' joke, but I suspected it had something to do with my short stature and undernourished body making me look quite like a young child myself.
I ran all the way to school, and only ended up being 15 minutes late. Not too bad. My teacher didn't think so, though.
“Mr Iero. Decided to finally grace us with your presence, I see.”
I hate when teachers think they’re so funny when in actual fact they’re just annoying.
It took all my strength not to roll my eyes at him as I sat down; mostly because that would land me in trouble and they might call home, and that was the last thing I needed.
I heard someone chuckle behind me, and slumped down into my seat. I didn’t want any attention, especially today. In this school, my best chance was to become invisible, to blend in with the scenery. I usually succeeded by not being late, not hanging around the cafeteria, keeping my head down. Not doing anything or being anywhere which could lead to anyone noticing me, which usually worked. But some people here worked relentlessly to make my life a living hell, as if I didn’t have it bad enough at home already.
I left my homeroom as soon as the bell rang and rushed to my first lesson, English. I didn’t mind English much, even though I wasn’t a very good essay writer. The thing that put me off the class was the people in it.
As if on cue, Joshua knocked my books off my table as he walked past to get his seat.
“Aw baby got beat by another toddler?” He smirked, and his cronies all doubled over in hysterics. I just put my head down and hoped he would go away, as yet another fight with him would result in 1. me being beaten up by him and all of his friends, and 2. a phone call home, neither of which I wanted to have to deal with at this point in time.
“You gonna cry, faggot?” My jaw tightened, causing a dull ache where my dad had punched me earlier, and my hands clenched into fists.
Control, Frank, control. Breathe.
My breath came out ragged, anger bubbling inside me. I couldn’t keep letting everyone walk over me, not these idiots at school, and not my dad.
Before he could realise what was happening, my fist swung and I punched Joshua in the eye. He took a few steps backwards, shock apparent on his face, before lunging forwards and sending me flying into my desk with a swift jab at my stomach. I tried to stand up, but his friends had huddled around me, pushing me back onto the floor. Joshua stood directly in front of me, smirking in a self satisfied way.
“Well, well. Someone does need to control their anger.” He laughed whilst I struggled to get free. He paced at my feet almost tauntingly as I heard other students walk in, apparently deciding to ignore the whole scene as no one dived in to help.
He leaned down, looking straight into my eyes.
“Well… Let’s finish what the toddler couldn’t, eh?” I heard a sickening crunch as his fist met my nose, and I could feel the blood beginning to pour out. He lashed out again, this time targeting my eye. I bit my tongue to stop myself from making any sort of noise, I didn’t want him to feel any satisfaction. Sure he could cause bruises and bleeding, but allow him to know how much it was hurting? Never.
“WHAT ON EARTH?! JOSHUA! Principal’s office! NOW!” I silently thanked the heavens for sending Ms. Carter in at that moment, but wondered why she couldn’t have turned up before I was a bloody mess on the floor. It was my own fault, I guess, I should have just stuck to my rule of keeping my head down.
She sent the rest of Joshua’s gang to the office before bringing her attention to me.
“Rachel… Go and get the nurse please. Tell her we’ll need an ambulance.” I closed my eyes a cursed under my breath. Shit, this was definitely not my day. Now I was going to be stretchered out where everyone could stare at me. Attention from the entire school. A definite phone call home.
I opened my eyes and began to stand up.
“No, look, I’m fine really. I just… need to clean up. Don’t bother.” I tried to argue, but Ms. Carter pushed me back, giving me a stern look.
“No. You need medical attention. I don’t care if you feel fine, I’m afraid you don’t look it.”
Everyone had crowded around me, gawping like I was some mutant or something. Had they never seen someone bruised and covered in blood before?
Well, they probably haven’t. Just because you have to put up with regular beatings doesn't mean everyone has seen people beaten up and bloody, except maybe on TV.
For some reason, this realisation made me crack up hysterically, causing everyone to stare more, and Ms. Carter to start muttering about a possible concussion.
The nurse turned up with a couple of paramedics, a stretcher and one of the office staff to help carry me whilst I was still laughing. I could barely feel the pain, but I was pretty sure my nose was damaged badly. It seemed the constant punches thrown at home had inevitably served as some sort of pain killer.
The paramedics started mumbling something about staying overnight at the hospital.
Fuck. I must look pretty bad then.
I groaned as they took me outside, noticing all of the eyes at various windows of the school peering down, but the paramedics took the noise as me being in pain.
Once I was in the ambulance, they put a mask over my face and told me everything would be okay, before the flowing air from the tube made my eyelids extremely heavy and I lost consciousness.