The aftermath and Walmart
My eyes shoot up from the road and into the rearview mirror, watching a bundle of blankets with a mop of red hair squirm around in the backseat. I’ve barely made it a mile away from the hospital parking lot and already he’s complaining. He had spent the weekend in the hospital, running a crazy fever and coughing up this awful colored gunk, and I am beyond exhausted from dealing with that. Luckily I haven’t been feeling too sick myself but I can feel a migraine growing in my neck and it’s starting to rain outside. I always get sick when it rains.
Gerard coughs and whines my name again, struggling to sit up under his mound of warmth. I’m turning around to talk to him when this shitty blue Supra flies in from the left lane and I nearly rear-end it. I have to slam on the brakes and it kinda sends Gee chest first into the center console, making him wail in pain and begin coughing rather violently.
“Fucking shit,” I curse, rubbing my palms into my eyeballs to try and get a moment of clarity, “Are you okay?”
His coughs die out into hiccups and he shimmies back up onto the seat, hiding his face in the upholstery, “Uh huh.”
That’s when I spot the huge LED display for a Walmart. Okay, not exactly my saving grace but he’s got a bunch of prescriptions that need filled and we need some food in the house that isn’t frozen or from a can. I’m just hoping he can make it through a shopping session without: a)breaking something; b)stealing something; or c)dying.
I pull into the parking lot, half-tempted to take up a handicap space and just argue my way out of it. But I don’t, because of course, it is Walmart so they’re all taken. Gerard chokes pathetically as I pull into a space, tugging down a quilt so he can speak, “What are you doing?”
I sigh and try to give him an apologetic look, “We need food and you need medicine.”
He moans in protest and tries to roll over, cursing as he falls down into the foot well. “I hate Walmart,” he cries, voice muffled by all the blankets.
I put the car in park and click off my seatbelt, turning around so I can face him. He’s still flopping around on the floor like an idiot, his legs kicking out at the window. Thank god he isn’t wearing shoes. I grab onto his shoulder, tugging the quilt aside so I can help him back onto the seat. “It won’t take long,” I try to argue, but also sounding as affectionate as possible, “And you can ride in one of those electric carts.”
He gives me an incredulous look, but then chokes out a giggle. “I’ve always wanted to do that,” he whispers, as if it’s against the law or something.
I roll my eyes and crawl into the back, landing on top of Gerard and making him squawk and flail all his limbs at once. I give him a (gentle) noogie and kiss his forehead, wrapping my arms around his torso. “It won’t take long,” I repeat, kissing him again.
He nods and cuddles into me, coughing into my neck, “I just wanna ride the carts.”
I pop open the back door and shimmy outside, tugging Gerard out along with me. Gerard huffs when I take away his blankets, huddling against the cart corral as he bitches. Finally I grab him by the waist and we shuffle towards the entrance, trying to avoid mini vans and him slipping on any ice. It had begun snowing this morning, only to warm up and turn to a cold bleary rain. But of course Gerard would find the one patch of ice in a parking lot and fall down on it. He’s just good at that kind of thing.
When we walk inside, instantly we’re blind-sided by a rush of color and sounds. There’s also this overwhelming smell of fried chicken coming from the deli and I can feel Gerard gag against my throat. It’s then I spot the rows and rows of carts, along with a line of motorized ones charging against the wall. I smile and push Gerard towards them, “Your chariot awaits, highness.”
He giggles and slumps down in the nearest one, fumbling with the keys until it clicks to life and starts making this awful beeping noise. He glares at it and starts to hit the cart’s display, screaming when it shoots off from the wall only to be tugged back by its cord. Jesus, I haven’t even started shopping and already he’s creating a spectacle of himself. Finally, though, he seems to get the vehicle under control and rolls out towards the produce, the power cord trailing another 6 feet behind him. I curse and race to catch up with him, pushing a cart in front of me and trying to avoid mowing over small children.
We go to the pharmacy first, just because otherwise I’d forget and Gerard would hack up his lungs on the car ride home. The line is, of course, impossibly long, so I leave Gerard to hold his place. He’s got a fistful of prescriptions in his left hand, sounding out each of the complicated names with over dramatic enunciation. I smack him lightly on the head so he’ll turn and look at me.
“Do you need anything?” I ask, trying to run through my mind what I could get.
Gerard shrugs before scratching at his scalp, “Uhh, that mint shampoo. And more of that lip stuff, with the glitter or whatever,” he mumbles.
“You realize that’s for little girls, right?” I tease.
But he just flips me off and sulks back down into his seat, leaving me to wander the aisles. There is a spectacularly fat woman combing through the nail polish, and I literally have to squeeze around the corner to avoid hitting her. And then irony strikes and a woman who couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds ambles up and makes a lot of noise on her phone next to her. Great, now I feel more awkward than ever. She’s still beside me when I grab Gerard his lip gloss (fucking Lip Smackers, seriously) and I have to toss it nonchalantly in my cart so I don’t look like some kind of weirdo pervert.
I look out from the shelves and see Gerard still sitting in line, playing with the ends of his hair. Everyone around him is giving him awkward looks (can’t imagine why). I wander across the aisle, deftly avoiding screaming children and harried housewives wrist deep into their smart phones. They put all the seasonal shit on this side for some reason and it’s already filled with stuff for Valentine’s Day. Which, in this case, wins me about a million points in the Boyfriend Game.
The first thing I see is a row of plush animals, with big, blank stares and arms clutching a bright red heart. There’s a rabbit/lamb thing at the end with doey green eyes and a weird anatomical structure. It’s both creepy and adorable, so I’m sure he’ll love it. Hmmm, now some candy. Mostly for me because he’ll never eat it out of fear of becoming fat. I’m grabbing a bag of conversation hearts when I spot the golden ticket. A big felt heart with a bejeweled Darth Vader on the front. Okay, so Gerard is kind of a sucker for shit like this so I’ll get it for him today, especially since he’s not been a total brat about going to the hospital. I am so getting laid tonight.
I can hear Gerard’s coughing from over here so I go back by the pharmacy to make sure he isn’t seizing on the ground or something. But he’s not, just curled up on the scooter in the corner, absentmindedly chewing on his nails. I go back to grab our shampoo and some soap that doesn’t fucking smell like fruit. It’s not long before he’s done though, because I can hear him hacking and that god awful scooter drawing closer. He’s looking at hair dye when I find him, and holding at least 4 different flavors of cough drops. He looks balefully at me and pouts a little at a redhead on a L’Oreal box. But I shake my head, “What? No way, you can barely breathe right now; you’re not dying your hair,”
He pouts more, pulling the box out and cradling it, “You get tattoos when you’re sick. Why can’t I dye my hair?”
“Gerard, you crazy fuck,” I grunt, grabbing the dye and putting it back on the shelf, “I’m not breathing in ammonia when I get tattoos.”
He moans and sinks back down into his seat, driving off and going too fast around a corner and knocking down a row of tampons. Jesus. If I didn’t love him I would have dumped him at some looney bin by now. I follow him back to pet supplies, lugging a bag of food into the cart while Gerard browses through the collars.
“Sadie needs a bigger one, with diamonds,” he says passively, smiling at a particularly gaudy one.
“No, she is not a Chihuahua, and you are not a princess,” I argue, pulling down an orange, reflective one, “Look, this one is cool without being… well, gay.”
But he just laughs and then coughs roughly before grabbing a purple polka-dot one and throwing it into his cart, “Happy?”
I kiss his cheek and he makes this weird purring noise and kinda nuzzles me. Okay, now I remember why I put up with his shit. We linger around a bit longer, watching the Betta fish and debating which colors were better. My stomach tinges a bit, though, and I suddenly realize I’m starving. We start walking back to the produce section but he races out in front of me, giggling madly the entire time.
“Fuckin’—dude, hold on!” I shout, practically sprinting after him.
Gerard is idling by a pile of apples and oranges, coughing roughly into the air around him. There are several shoppers grimacing and trying to edge away from him, shooting me dirty looks as I sprint over to him to try and get him to stop spraying germs everywhere. He coughs into his sleeve, wheezing loudly when I make it him. I furrow my brows when he sneezes on the bananas. “Dude, cover your mouth,” I reprimand, tugging on his hood to direct his attention towards me, “You can’t go around infecting people, they’ll throw you in prison for that.”
He sniffles haughtily and starts to roll away, his voice barely carrying over the hum of the motor, “I didn’t even get you sick; I’m sure everyone else is fine.”
He’s got a point there but he should at least be courteous. Not to mention everything smells like hand sanitizer now. I scramble to get some veggies for the house, which is a hopeless cause, really, because neither of us will eat them in time (and I doubt Gerard would even eat vegetables if I didn’t put them on pizza). He’s already driven off and is lingering near the butcher’s, coughing into his sleeves and giving the fish in a display case a disgusted look. I walk over to him, wincing at the sight of all the prepackaged meat. He zooms off again towards the freezers,
forcing me to run to catch up with him. He’s looking at the pizzas, but when he sees me he makes this long, pathetic whining noise, “Frankie, I can’t reach it!”
I roll my eyes and try to put all of my annoyance and disdain into my stare, “Can’t reach what?” I ask.
He keens again and starts grabbing at the air, “The fancy one I like! The yellow one!”
I cross my arms and smirk, “Fucking seriously? You can totally reach that,”
“But Frankie,” he cries, flopping over dramatically and nearly falling off the seat of the cart, “I’m sick.”
I huff and grab it for him, throwing it into his basket. I should have known this would be an ordeal. Gerard can’t go out in public without creating a scene, and I know him being sick as a dog is only making his drive for attention worse. We’re heading out of the aisle when I curse and look down in my basket and realize I forgot to get bread. I bend down and kiss his cheek, “I still need bread; I’ll be right back.”
He nods and we kiss again before I double back to the bakery. The place is more packed than usual, seeing as how it’s hella cold outside so people are more reluctant than usual to get what the need and get the fuck out.
It’s also just after Christmas which means checking out is going to be a bitch. Fuck, this seemed like such a good idea 5 minutes ago but now I just want to pay for what I have and go home. I can shop tomorrow, or whatever.
I’m making my way back to the Gerard when I notice there’s a rather large group of people clustered at one end of the freezer aisle. And I also notice that is where I left Gerard. Fuck. What has he done now, I don’t even—
“—uckin’ sick ass queer!”
I turn the corner and there’s Gerard: hyperventilating with his knees pulled into his chest, while some tall, burly dude waves his finger around in front of his face, spitting venom. Everyone around them is just watching, or simply passing by and making lewd comments under their breaths. I don’t give a shit if we don’t fit in but it’s no reason to fucking terrorize us when we’re trying to grocery shop. The man keeps screaming, yelling awful to curses to Gerard while he screeches my name. “Fucking faggot,” he screams, and it’s then I lose control and start muscling my way through the crowd, “Fucking burn in hell!”
I don’t even give a fuck about my cart; all I want is to get to Gerard. Before I can even think my hands are around the guy’s throat and I’m cramming his face into the tiled floor.
“Nobody calls him ‘faggot’ but me, motherfucker,” I snarl, smacking him a few times for good measure.
It’s not long before I’m pried off the dude by security. There’s an even larger crowd than before, and Gerard slinks off his cart and over to me, curling up under my arm. A manager comes over, looking flustered and tucking a walkie-talkie into her vest pocket. “I’m sorry,” she says, smoothing her hair back and trying to look apologetic, “I watched the whole thing in the office, and we’ll be removing the man from the premises,”
I grunt and hold Gerard a little tighter, “Do we have to leave, too?” I ask.
She shakes her head, blanching a bit, “No, not unless you want to.”
I sigh a little and just wordlessly go back to my cart, dragging Gerard along with me. He’s shivering a little and the skin on his side is fever hot beneath my hand. I help sit back down but he’s suddenly very quiet, not saying anything or even looking up when I say his name. Goddammit. Okay, so Gerard is pretty good at getting attention for himself but sometimes the attention is negative, and Gerard is extremely sensitive to criticism. And I can only imagine that being delirious and fucked up on cough syrup didn’t make the situation any easier on him. When he was young he was an easy target for bullies and so now whenever someone shows aggression towards him he locks himself up; not uttering a word in the hopes that whoever was bothering him would grow bored and ignore him like everyone else.
“Gee,” I coo, curling a hand into his hair, “It’s okay.”
He trembles and shies away from my hand, muttering, “I know.”
With that he takes off down the aisle, eyes firmly fixed to the floor, only occasionally looking up to regain his bearings. I follow him silently, picking out what we need while he grabs random goods. I can’t blame him for that, though. I’ve always found it easier to eat what I really like when I’m sick, mostly because it’s all I can keep down. Gerard hasn’t done much puking lately, but he hasn’t done much eating, either. We’re back in the chips when he stops in the middle of the aisle and starts sobbing, choking on his own tears and making even more noise as he struggles to breathe. Luckily we’re alone this time so I stand directly in front of him and get a good grip on his shoulders.
“Hey, it’s okay,” I console, trying to make him look at me, “That dude was a douchebag; don’t worry about what he said.”
But he just cries louder, coughing pitifully between sobs, “But – he-called-me-a-faggot!” he squeaks.
I groan in anger and rub his cheeks dry with my thumbs, “Who gives a fuck? Plenty of people have called you a ‘faggot’ before.”
But he just shakes his head, “It’s not that!”
Jesus, I was not prepared to deal with Dramatic Gerard today. Sick Gerard is hell in of itself, and it’s not long before Dramatic Gerard comes out. The worst is Shrieking Gerard, which at this rate may not be that far down the line. I keep rubbing his cheeks until his cries become hiccupping whimpers and he finally looks at me, “Frankie, I don’t feel so good. I wanna go home.”
I sigh and nod, going back to my cart. Gerard moans something unintelligible and gathers everything he’s picked out and drops them into my cart, abandoning the electric scooter in the aisle. I open my mouth the protest but given everything we’ve already gone through here I don’t really care anymore. I wrap an arm around his waist, keeping him close to my side as I grab a gallon of milk and start heading for the front of the store. People are still giving us dirty looks, but fuck them.
Gerard doesn’t notice, though, in fact I think he’s oblivious to everything around us, only taking the time to open his eyes to regain his bearings. I push the cart towards the checkout lanes, all the while balancing a 150 pound man on my left shoulder. The cashier gives us both strange looks, chewing on her lip ring nervously, and she stares me down almost the entire time she’s ringing things up. Gerard’s giggling mindlessly as a rack of celebrity magazines, tugging on my shirtsleeve. “Why ain’t we on those, Frankie? I’m famous enough,” he complains, making faces at a picture of Jennifer Aniston.
I roll my eyes and hand the girl my credit card. “I don’t know if you noticed, but no one likes gay people.”
“’M not gay… just have a boyfriend.” He mumbles, and lazily stuffs the magazine back onto the rack.
He half collapses into me, eyes clouded with fever and medication. I drag him upright, grabbing the heavy plastic bags and plopping them down into the cart. I grab him again and practically carry him towards the doors, cart clanking behind us. He stumbles behind me, coughing into his hands and whining incessantly,“Fraaankie… nnnugh…”
I turn around and see him bent double over an island of flowers, vomiting and coughing with his hands on his knees. Everyone just stops and stares at him, too, just like inside, muttering to one another and not even bothering to help. God, I’m never taking him out in public again.
Once he’s finished, he just kinda glares at the yellowy puddle of sick pooling beneath him. I grab his arm and pull him with me, nearly throwing him into the backseat. He burrows back under his blankets, coughing quietly as I load the groceries into the trunk. I put the last of the food away and return the cart to the corral next to where I parked (because I’m a grocery store genius).
I drive home in silence, my heart breaking every time Gerard coughs and beating myself up for ever thinking it was a good idea to keep him out of bed. Once we get back to the house, I park and look at him sternly, “Gee just—ugh. Go take a bath and then go to our room and sleep.”
He nods and climbs out shakily, shuffling inside and straight to the bathroom. I put away the groceries in silence, only listening to the sounds of water filling the tub and Gerard coughing softly. God, all I manage to buy when we go out is crap. The only food we live on are frozen meals and cereal. What can I say, we're 5 star chefs. Gerard coughs loudly from the bathroom, and the sound of water splashing to the floor pulls me from the pantry.
"Gee, you okay?" I call, wary of the silence now coming from the bathroom.
He chokes a little and I can hear him moving things around,"Uhhh... yeah..."
Liar. "Are you sure?" I call, arranging vegetables in the crisper.
Cough. Hack. "I'm sure."
I throw the last of the groceries into the freezer and walk into bathroom, where Gerard is sitting on the bathroom floor, soaking wet and miserable. I cross my arms. "What happened?" I ask, grabbing towels from the linen closet because he’s too stupid to keep himself from getting pneumonia when he already has pneumonia.
He sighs quietly and looks up at me with guilt, "I puked in the water."
I groan to myself and wrap him up in the towels before walking over the the off-white tub. I can steam little tendrils of steam coming up out of the tub and I kneel down beside it, peering down into the sudsy water. That's weird, I don't see any puke. "Gee... what are y-"
Next thing I know, before I can even chew him out for lying to me, I'm face first in the water and I'm swimming to the surface sputtering and coughing. "Gerard Way, you dirty sonovabitch!"
He giggles softly, his eyes alight with mischief for the first time in days. I sigh and brush my hair from my eyes, pulling off my now soaked sweatshirt. He crawls over to me, snuggling into my chest and making this weird purring noise. "I see you’re feeling better," I mutter darkly.
He nods wordlessly, relaxing into me and tracing along my tattoos. "Anytime I get to cause you grief makes me feel better." he explains, voice harsh from wheezing.
"Yeah? And I'm more than willing to hold back from sex for the next 6 months, mister." I retort, batting him playfully on the side of his head.
He pouts teasingly, and starts nuzzling the top of his head against my chin, "Can you help me back into the tub?" His voice is quiet and innocent but sounds healthier than it’s been in the last 48 hours.
I nod, standing up and pulling his weak frame up with me. I ease him down into the water and sit on the edge of the tub, my hand molding to his cheek. He still feels hot, but not so much that it burns when I touch him. He begins coughing, and slips down into the water until the fit is over, most of his wheezing muffled and turned into violent spasms of bubbles. "My poor baby." I say, but it’s mostly sarcastic.
He catches it, though, and smirks, choking down a cough, “I'm getting better."
I'm about to respond, when there are these strange pounding and growling noises coming from the living room. Curious, I turn around and see Sadie sprawled across the rug, her sharp, little teeth gnawing away my favorite new shoes.
Goddammit. I hate that dog.
Welp, there you have it. Twice as long as before and oh so much better. It's been a pleasure.