I didn't plan on the ripping at my chest, or the searing at my insides every fucking time I heard his name, everytime I thought of a beach, or a rainstorm. I didn't know I'd feel so dismembered, so… ripped open.
And it's my own fault really. I decided that this would be worth it, this artistic freedom. But fuck artistic freedom when you don't have the muse you once had. He never knew he was the muse. He never knew the hold he had on me, and yet here I am, sitting on my couch, no girlfriend, no band, no career, and there he is on my god damn TV.
I bounce my knee a little, my eyes glued to the screen as he speaks, his voice still low and made of velvet, his lips still full and pink, his eyes still dark and round and beautiful, and damn it, he looks better than he ever has. I run a hand through greasy hair, and watch. The interview is short. Just him and Spencer talking quickly about an upcoming tour, and I watch. I just watch and watch, and watch until my stomach is churning, and my body is buzzing for a fix.
But I swore off that stuff. When Z left, I swore off of it, because I only ever did it with her. Hell, it was the glue of our relationship, as pathetic as that sounds when I say it out loud. She left, and so did the coke, but my body is fighting to disagree. Mind over matter though, mind over matter. My hand clamps down on my knee to stop the bouncing, and the interview is over before I have a chance to really study him. The image disappears and he's burned into my memory yet again, but this time his hair is parted to the side, and his glasses are thick rimmed. He's skinnier, and yet more built, and his smile isn't as wide as I remember. But maybe that's just the stress of press, MTV to make it worse. I've been there, I know.
Or maybe he's unhappy. Maybe he misses me. Maybe he hates the band, and he hates what he's become. Maybe he's wasting away inside, and can feel his organs starting to disintegrate. Maybe he's… wait, I think I'm getting our stories mixed up.
With a huff, I flip off the TV, lurching myself up off the couch, and into the kitchen, locating the nearest bottle of whatever I have left over from last night and take a swig. I glance at the clock; 11:45 am. Well, fuck it. I'm Ryan Ross, and I'll drink when I want to. I take another swig, and stare at the black screened television. My guts don't know what they're doing, and my head doesn't either. Not that that fucking differs from every other day, except right now I feel like I might be sick.
We're going out on tour. Listen to our new album. Look at our great fucking band, and all of our success. Listen to my flawless voice that only manages to get better even though I smoke like a chimney. Look at my beautiful face that looks just as amazing as the first day we met.
My mind races. Fuck his face, and his broken smile. Fuck all of it, because I'm Ryan Ross and I don't need him. I've never needed him.
Except for when all I needed was him. Except then.
I toss the now empty bottle into the sink, and slowly make my way into the hallway, running my fingers along the white walls as I walk, step, step, step, step, slowly moving until I fall to my knees, and then to my stomach, right in the middle of the fucking hallway.
"Fuck," I huff out, not wanting to get up, not wanting to breathe, not wanting to think. I close my eyes and let my mind spin, the cocaine withdrawal taking everything out of me. And it's easy to give in. It's easy to give up. Because, hell, I'm Ryan Ross, and that's what I do right? I give up.
The knock wakes me up who knows how many hours later. All I can tell is that it's dark outside, and my body feels stiff from crashing on a wooden floor. The knock comes again, louder this time, a sharp pounding on my front door, and somehow I find a way to scramble to my feet, wiping the drool from my chin, and straightening out my shirt as I move.
And deep in my stomach I hope that it's him. I hope that this is the movie moment, where I open the door and we lock eyes, and fall into each other's embrace and never let go. I'm pleading for it to happen, my eyes beginning to water just at the thought. Well, it's either the thought or the withdrawal, but it seems a bit more romantic to think that I'm still capable of emotional tears. My fingers curl around the door knob, and my nerves are trembling. Pulling the door open, my eyes settle on the small, blonde, that I haven't seen in a week or so.
"Ryan," Z sighs, looking me over, and shaking her head, "You haven't returned my calls." She walks into the house without another word, glancing around at the littered front room before turning her eyes back to me, "I thought you were dead."
"I would have told you if I was dead," I joke, the humor completely lost because frankly I don't give enough of a fuck to try. Z shakes her head, looking me over from head to toe and back up.
"You look like satan took a shit on you, Ry. You do know you have a shower, right?" She rolls her eyes, setting her purse down on the coffee table, before grabbing my wrist and pulling me towards the bathroom.
"Excuse me, I know how to bathe myself," I interject, hopelessly following her lead.
"Obviously not, based on the stench coming from you." Z throws me into the bathroom, and shuts the door, "Don't come out of there until you're as clean as a baby's butt, you hear me?" she orders, and walks down the hall, based on the sound of her footsteps.
Not wanting to cause anymore drama, I peel my three day old… four day old? Who knows, clothing off, and toss it into the hamper. I climb into the shower, turning the water on, and let it saturate my skin, getting into my pours and cleaning everything out. It feels like a weight's been lifted as I lather the soap into my skin, rinsing it off quickly, and repeating the process with shampoo in my hair. My mind spins in the shower, bouncing from the interview this morning, to the fact that my ex girlfriend is running free in my house, and could be damaging everything I've ever loved. Preferring to not let that possibility go on any longer than necessary, I jump out of the shower, toweling off, and pull on a pair of clean(er) jeans that I had laying on the counter top.
"I'm clean," I announce as I walk out of the bathroom, shirtless and shimmering from shower water. My eyes dart around, taking in the front room and kitchen that now look remarkably more clean than when I left them, and land on Z, who's scrubbing dishes in the sink, "You're cleaning my house," I say, matter of factly, moving a little closer to her, "Why are you cleaning my house, you hate me."
"I don't hate you," she sighs, shaking her head, and spinning on her heels to look at me, "Did I ever say I hated you?"
"I vaguely remember you throwing a bottle at my head and screaming something of the sort, yes," I answer, cocking an eyebrow.
"Oh," he brows furrow, "Well, I didn't mean it. I don't hate you. I just can't date you, and this," she gestures to the house, "Is a perfect example as to why." Z turns off the sink faucet, and gives me the look. This look that is distinctly her look, and every time she gives it to me I feel like a 5 year old before time out. "Why are you spiraling again, Ryan? What did he do this time?"
"He?" I ask for clarification.
"Brendon," she says the name, and it stings more than it should, and makes my chest hurt more than I want it to, and that pisses me off. I sneer.
"I haven't even talked to him."
"What did he do?" She persists, raising an eyebrow, and tapping her foot. That's one thing I've always hated about Z is that she always know's what was wrong with me, even when I don't. It's bullshit.
"They're going on tour," I finally admit, my voice a monotone grumble.
"Ah," she nods, looking down at her nails, "and that's upsetting you."
"Well, I'm definitely not rushing to buy tickets," I remark sarcastically. Even though the thought has crossed my mind. What would they say if I showed up to their show randomly? What could they do? They were telling the world that we were all still good friends, which was a blatant lie, so they'd probably treat it as a big reunion party. While deep down they'd be hating me as much as I hate them.
As much as I act like I hate them. It's hard to hate the people you love. Your childhood best friend and your… well, your Brendon.
"Why don't you just call him? Just call him and talk to him, because obviously this way of 'coping', " she curls her fingers into air quotes, "isn't helping. You're even sloppier than usual, and that is terrifying to even think about."
"Hey, thanks," I sigh, "And what would calling him do? What the hell am I supposed to say, Z? Hey, you're going on tour and I'm pissed, and I hate that your new album is pretty good, and I hate that-"
"I miss you," she interjects, looking at me like it's the most obvious thing in the world, "Call him and tell him that you miss him. Because we both know it's true, and I will bet my sweet little ass that he misses you too."
I laugh. If he misses me, he would have called by now… well, then again, I miss him, and the phone has never been pushed as far away from my reach as it is now.
"Maybe," I say, scratching the back of my neck. I know she's right, but I'll never give her the satisfaction. Z rolls her eyes, and moves away from the sink.
"Finish doing your dishes, I'm going home," she grabs her purse from the table and looks back at me, "I just wanted to make sure you weren't rotting away on your precious hardwood." Z laughs lightly, and moves towards the door, her stride that confident wiggle that it always is, "Call him," are her last words, as she pulls the clasp shut behind her.
Call him. Call him.
The idea is now teasing me, and palms itch. Fucking Z Berg, and her fucking logic. I move to the counter, grabbing my cell, and find his number in my address book. My hearts thumping right out of my ribcage, but I quickly press dial before I can convince myself not to.
Ring, ring. I'm going to puke.
Ring, ring. I'm going to pass out.
Ring, ring. I'll have a meltdown.
And there's the voice made of velvet. It hit's my eardrum, and sends a shockwave right into my guts, because there it is, right on the other end of the line, and I can finally tell him.
"Bren, I miss you." I blurt out.
The other end of the line goes quiet, but I can hear those shallow breaths. I'm used to them. I've heard them in my ear before, I've felt them on my skin. I close my eyes and savor them, because I've never realized just how much I've missed that tingle on the crook of my neck. His breathing. Something as simple as his goddamn breathing, and I'm falling apart just imagining it.
"Ryan," he breathes out, and there's my name from his lips and that's a whole new story. I could write an album just based on the way he says my name, "Hey. I miss you too."