"They'll either arrest me or send me to an asylum."
I’m out of the car in a flash, panic rife within me. The night is awfully cold, though I’m not worried for my own sake. I’m worried for Frank. Scratch that, I’m petrified. Where the hell are his parents? Why is he by himself? A kid of his age shouldn’t be walking alone on a night like this!
My knees hit the road with a pained thud, dampness seeping through the suit trouser of my work uniform. I pull the poor boy onto my lap, brushing away the specks of snow that cling to his pale face. He looks sickly, though his complexion isn’t nearly as white as the virgin snow that surrounds him. In fact, he has that same yellow tinge in his skin. I frown as I realise he’s not actually cold at all. He can’t have been lying in the snow for more than a minute. Each breath that escapes Frank’s chest is laboured; I listen to his heartbeat and it’s scarily slow. His eyes sluggishly flicker open then close again, but it’s his eyes that terrify me more than anything else. His pupils are pinpricks and the natural eye colour he was born with seems almost faded. His face is haggard, blank and sagging. He hasn’t passed out because of the cold, not at all.
Frank Iero has overdosed on heroin.
My vision is burning, snow melting from the road to reveal rich autumn leaves. Bare bushes bloom with wildflower one again. I can hear birds chirping behind me, locked together in joyous song as they dance through the warm October evening. The air shimmers with life. It’s 2011 again, and Iero, this poor kid….it’s not he who’s overdosing. It’s my wife.
The air seems static and solid, like the calm before a storm. Impossible to imagine a storm in such brilliant sunlight though, foolish to think of any cold whilst bathed in such a bed of warmth.
As if walking in the realm of dreams, the edges of reality seem to distort and twist as I lift her from the ground and run frantically back to my car, strapping her into the passenger seat with tears running down my face and the screams of a thousand angels roaring in my ears. I slap her, begging her to wake. She murmurs something, moaning in discomfort. I bring an old paper fast food bag to her clumsy fingers, willing her to breathe in and out of it in an effort to stabilise her breathing. Sluggishly her eyes open and she stares at me. Her eyes are cold and distant, like staring into the abyss. They betray nothing.
No. They’re not her eyes. Such empty things could never be that of my love. Not the wide, loving, sparkling orbs of raw energy I caught a glimpse of one sunny day across a tour bus parking lot. Not the chocolate pools of tenderness I used to gaze into as we embraced. Not the pretty little things I fell head over heels with. They couldn’t be.
The sun recedes back into the clouds. Leaves fall from the trees like tear drops. Snow seeps out of the earth, covering all as life is returned to the bleak winter. Birds fall from the sky mid-flight, hitting the ground with a sickening crunch. I can almost hear each of their tiny little bones shattering on impact. It’s quite beautiful.
I look at those eyes and no, it’s not Lindsey. This is a kid who fell in with the wrong crowd and made shitty life decisions, not a woman who fell in love with a train wreck and followed his decent into oblivion. Unlike Lindsay, this is a kid I can save.
I’m speeding down the isolated road now, the dark nature of the night smothering my senses. Every few seconds I steal a glance at the kid. I have to. I’m never letting someone die this way ever again. How can I possibly have another death on my conscience? He still uses the bag to breathe though, that offers me minor comfort. A scene flashes through my foul thoughts, and like a fetid odour it lingers within the corners of my reason.
What if I can’t save him?
My fingers tremble at the mere thought, I grit my teeth to stop them from chattering. Another bright flame of life simply extinguished at my touch. I am a harbourer of death and there’s nothing I can do to rectify it. There’s a very large possibility that Iero could fall by my hand and if that dire minute comes….. why not join him in the void? So many people have suffered from my foolish actions, so many lives tainted. I got into teaching with the vague hope that I could recompense for my years as a drug addicted monster; now I wonder if my evil has worn off on the students. Frank is certainly following a similar path to the one I stumbled blindly along all those years ago.
And who next, I wonder? Will Mikey fall to my corruption? Alicia? I’ve never really gotten on all that well with either of them but I’d never wish them to die. Ahh, and Bandit. Beautiful, headstrong, opinionated Bandit. Daughter of an addict father and an addict mother.
She never had a chance.
It agonises me to watch the girl grow and prosper with such fiery determination surging in her blood, the very same determination that used to spur Lindsey’s passions. They are very alike. Too alike for their own good, for my own sanity.
It’s with this same vigour and lust for life that Bandit throws open the door to our house as I hazardously swing the car into the dive, knocking over several plant pots as I go. In a matter of seconds Frank is in my arms and I’m running at Bandit. Her delicate features are a mask of fear and confusion, lips open in an 0 of shock. If only she knew that the very same fear has consumed me too.
“What the h-?!”
“NALOXONE! GET THE NALOXONE, NOW!”
She only pauses for a split second before sprinting off to the bathroom to get the medication from the highest cabinet. Good girl. It’s an instant opiate blocker in case of overdose, we made sure to have some around since Lindsey’s…..passing. I brush everything from the coffee table. An old paperweight of mine shatters on impact with the hard wooden floor, sparkling shards of glass exploding in every direction. It’s been in my family for generations, yet tonight I pay it no heed. The bat within the glass perished long ago and is of little consequence compared to this young man’s life; still the onyx eyes of the creature gleam and it seems to watch the chaos before it with a permanent grin forced on it’s skeletal features.
Frank doesn’t fare well. Since moving him from the car his condition seems to have deteriorated. His face is now a deathly white, his lips bluer than ever. He’s passed out again and his entire body seems to tremble. I flinch. He’s on the verge of a seizure. Bandit races downstairs and thank the maker, has a needle prepped already. Saves me the time of transferring the medication into the applicator which I’m more than grateful for, years of this lifestyle have grown a pure hatred of needles within me. I loathe the things.
“RIP OPEN THE SLEEVE OF HIS SHIRT!” I scream, panic beginning to consume me. Bandit complies, tearing the fabric with her bare hands.
For the first time this evening my daughter’s eyes make their way to Frank’s face and recognition flashes within them. Shockingly, she screams.
“FRANK?! OH MY GOD!”
I merely stare, dumbfounded.
“Wait, you know Iero?!”
“Of course I do!”
“HOW?!” I yell at her, grabbing the young man’s arm and wincing at the multitude of track marks and self harm scars that litter his skin. I pull at it to reveal the little vein that remains, draw a tiny drop of blood back, then shoot the substance into his bloodstream. Bandit sobs over the broken boy before us, planting a single kiss on the injection once I’m finished. Her lipgloss stains his skin, a stark contrast to the blackened colour of his pulsating vein. Though it’s clear to me now that she’s somehow become infatuated with this mess, I hold my tongue.
For almost a minute nothing happens. I notice that the shaking of his limbs subsides but that’s not necessarily good. Without the movement he appears lifeless, a poisoned old ragdoll in dire need of repair. Is that what we’re doing? Sowing him up again? Tragic that a life so young can be this fragile.
Two minutes and I feel uneasy. Three minutes and Bandit starts to cry again. Four minutes and I’m slapping him, urging him to awaken.
Five minutes and I’m giving him another dose.
The child moans as if he’s pulling himself back from the void and then opens his eyes suddenly, sitting up with great terror and pain on his face.
“…….Mr Way? Where….. what ………?”
Tears gather in his eyes and I feel a stab of pity for the boy within my heart.
“I….found you Frank. You were in a bad way. You still are. Do you feel okay?”
His eyes connect with mine, looking but not seeing. He blinks, disorientated.
“I……? I didn’t….. can’t…..”
He breaks off, breath hitching and face contorting. His hand flies to his stomach, which I can hear churning in discomfort.
“Ouch. I think you’re in for a few rough hours, Frank. Is there anywhere you want me to take you, or would you prefer to ride it out at my house? You’re more than welcome.”
“I…..I don’t……. I live alone. I don’t have family.”
I sigh at his obvious lying, but let it slide. I send Bandit off to get a bucket for when he starts puking. Iero sits tiredly on the table, eyes flickering.
“So… when…..the cops?”
“What? Speak up.”
“When…..when are the cops getting here?” He asks wearily.
I stare at him idiotically, not understanding. “What do you mean?”
“I’m…..a smack addict and a self harmer. Not exactly normal behaviour. They’ll either arrest me or send me to an asylum,” He murmurs.
“I didn’t call the police. I don’t exactly have the best history with them and I don’t think they’ll take kindly to the fact that I’m harbouring you, They’ll probably assume I’m involved somehow.”
“It’s none of your business,” I say bitterly. Now that I know he's safe, I feel anger build within me. What a fool this child is, to waste something as precious as life in such a spectacularly terrible way. A faint, tired smile grows on his face.
“You used to be just like me, didn’t you?”
Tonight’s going to be a very long night.
[*Okay, I am HORRIBLE because yet again I needed to continue to another chapter. The next will be the last, I promise!