Gerard was walking to work. It was the middle of February and the wind was snapping at his bare skin. As he pushed through the wind, he glanced at the wall where Mikey once sat. He missed walking past him. Something was missing now. He wished he had remembered to drive up to Ridgewood on the weekends as he had planned before. He hadn’t visited at all like he promised to Mikey, but he just didn’t have the energy to do it. He rubbed his bloodshot eyes and sighed. He felt extremely weak. He did not drink on Saturday. He missed Bandit and Lindsey too much. Though he appreciated seeing his family again, he still was surrounded by darkness the whole day. He was at the point where the people who he loved did not help. Bandit could not save him anymore. Bandit had been more excited than she had ever been when she found that her father had not left before she woke. She would not let go of him as when he picked her up. Lindsey on the other hand, had only half-heartedly hugged Gerard and told him that she really missed him. Gerard thought to himself that this system worked undeniably well. Drink every day but on Saturdays. Only then could he be safe to Bandit. He would persevere through depression to be with them. He did drink on Sunday though. Arriving at work, no one was there yet, the sun was still rising, and so Gerard decided to rest his eyes until the workday officially started. He ended up drifting off on the wooden desk.
Gerard felt someone shaking him as he slept on his desk.
"Way!" Gerard snorted awake and swerved around to find Fleischman standing behind him. Scrambling to collect himself, Gerard apologized and started to file the papers around on his desk.
“Gerard...” Gerard paused and looked up at his boss. “If you keep acting like this, well, I’m going to have to...”
“I understand, Mr. Fleischman,” Gerard spoke quietly. He hung his head and scowled at his own lethargy. The alcohol was making his thoughts and feelings in disarray, and Gerard was not quite sure how he truly felt at the moment. All he knew was that everything was too confusing for him at the moment. He couldn’t choose between his family and drowning his sorrows. He wasn’t able to be happy around his family, and the only way he could even come close to joy was through alcohol. Just as Fleischman left, Gerard felt a pang of something he hadn’t felt since high school. He felt as if he had hit an invisible wall. He couldn’t envision the future anymore. There was no more hope. There was no more future. It stopped here. The only thing that mattered was now, and now, Gerard felt hopelessly abandoned. He realized then, like a shot in the chest, that he didn’t want to choose anymore. He didn’t want to be alone or depressed or anything. Whatever positivity he had in his life was not enough. He wanted it to end. But he knew this was wrong, he couldn’t leave his family. He couldn’t leave Bandit. He knew he was a danger to her, but as Lindsey had said, she worshipped him, and the last thing he wanted was for her to lose her devotion towards him. As for Lindsey, she seemed apathetic towards Gerard. She seemed tense and paranoid. It was his fault. He never saw or even had a proper conversation with her in days. Maybe it was better off this way. It was better for her not to see him like this.
During his lunch break, instead of buying food, Gerard went to the nearby liquor store and bought the cheapest bottle of wine they had. Gerard walked along the sidewalk to Mikey’s old area. Sitting against the wall, he kept the bottle in the bag and managed to pull out the cork with his teeth. He felt irrefutably faint. His vision was almost always doubled and he frequently saw hazy black spots spotting his sight. This was not only because of the constant drunkenness, but also because of the lack of nutrition he was receiving. He had lost about 20 pounds in the past two months. When he wasn’t drunk and could somewhat think straight, he knew he should eat, but he couldn’t bring himself to. The sight of food made him sicker than he was already. At this point, he could care less about his health. Finishing off about half of the 750 mL bottle of wine, he fell into a complete feeling of euphoria; the feeling that he so desperately wanted to feel. Unfortunately, he could only accomplish this with alcohol. Smiling to himself, having reached his goal, he let himself fall asleep on the side of the sidewalk.
He woke hours later to find the sun slowly descending behind the building. Shit, he thought to himself. He glanced at his watch to find that the hands were pointing as around 4:30. Panicking, he staggered to his feet. He stepped in a puddle of wine that had come from overturned wine bottle. Not bothering to pick it up, he wrapped his jacket tighter around him. The black spots that had barely bothered him before grew in size and almost completely covered his vision. He swayed with each step he took and almost ran into many people. He was aware that they were giving him judging looks, but his priority at the moment was to get back to work. Surely, there was hell to pay from Fleischman. He prayed that Fleischman was too busy to notice his absence. As much as he hoped and prayed, though, he knew that Fleischman had been keeping an eye on his and had most definitely noticed his truancy. He tried to sneak to his cubicle, but just as he passed his boss’ door, to his dismay, he heard his name being called sternly. Gerard walked through the door, attempting to act completely sober,
“Gerard, don’t think you’re fooling anyone. I wasn’t born yesterday,” Fleischman said calmly. He didn’t seem to be angered, but a little concerned. Gerard sat rigidly in the chair in front of his boss’ desk. He pleaded for no consequences in his mind, but his prayers would be futile. Fleischman had been planning this for weeks.
“I’ve noticed, your co-workers noticed. You’re not exactly keeping this very secret, you know.” There was no turning back now, Gerard was trapped and there was not way out. “I think you know that you haven’t been the greatest employee. I’ve had many instances where I’ve considered firing you, Gerard, but in the end, the company just couldn’t afford it. But that was then. Now, I have people lined up to take your job, Gerard. People who actually have a business and mathematics doctorate.” Through his half blinded sight, Gerard could see the look of sorrow on Fleischman’s face. No, it couldn’t be, he thought. This couldn’t be the end. “So, unfortunately, Mr. Way, we’re going to have to let you go. I’ve had enough of this, and as much as I hate to see your health deteriorating, we can’t afford to have a drunk man stumbling around the office.” Gerard cringed at the harsh words that seemed to spat at him. “You have to be let go, I’m sorry, but you can clean your cubicle tomorrow.” Gerard could not speak. He sat in the chair and stared at the Degas painting above Fleischman’s head. In the painting, a dainty ballerina was gracefully balanced on her toes. The movement in the painting distracted Gerard from his shock for a moment. If only he could live in art. If only he could climb inside the painting and escape this hell he was living in. He could watch ballerinas dance blissfully, no troubles at all. Anything, just anything was possible in art. Gerard was almost brought to tears in his whimsical fantasy of living art. If only, if only this would all go away, he thought. He tried to imagine the girl in the painting leaping out in one graceful movement and swiftly taking Gerard by the arm to bring him into the perfect world the painter had created. These thoughts only lasted a couple seconds. Soon, he left the office without a word and onto the street. This was it. He had nothing left. As he walked home, he kicked the wine bottle that he had left earlier on the sidewalk. Still neglecting to pick it up, he shuffled on. His system had failed him. He had to provide for his family, but didn’t want to hurt them with his drunkenness, but indirectly, his drunkenness was hurting them. He had no choice. He had to stop drinking and deal with his problems. He was weak. He didn’t need alcohol to silence his thoughts of self-doubt. But he was past this point. He didn’t only drink to be happy, he was addicted. He couldn’t live without it.
Mikey had worked extremely hard, and being that he had all the time in the world, he always worked overtime. He had learned everything that there was to know about this particular Rite Aid. He recognized the people who frequently came in. He understood everything that went on, and because of this, he had earned a raise from Mr. Waters. All the employees and the employer were impressed with his dedication and accepted him as part of the co-workers family. He saved more than a couple thousand dollars with all of the time he had worked. A month before, Frank had taken him to the bank to make an account. As Mikey worked harder and received higher pay, he knew that he would have to leave Frank’s house soon to able take care of himself. Now, he was sitting in the kitchen, making himself a snack, while Miles sat cooing and giggling in his high chair. As Mikey moved around the kitchen to find a bag of chips, he overheard Frank talking on the phone.
“Fuck! Are you serious?” said Frank into the phone. Mikey, finding the bag of chips, placed them on the table, and picked up Miles. Holding Miles to his chest, he listened.
“Well, we can’t have him in the band can we? Shit- just before we go on tour, too. What are we gonna do?” A pause, then, “I don’t know, man, that’s gonna be hard. We can’t just get a random guy to start playing bass for us; we don’t know them. This tour is huge, but we might have to postpone it.” A few pauses later, Frank said goodbye to the person on the opposite line and hung up. Frank walked into the kitchen and Mikey made pretend that he didn’t hear the conversation and played with Miles, tickling him, as the little baby squealed happily. Frank was bent over in the fridge, rummaging around for something. Bringing out a Coke bottle, he twisted the cap open and exhaled heavily. He looked up at Mikey who was questioningly looking at Frank. Noticing this, Frank explained,
“We just found out that our bassist had been wiring money from the band’s account to his. I mean, they caught him before he could do any real damage, but the worst part it, we don’t have a bassist and we’re about to go on tour,” he muttered to himself, “I thought Pedicone was a good guy…” Mikey responded sympathetically,
“Man, that sucks. I can’t even imagine how complicated it’s going to get,”
“Yeah, I think we’re going to have to postpone the tour a couple months.”
“The fans’ll be devastated.” Frank nodded at this statement regretfully. He took a gulp of the soda and went back into the living room to make another call.
Gerard didn’t know what to do anymore. The only purpose he served before was to support his family. Now that he couldn’t, nothing was left. There was nothing to care about anymore, nothing to live for anymore. He couldn’t tell Lindsey this. He couldn’t break it to her. Surely, she would leave him and take Bandit with her. He couldn’t deal with that, so he decided to hold off telling Lindsey for as long as he could. Who knows, maybe he wouldn’t even be there to tell her. Once again, Gerard went down to the parking garage and opened the trunk to block his feeling of regret, just like he had every day before.
It was Monday, and Mikey had gotten the day off for working so hard. He was sitting in his room, nearing the end of American Psycho. Before he finished to book, he got up and stepped out of his room. He was so close to finishing it, but he felt the need to stretch his legs and walk around. As interesting as the book was, his eyes became tired and his neck started to stiffen. He aimlessly walked around the seemingly empty house. It was totally silent with the exception of Mikey’s footsteps echoing through the walls. Jamia had taken the three kids out for a walk and Mikey had no idea where Frank went. He found himself going downstairs to the studio room. It had been cleaned up very nicely with the help of Mikey and he was proud to contribute to it. He strolled around the huge basement until he came across a bass guitar. He smirked to himself and picked it up carefully. Slinging the strap over his shoulder and plugging it into a nearby amplifier, he turned the volume down and started to familiarize himself with the strings that he used to be so obsessed with when he was younger. He barely remembered any songs, but his fingers seemed to lead the way pretty well. He started to play “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” by the Smashing Pumpkins. Seconds into the songs, he started to play a little louder. He was better than he had remembered and gained more confidence with every note he played. Soon, he was singing along.
“Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage!” In his moment, he did not hear Frank approaching him. When Frank started clapping, Mikey jumped and almost tripped over the amplifier. Frank chuckled, but urged,
“C’mon, keep playing. It’s really good!” Embarrassed, Mikey continued to play the song. Frank picked up a nearby acoustic guitar and started to play along with Mikey. Soon, Frank’s singing filled the room. The bass, guitar, and Frank’s voice, though simple and uncomplicated, fit together perfectly. Mikey was smiling now; this is what he had always wished for. He never had anyone to play with; he was always a lone instrument, but now he had Frank, and playing with him felt better than he had felt before. All the tension and paranoia flew out of his body with every measure he played. Finally, they ended the song. Frank exhaled loudly, shaking his head, a smile spread across his face,
“Mikey, that was great! How long has it been since you last played?”
“Oh, years and years ago. I didn’t even know if I could still play,” Mikey laughed. Frank thought for a moment, rubbing his left temple.
“You know, next week, we’re having auditions for a bass player, I can add you in so all the guys can hear you play.” Mikey’s eyes grew wide.
“Me?” he said, shocked.
“Of course, you. You’re really good!” Everything was happening too fast. These past months at Frank’s had been the best memories Mikey had ever experienced except for when he found out Gerard was his brother. Gerard. Mikey pondered on this. Why hadn’t Gerard called? Where was he? He did promise to visit. Mikey knew Gerard was just as overjoyed as he was to find that he had a brother, he could see it just by the way he had acted around Mikey, but what had happened? Mikey started to worry. What if something was wrong with Gerard? While Mikey fretted about his brother, Frank was presumably talking to one of the band-mates raving about Mikey’s talent. Once he ended the call, Mikey asked,
“What happened with Gerard?” Frank let the question sink in until he realized that he too, had temporarily forgotten all about Gerard. He admitted,
“I don’t know, we should call him up.” Frank glanced at the clock and read that it was about 6 in the evening. Gerard typically got home at around 5:30. Frank dialed Gerard’s number on his cellphone and waited as it started to ring. He put it on speaker and waited for someone to pick up.
Lindsey sat rigidly on the cold sofa. She had been sitting there for hours, staring at the wall. The tea that she had made before sitting down had completely cooled, yet Lindsey still held it tightly in both of her hands. The phone rang. She did not bother to move, let alone pick it up. After many rings, it went to voicemail.
“Hi, Gerard, Lindsey! Hey, just wanted to check up on you, let you know how Mikey’s doing,” Lindsey heard Mikey state a hello in the background, “We really hope you can visit soon, Gerard, Mikey really misses you. Take care, bye!” The message stopped. It was 6 in the evening and Lindsey had suddenly remembered that she had neglected to feed Bandit. She forgot to do everything lately. She even forgot to go to work sometimes. No wonder she got laid off. The arts program was not affordable to the school. Frankly, it was a miracle that it had stayed in the school for so long. She couldn’t tell Gerard though. She couldn’t bring herself to. It had been about 2 months or more since she had last been at the school, and her anxiety problems had re-appeared from before. Gerard was not paying attention to her, she had lost her job, and she wasn’t even capable of raising her own child. Was she not good enough for Gerard? Why wouldn’t he come home? Where was he every night? She grimaced at the fact that he though she was stupid enough to believe that he was at work the whole time, but at this point, she didn’t care anymore. It was bound to happen. She had never been a good wife or mother. She deserved this. She got up off the couch and went to Bandit’s room. She was sleeping on the floor, an almost empty packet of Ritz crackers next to her. When had she become so independent? Everything was moving too fast around her. She couldn’t deal with everything at once, and she knew she was on the brink of having an anxiety attack. Weeks before, she had gone back to her old psychiatrist and received a prescription for Xanax. In her deteriorating mental condition, she forgot to take her medication, or took too much of it at once. She had passed out for about an hour one time, and stopped taking it for about a week, but started again, not able to take the panic she felt every day. But she was fed up now. She had to find Gerard. Putting Bandit in bed, she put on her coat and went down to the parking garage to get the car and find Gerard. She arrived to the bottom level and started to walk swiftly passed the rows of cars. She finally reached the white Honda. Fishing her keys out of her pocket, she unlocked the door. She decided she would just drive around Belleville looking for him. She’d look at his work, at her parent’s house, everywhere, anywhere. She opened the door and screamed. Gerard lay in the passenger seat, limp and unconscious. The whole car smelled of alcohol and vomit and several empty bottle of hard liquor were scattered on the floor.
“Gerard!” Lindsey screamed, her voice cracking. She climbed over the drivers seat and grabbed Gerard collar. She shook it lightly, attempting to wake him up. “Gerard!!” she called again, almost screaming this time. She lifted his head in her hand and tried to lift him into sitting position unsuccessfully. He was boneless, and wouldn’t move at all. Laying him back down on the seat again, Lindsey put her ear to Gerard’s chest. She heard a slow beat echoing inside of his chest. She burst out crying, her throat choked her with every breath she took. Her face was wet, and her whole body was shaking. She collected the bottles on the floor and threw them into the backseat. She straightened Gerard’s body into a more natural position and moved his hair out of his eyes. She leaned over his face. It was more peaceful than she had seen in years. Her tears splashed onto his eyelids and cheeks and she leaned in to softly kiss his lips. They were bitter with alcohol.
“I’ll save you, Gerard. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” She started the car and pulled out of their parking spot.
You guys like it? Please understand that this story is in an alternate universe. I know that Pedicone was the drummer, but Mikey isn't exactly a drummer really, so I just switched the roles a little. Anyway, Please R & R if ya liked it!!!! I'd really appreciate if you did :D