"My dream? You think this was my dream? I never even wanted to be in this band. You needed a guitarist and I pitied you. I never thought I’d be stuck with you for the next eleven years.”
“Frank, what the fuck?”
I hear them storming after me, furious. Again. And they have every right to be, because I messed everything up. Again. I speed up, hoping to make it to the dressing room before they catch me.
I glance behind me quickly and let out a small sigh of relief. I have plenty of room, there’s no way they’ll catch me before I get there and the door has a lock, I made sure to check that before the show. I turn the corner in front of me, planning to sprint the last twenty feet or so to the dressing room.
But as I turn the corner my eyes land on an unwelcome sight. Bob is standing in front of the dressing room door, waiting for me. Any other day it would have been a lovely surprise having Bob back. I didn't realize how much I missed having him on tour with us, but seeing him here now it hits me hard. I love him, I love all these guys. My band, my brothers. Well, they were anyway. Until last month when she came back into my life and everything changed.
“Shit” I mumble under my breath as I turn around, only to find that the guys have made it to the corner and are standing there, blocking the only other way out.
I stop and lean back against the wall, sighing. I knew it would come to this. I’d tried mentally to prepare myself for it. Still, I know I’m not ready. I’ll never be. But I have to do this. It’s the only way.
“What’s going on, Frank?” Bob asks quietly, slowly closing the distance between us.
“Why don’t you tell me?” I snap back. “You’re the one who’s fucking cornering me in the middle of the god damn hallway!”
“You missed the meet and greet this morning,” Ray comments. I can't meet his eyes so I pick at the hem of my shirt. His tone is simple. Conversational even. I almost expect him to ask me about the weather. He’s not accusing me of anything. Not yet.
“I fucking told you. I overslept,” I mumble. He is staring intently at me but I can’t make myself meet his eye.
“Again?” He asks, doubtfully. “Frank, you’ve missed every meet and greet, interview, and signing we’ve had scheduled for the past month.”
I glare at him. “And I’ve explained all of them to you.”
He continues staring at me. Ray, the organized one. The one who wouldn't assume the worst about me even when the worst is all he's seen lately. Even though he's put everything he is into this band and I'm treating it like nothing. I know he doesn’t believe my excuses. It’s written all over his face. And I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t believe my excuses either. But still, he's trying to hold on to some shred of hope that I have a good reason for all this. It breaks my heart that I'm about to break his.
“You think I’m lying?” I snap at him.
“I think there’s something you’re not telling us.”
“Well that’s fucking great. My own band doesn’t trust me.”
“Frank,” Mikey says from behind me, his voice so soft it’s almost a whisper. “If it’s drugs or booze, we can help. I mean look, we got through it with Gerard and me. We can help you get through it too. Just….talk to us. Please. Let us help you.”
His words make me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Booze! If only it were that simple. I am touched that he wants so bad to help me but he can’t. He won’t understand, he’s part of the problem. He’s not helping me he’s only making this harder. I can’t stay here anymore. I can’t be a part of this band anymore. If I stay with them even one more day…well, I don’t want to think about how awful that would be.
I feel my hand in my pocket, fingering my phone. I think about the call I received this morning.
“Come on, Frankie, you promised!” Her soft voice rang through the speaker into my ear. “You promised you’d be out by the end of the month. That’s tomorrow!”
“I know. I will be. Just, give me some space, ok? It’s going to be tough to break it off with them, they’ll want to know why.”
“Just tell them about us.”
“Yeah like they’ll believe that.”
“Well I have faith in you, babe. You’ll find a way to end it. You know what I’ll do if you don’t.” Her laugh echoed as though she were in a tunnel.
“Two days, Frankie. And then you’re all mine.”
“You can’t help me,” I growl at him. "None of you can."
Gerard snorts. I glare at him. His fire engine hair makes his anger seem almost tangible.
“You think that’s funny?” I ask.
“The way you’ve been playing recently? I think Ray’s the only person in the world who can help you.”
“You have been blowing songs at every show for the past month,” Mikey adds.
I look all of them over carefully. Bob hasn’t said much, but the disappointment is plain in his eyes. Mikey looks the same, and the helpless confusion in his voice kills me. Ray looks hurt. He’d offered his help and I’d thrown it back in his face. The three of them look sad and frustrated.
And Gerard, well, he looks furious. And he should be. Nobody has worked harder or given up more for this band than he has. And here I am throwing it all away. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hated me for the rest of my life.
But, then again, that was the plan, wasn’t it?
“Yeah, well fuck you. The songs weren’t any good anyway. My changes just improved them.”
“Is that why we just got booed off the stage?” Gerard snaps.
“Whatever, that wasn’t my fault. Maybe the fans just got sick of your whining.”
Gerard looks like he’s about to hit me but Mikey puts a hand on his arm, stopping him.
“What the hell is your problem, Frank?” Bob speaks up again. “You’re one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen and it used to be quite obvious that you loved this band more than anything. It’s like your heart’s not in it anymore. What the fuck happened?”
“My problem? Who the hell says I have a fucking problem? There’s noth-”
“Alright you shut up and listen to me,” I'm interrupted by Gerard, his hand grabbing my shoulder and slamming me back into the wall. “For almost a month you’ve been missing appointments, coming late or drunk to practices, and fucking up the shows. Damn it, Frank, you're the guitarist in a world famous band. You’re living your dream. You’d better start appreciating what you’ve got or you’re going to lose it.”
“My dream? You think this was my dream? To play crappy songs to the preteen masses with the most untalented musicians I’ve ever met? You think that’s my dream? I never even wanted to be in this band. You needed a guitarist because Toro couldn’t handle it on his own and I pitied you. I never thought I’d be stuck with you for the next eleven years.”
Now I've done it, point of no return. Ray won't look at me. Mikey's staring at me like I've grown tentacles. The disappointment on Bob's face cuts like a knife. And Gerard...
“Well, we’d hate for the great Frank Iero to feel like he’s stuck with us.” Gerard’s voice is incredibly quiet and controlled. Quite honestly he’s scaring the shit out of me. He lets go of my shoulder like dropping a filthy rag. “If we’re so awful why are you still here?”
I lean in, knowing he’d like nothing more than to beat the smirk off my face. So I smirk wider. In a voice coated in fake sweetness I answer, “Because you’d fall apart without me.”
His eyes are cold and full of hate. Goading, I continue, “I’m the only good thing about this band. Without me you wouldn’t last two weeks.”
“Watch us,” Gerard growls and then he spins on his heel and storms off. “I never want to see your fucking face again Iero,” He shouts back over his shoulder. “If you’re so great, try a solo career. We don’t need you.”
A thick tension fills the air. Mikey gives me one last questioning look, then he turns and follows his older brother, Ray right on his heels.
“Congratulations,” Bob says from behind me. “You’ve just thrown away everything you worked for. I don’t know what sick reason you’ve got for doing this, but I hope it’s worth it.”
With that he walks away up the hallway, following the band. As he turns the corner out of sight I let myself slide slowly down the wall until I'm sitting on the ground and hang my head in my hands.
Don't worry, I think. You are.