"I don’t know myself anymore, and honestly, I don’t know if I want to."
For the next couple of weeks, Gerard and I stuck together, watching each other’s backs, and avoided any trouble. He grew more and more comfortable around me even though his personality stayed as introverted and reclusive as it was when I met him, but I was glad. Even so, I had to know more about him, and what him so withdrawn to the world. I was sure that he wasn’t originally as quiet as he was; within the weeks that he became comfortable with me, I had made him laugh, and I recognized that he had been happy before this. I mean, obviously, I don’t know anyone who would want to go to prison, but it seemed he had more baggage than the thoughts of being in a single place for the rest of his life. So, given that he seemed comfortable enough around me, I had to ask about his past. If he told me something, anything, it would give me a good idea as to why he acted in such a way, only showing who he really used to be for mere seconds.
It was getting colder outside being that it was almost December, so soon, us prisoners would spend our “outside time”, inside in the mess hall or gymnasium for exercise. Gerard and I chose to stay in the mess hall to sit and talk, or to just clear our minds silently, but today, I decided that I would ask about him. Once he opened up, we had only talked about me; only questions about me were asked, and he seemed like one who didn’t want to delve into his own life, so I kept away. Today was different, though; I had told myself that for Gerard’s sake, he would benefit more to tell someone what drained him so much that he could not act like himself. Of course, I could only assume that he used to be an adequately cheery person based on his subtle, infrequent actions, but even if I were wrong, what difference would it make? Justifying to myself that it couldn’t hurt anyone, I asked,
“Gerard, can I ask you something a little personal?” We had been sitting in silence as we sometimes been for minutes before, sitting across from each other at the table, so he unattached himself from whatever he was thinking and peered up at me. I assumed he knew the basics of what I was going to ask. Slowly, he nodded. I rubbed the back of my neck, wondering if it was a bad idea, to bring up Gerard’s hidden past, but I sighed, and said,
“What are you in here for?” As I expected, he became tense and didn’t answer. I shrugged to myself and wondered if I should have waited for him to become more relaxed around me. But not willing to give up, I asked, “Would it help if I told you what I did? I mean, I regret what I did a lot, but you can’t change the past. However, you can change your future, and you can fix yourself for doing wrong. The sooner you wrap your head around your crime, I think the sooner you become more accepting of yourself and your actions prior.” Gerard seemed to understand and nodded to that I could tell my story. In all honesty, it was still a hard tale to tell, and I have always felt guilty, but I told it anyway.
“So, I was eighteen at the time, a senior in high school, and I had a girlfriend of three years. I really loved her; she actually made school bearable,” I listened to myself speak, a little disappointed that my story seemed cliché, “and I considered myself a pretty good boyfriend. I did make one mistake though: I got her pregnant. I wish I could have prevented that, but what was done, was done, and I told her that I would support her no matter what she chose. She chose that she would keep it, and maybe give it up for adoption once it was born. I respected her decision, and at the same was proud of myself for not being an irresponsible douche-bag like the ones who would leave as soon as they found out he had impregnated his girlfriend. Anyway, I guess I was blinded by my optimism, because I didn’t realize what she was doing behind my back. I walked into school one day and everyone seemed to be whispering about something; and I figured out it was about me. I wasn’t too surprised at first, I just thought that they had found out about my girlfriend’s pregnancy, but I was missing another piece of information. Someone came up to me, I don’t remember whom, and told me that my girlfriend, my pregnant girlfriend, had been sleeping with another person. In my complete rage, I don’t remember what happened, but they told me that I went on a furious tear through the school, after finding out the classroom of the guy my girl cheated on me with.” I sighed, taking a break to compose myself, then,
“Apparently, I burst into the room and started kicking the shit out of this poor guy. I’m sure, I’m completely sure I didn’t want to kill him, I swear,” I said truthfully. Gerard showed no emotion, but was listening; I could tell. “But, the witnesses in the room who testified in court said that I swung a metal chair at his head over and over; so many times that he couldn’t even have an open casket funeral.” I took another deep breath. “Then, they said that I ran out of the room to my girlfriend’s class, and did the same to her.” I was choking on my words now. The sentences that came out of my mouth were much more powerful than I had thought. Out loud, the mental re-enactment I had imagined my rage to be was so much worse than I had made myself think. Only now could I understand how mortified the listener was.
“No one stopped me. I guess they were too shocked, or scared I would harm them, too. Some people tried to pull me off of her, but it was too late. In trial, they showed me the picture of the crime scene and their corpses. His head was split open, and her neck was twisted in an unnatural angle. I pleaded guilty. I wanted to be punished. I needed to be punished; I took three lives. I took a life that wasn’t even completely living yet: a life that could have been my creation. The trial didn’t take any time at all after I heard all the testimonies and evidence of what I did and pleaded guilty. I don’t know how I can forgive myself. I took the life of a person I didn’t know, the only woman I ever loved, and one who didn’t even get to experience life on earth. Sometimes I wish New Jersey had the death penalty so I can get what I deserve.” I was almost at tears, evoking the painful memories of the pictures and stories permanently carved into my memory.
“Don’t ever say that, Frank,” Gerard said, now staring at me fiercely. I sighed, rubbing the bridge of my nose, nodded and said,
“I’m sorry… I just really regret it and I had some really bad anger management problems and I just went on a furious rampage. After therapy, I feel like I’ve gotten so much better, but it’s still in me. How I reacted in the laundry room to save you, I’m not so sure if it was the right way to react. I used violence, the last thing I really wanted to use, and I negated everything that I had made myself act over the years. I feel like I’ve failed again.”
“No, how can you say that? You saved me, Frank. You did something brave that saved someone. Sure, maybe you used violence, but it was for good. It was to save someone from pain.” I rubbed my forehead now, regretting that I had to relive that experience, but I knew that I had made Gerard feel more comfortable in confessing his own immoralities.
“So, why are you here?” I asked calmly, not wanting to sound oppressive, but urging him to speak at the same time. He rubbed his right eye tiredly, and exhaled. Finally, he said,
“I killed my brother. I took my brother’s life.” I leaned forward, and asked,
“Why?” He looked at me painfully, and I knew he hated remembering those memories, but I insisted him to. Finally, he gave in, and told the complete story.
“I loved my brother. I loved Mikey. He was my only sibling, my only family, my only friend for years, but I had to do it. I had to kill him, Frank,” he inhaled sharply before continuing, “We lived together, Mikey and I, in Newark. Our parent’s had died years before, we really didn’t have any relatives at all, and we had our separate jobs, each contributing to our share of rent and the bills. We were so close ever since we were kids, and we had always been best friends. We did live in a dangerous area, but it was all we could afford and I think we were both happy. We weren’t picky, we weren’t spoiled, and I was happy just to be able to feel happiness. I was an accountant, and Mikey worked at a Laundromat, and he usually came back home earlier than me when we worked. On that day, it was in the fall, so the sun went down earlier than before, so I always walked home in the dark. I usually kept a handgun with me for protection; after all, it was one of the most dangerous cities in the state. So, I was walking home, my hands in my pockets, the gun in my right hand just in case. I had grown used to the dangers of the city, but by no means did that mean I would let my guard down. I finally reached home, but… but,” Gerard stopped talking, and seemed horrified at himself.
“Hey…” I said, reaching over, about to tell him he didn’t have to continue, but he pushed my hand away, took in a shuddering breath, and continued,
“I got home, and started walking up the stairs to the front door, and I heard something coming form the side of the house. The sound was obscure and like nothing I had ever heard before, so I kind of got freaked out because I was afraid it was someone or something dangerous, so I ran inside, and called for Mikey. I called for him over and over but he didn’t answer, so I panicked. I called his cellphone, but he didn’t answer, so I ran outside again, looking around in panic, still calling his cell phone. I calmed down a little to think of a plan, but while I was thinking, I heard Mikey’s ringtone: a special one he had saved for me, our favorite childhood song, coming from the side of our house. I ran to the side of the house, and… I –I…” he stopped again, this time, he could not keep himself together, and tears were almost overflowing from his eyes. I got up from my seat across from him to sit beside him and put my hand on his shoulder, gripping it, showing him that I was there for support. After a few breaths, he continued again,
“I went to the side of the house, and he was lying on the ground in his own blood. He was dying on the ground and writhing around, choking on his own blood. There was this huge gash in his throat and he was gasping; I’ve never seen anyone heaving and needing more air than I had seen Mikey need it. Every time he breathed in, the deep cut in his throat opened and gushed more blood, more and more and more, and his hands groped around his neck and face. Whoever had done this must have severed his vocal cords because he was screaming, I could tell he was screaming, but there was no sound. Only gasps of desperate air, and I didn’t know what to do. He was in so much pain, Frank. He was dying, he was dying so painfully, and I couldn’t help him. I wish I could have saved him, but with the amount of blood he had lost already, he was far past that. I threw myself at him, holding his hands down, so he could relax, and I was waiting for him to finally go, to finally die so he wouldn’t have to live this pain. I stared into his eyes for what seemed like hours, waiting for them to die away. I held him arms down and was crying so hard, telling him I loved him and telling him that he was going to be okay, waiting for him to go in peace, but he kept screaming silently, and he was staring at me, his eyes seemed to penetrate my skull. His silent screams and desperate gasps of air were killing me, tearing me apart, and he wouldn’t die. I didn’t have a choice anymore, Frank. I couldn’t take seeing him like that, so I just did it impulsively. I pulled out my handgun and shot him in the head. The panicked scared look faded and the bright light behind his eyes that I enjoyed seeing every day was gone. Everything stopped. The shot echoed through the streets and rung in my ears, and I watched Mikey stop moving. I don’t remember what I was thinking then, I don’t remember anything after that, but I remember being dragged away to a police car, hands cuffed, and watching Mikey’s body being pulled into a body bag. I killed Mikey. I killed my brother and only friend. I don’t know myself anymore, and honestly, I don’t know if I want to.” Gerard ended with a sigh, and dropped his head on the table, taking in deep sobs. I sat, dumbstruck. It was far worse than I had imagined. I had imagined him to be a psycho killer, one who seemed normal on the inside, but completely crazy on the inside, but he wasn’t. He was a normal citizen, trying to survive the brutal obstacles of life, and some other crazed maniac had ruined his psyche and life.
“Gerard, you didn’t kill your brother, you saved him.” Gerard quieted his sobbing, but kept his head on the table. Other inmates were glancing over at us now, a little perplexed by Gerard’s hopeless sobs. I repeated,
“You saved him.” He replied, muffled,
“I killed him. I killed the only one who meant anything to me in my life.”
“Gerard, just minutes ago you told me that I was brave. Even though I used violence, I was brave to sacrifice something of myself to save another, you. I did use violence, but it was for good. It was to save you from pain, and that’s exactly what you did for Mikey. You loved him so much, you couldn’t stand to see him like that, so you did the only thing that seemed logical and it was. You took the pain away, so he could leave in peace. After all, he deserved that much, didn’t he? You didn’t kill him, Gerard, you saved him.”
“But I took his life,” Gerard hiccuped.
“That may be true, based on cold, hard facts, but he would have died anyway if you left him there, wouldn’t he? Morally, you did him right my giving him a quick, peaceful death.”
“They didn’t believe me though. They thought I slit his throat and shot him,” he choked on the word ‘slit’, a menacing edge to the ugly word.
“It doesn’t matter. The judicial system is just facts. It’s whoever can present their evidence most accurately. They didn’t care about your motives; they didn’t believe you because they had substantial evidence against you. It doesn’t matter what they tell you, Gerard. I can tell you right now, you were right. I sounds wrong to say it out loud, but you were right for shooting Mikey. In a way, you saved his life. You saved his life from ending horribly, and you shouldn’t regret that in anyway. Believe in what you believe, Gerard. You’re not a heartless murderer; you’re just a man. You’re just a man who had never experienced anything to do with crime. You’re just a non-violent, harmless man, Gerard. I can tell you, you don’t belong here. You don’t deserve to be punished. You should be commended, but instead, they ruined you. They shoved lies into your brain, Gerard, and I can’t stand that. Listen to me,” I brought his head off of the table, and made him face me, “You did the right thing. If only they had believed you, they would have agreed too, believe me. I’m so sorry, Gerard. I can’t imagine how horrible you feel.” I had never been so emotionally moved by anything like this before. I finally understood Gerard’s need to be reserved; he was ashamed of himself for killing his only friend and believed he needed to be punished. He was crying on my shoulder now, as I had held him, telling him how brave he was, and more inmates started to stare. Gerard’s sobs echoed through the mess hall, and no one spoke. I couldn’t imagine how torn he was between what he believed and what he was told. He didn’t know which was right, and I knew that I had to convince him that he was right. Those judicial bastards were the heartless murderers, not Gerard. They had killed his self-worth and happiness. They stole his morals from him, and I had to steal them back for him.
A/N: For those who have read my previous story, "Homeless", did you see the reference? Also, just in case any of you became confused, I edited the first chapter, and just to clear things up, Frank only committed murder, not rape. Sorry if I got you confused :P