I let my fingers do their stuff on autopilot as I stared out into the stands, where tonight, there will be thousands of fans, cheering our names and singing the words like they would never sing again. I never get tired of it, I really don’t. You’d think that after a while as a band, the pure novelty of connecting with the fans, of feeling as if you are one with them, would wear off. Eventually you’d just play the tune, sing the song, and do your best to act out the feelings you once felt. You’d play along with the crowd’s little game because it made them happy, and because it’s all money, publicity, and more money. You don’t want it for the connection, the adrenaline rush every time you step out on stage, or the freedom of being able to completely express yourself in a way that is virtually impossible anywhere else. None of that matters.
To those people that think that, I have one thing to say: fuck you. Because this is my dream, this is our dream. And I could care less if we never make another dollar, if we have to go back to sleeping in a van, pissing on each other and puking our guts up from the copious quantities of alcohol coursing through our veins at any given time. I wouldn’t give this up for anything.
“Great job, guys.” Our tour producer yelled from the sidelines as we wrapped up the song.
Mikey, Ray, and myself staggered over to the side amps where we always stored our stocks of water and beer. Gerard stood at center stage, staring down at the microphone in his hands and rocking back and forth on his heels.
“Gerard come on, you of all people need water.”
He lifted his head up and quickly swerved in my direction.
“I’m a fucking singer of course I need water. And alcohol.”
Gerard, and only Gerard is willing and able to joke about alcoholism. We know, more than anyone else, what it did to him. We were the ones picking him up off the ground when he was too drunk off his ass to orient himself within the world. We were the ones holding his seldom-washed hair as he threw up, not always in the toilet. We were the ones that eventually ended up watching him every move he made, not even allowing ourselves sleep because if we turned our backs for a moment, we were giving him a chance to do the unthinkable, as he so badly wanted to do. It nearly killed him, yet he still goes around joking about it like it’s nothing.
“Gerard!” Mikey nearly screamed. “What the fucking hell are you doing?”
I awoke from my thoughts, startled and completely unaware as to what was going on – until I saw the beer bottle in Gerard’s hand. Which Mikey near after ripped away from him with more violence than I ever thought he was capable of.
“G-Gerard?” I stuttered, confused as to whether this was a joke, or completely real. For all I know, it could be a joke that Mikey – the overprotective little brother – would take as a reality. But then again…
He just stood there, his hand still cupped around the now imaginary beer bottle. Not a muscle on his body moved, not a word passed through his pale lips.
“You doing alright Gee?” Ray strained, looking at Gerard concernedly and wrapping one of his exaggerated curls around his middle finger.
“Uh… yeah.” Gerard replied slowly, almost confusedly. “I just forgot.”
“How can you forget what almost killed you?” I asked, more confused than Gerard could ever be right now.
He turned his head to face mine and opened his mouth, yet no words came out. Just breath, and breath means nothing. Only that he is alive.
By some miracle.
“Are you sure you’re okay to play the show tonight? ‘Cause we could cancel, call health reasons. At least it’s legitimate if you really aren’t feeling well, which you seem to not be.” Ray suggested.
“No, I’m okay. The fans are more important. I just need some sleep.”
“Gerard we’ve all seen you tired before…” Mikey started. “You don’t fall apart when you’re tired. You keep going, and insist on playing even when you haven’t slept in 2 days. You’re like Frank when he hurts himself.” He continued, gesturing towards me.
“Mikey’s right.” I agreed, taking a step closer to Gerard. “We can call health reasons, it’ll be fine… the fans will underst-“
“No, I’m fucking fine.” He interrupted with a hint of anger in his voice.
“Frank. Trust me, okay? What happened last time I told you to trust me?”
Two years ago. He told me to go to sleep, and promised me that if I did, nothing bad would happen. He promised that his face would be the first thing I would see when I woke up. I argued with the last scraps of energy I had left in me, saying that his mind wasn’t working right, and that he could decide to go jump off a bridge as soon as my eyes closed and my head hit the pillow. I said it wasn’t that I couldn’t trust him, it was that I couldn’t trust what the alcohol and drugs had done to him. I couldn’t trust his mind in the state that it was in. He sat down on the couch beside me, took my hands in his, and whispered “Frank, trust me. Please.” And he gave me that smile, that one that says “we’re gonna make it, I swear”. And what could I do but say yes?
The next morning I woke up, and he was right there in the kitchen, sitting on the counter drinking apple juice like a little kid. And I realized that I could trust him, even when he wasn’t really himself because somehow, some way… he always manages to be half-there.
I nodded my head back at him in understanding, and he reciprocated.
“Alright then. Helena.” He said, clapping his hands together and heading back out to his spot on center stage.
“Gerard, you forgot to drink your water.” I called out to him, soon after realizing that I sounded like his mother.
He needs a mother right now. Especially to tell him to “get to bed, young man”.
“I’ll survive.” He yelled back from halfway across the stage. “Trust me.”
There he goes with that damn smile again. I’m going to fucking kill him one of these days.
You’d miss the little bitch. You know you would.
“Hurry it up!” He wailed dramatically though his mic.
I ran out to my spot on stage, guitar-in-hand, half-laughing at the fact that this is the man I live for (and would give my life in a second for).
This is Frank Iero, reporting from the threshold between hell and the funny farm. I am currently sitting on a hotel room bed, basking in the warmth and comfort of an institution of living besides a tour bus. Yes, we actually get to stay in a hotel tonight, because we get a break tomorrow. No shows, no practice, we can just relax and sleep all fucking day if we want to.
I really really hope Gerard does just that, to be honest. I know he says he's fine, but I'm worried about him. His memory has turned to shit, just out of nowhere. Tonight he forgot part of the lyrics to Cemetery Drive. He just stood there for a couple of seconds about 3/4 of the way through the song, and this blankness took over his face, and it was like for those couple of seconds, he didn't even exist. Of course he did though, as he always does. Because he made some lousy excuse for it. What was it... "Hold this up, I've got a surprise for you all." And then what does he fucking do but pull an air horn out of his pocket, blow it right into the mic, and deafen the whole crowd. How does he do that?
Of course he's tired as hell and that isn't exactly helping anything, but it came on so suddenly. It's like tomorrow, he isn't going to remember his own name. I can only cross my fingers that Mikey can convince him to stay in bed tomorrow.
Touring is a walk in the park. It's just that the park is covered in dog shit.
This is Frank Iero, signing out.