For the life of me, I cannot understand him. He’s made it nearly four months, and although he’s not getting any better, it’s the fact that he’s still here that boggles my mind. The doctors gave him three months, and once again, he beat the odds. Part of me wants to believe that this is a sign… something to tell us that he’ll make it out alive. But the logical, weathered part of me knows that the just the notion is pure bullshit, and the doctors merely underestimated his ability to cling to what remains of his life.
“I can’t fucking believe it, though…” I said to Mikey. “He’s still conscious.”
“Don’t come to me looking for answers, Frank. I don’t understand it any more than you do.” He replied.
“Didn’t doctor whatshisface say he would go into a coma by now?”
“He said he wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Fuck, same thing.” I sighed. “I wish there was some way to fast forward past all this shit and just skip to the end.”
He let a bit of a chuckle out before answering me.
“Pretty fucked up to want your own best friend and brother to die, ain’t it?” He said.
“It’s already been drawn out for three weeks longer than we ever could have imagined, damn it I just want it to be over. I want him to be happy again.”
I want him to be perfect again.
“Why don’t you go for a walk or something?” He suggested. “You haven’t stepped foot out of the house in weeks… it would probably do you some good.”
“I can’t fucking leave Gerard... what if something happens while I’m gone? I would never, ever forgive myse-“
“Frank, what are the chances? He’s made it this far, what makes you think he’s gonna go now?”
He gave me that stupid puppy dog smile that I haven’t seen in months. That same one that I could never resist before, and apparently still can’t.
“Stay with him.” I said. “Promise me you won’t leave his side for a minute.”
“If that’s what it takes to get you out of here, I promise.” He smiled at me.
Still feeling a bit unsure, I grabbed my jacket, slipped my worn-out converse on, and headed out the door.
The air was cold, yet there was a distinct warm spring breeze blowing around. I took a deep breath and let it fill my lungs, and it felt amazing. Like one breath was enough to rejuvenate my entire body and bring life into something dead.
If that were the case, I would’ve given the world to get Gerard out here long ago.
I walked along the broken pavement, unsure of where I was going, but too unaware to even care. My mind had drifted off to a distant place, one where none of this shit exists. Maybe I don’t even exist.
In this place, I don’t have a care in the world. I’m a child again, and the world is my playground. My demons haven’t found me yet; I am in the tender care of childhood innocence. It’s just me, the sun and stars, and the air around me.
The distant sound of a siren brought me back to this world like a slap in the face, and my first thought was “Gerard?”
But no, this is Jersey. Sirens are part of the background noise, just as cars, kids playing, people fighting, murder victims screaming…
Oh, you say that isn’t normal?
I looked around me, only semi-aware of where I was. On my left was a park with two children playing on the rarely-oiled play equipment. The squeaks that emitted from it made for a dreary, almost disturbingly simple scene. To my right was a seemingly never-ending line of run-down houses and unkempt grass in the front yards. This is the slum area of New Jersey.
My led feet have carried me farther away from home than I thought.
I don’t even care where I go from here. And I can’t honestly say I would mind if I added to the background noise as a murder victim, because at least I wouldn’t have to deal with what’s soon to come.
But IS it soon to come? We’ve waited for three months and three weeks. What’s that… 111 days, give or take? That’s a really fucking long time to live like this; spending my days on my knees, begging for death to take his suffering away. Yet for some reason, it doesn’t feel like it’s been as long as it has. Time has flown, and I don’t understand why.
You’ve spent half your time in a world in which he is not only alive, but immortal. That’s why.
He’ll always be immortal, to me.
One day, the dancing breeze will hold him, and carry him to me. And it will be him that combs his fingers through my hair and moves it around my face. One day, the snow will fall down onto the ground, quieter than the space between life and death, and I will see little pieces of him in every snowflake. One day, the sun’s rays will beat down on me in the midst of a beautiful summers day, and it will be him, keeping me warm when he’s not there to do it himself. And it will be all around me, just like his arms used to be.
But still, no matter how badly you want to touch him again or how hard you try, he won’t be there.
I found myself on the top of the bridge where I used to skip stones as a kid. I’d throw them into the pond below, and watch them as they hopped across the water, leaving ripples in the water all along the way. And as every child has at one point or another, I would wonder to myself “where do the ripples go?” And I would spend hours on end, skipping stones and watching the ripples disappear, in search of an answer that I never found.
Now, looking back on it, I wish I could’ve gone back and told myself that life doesn’t always have answers. And sometimes, you have to fight for it but other times, it’s best to just leave it and accept it as it is.
I could have saved myself a lot of heartbreak and confusion if I had known that as a kid. I’ve spent so much of my life yearning to know everything, but there’s still so much that I don’t know and never will.
You’ve finally learned, Frank. It took your best friend suffering to his death, but you’ve learned.
My phone vibrated inside my pocket and I found my way into the real world once again.
It was Mikey.
Frank get back here right now, it’s Gerard
No. No. No. No. No.
I started running back home, as fast as my weakened legs would carry me. A million scenarios ran through my mind, each worse than the last.
Is he getting better, by some miracle? Has he finally gone into a coma? Is he gone?
There aren’t a lot of options, but I don’t know what to think. I don’t think I WANT to think. At this point, it’s not even worth it.
I passed the park with the kids and the squeaky play equipment, the worn down houses with the unkempt grass and broken pavement, until I was at the front door of the one place in the world I would die to both be in and be away from.
“Ray? Mikey?” I screamed as I ran inside, kicking my shoes off at the door and throwing my jacket to the floor.
I ran into Gerard’s room to find both Mikey, Ray, and Gerard there, the first two perched on the edge of the bed with their hands encasing Gerard’s.
“What’s going on, is he alive…”
Ray handed me a piece of paper with Gerard’s distinctive writing across it.
I need the one who stays with me. His name is Frank.
I read the note over and over again, my brain not quite computing the words in front of me. Why does he need me? Why does he remember me?
“What?” I said to Mikey and Ray. “I don’t understand, how does he remember…”
“He’s dying, Frank.” Mikey said. “He wants to be with the one that has been there for him all this time.”
“The fuck… he’s been dying for the past four months, I don’t-“
“Feel his pulse.”
I put my fingers around his tiny wrists and felt around for his pulse. It was barely even there. Then I ran my fingers below his nose, and I felt no breath come from it.
“Move over.” I said.
Ray released his hold on Gerard’s hand and I took his place. His hand was as cold as a corpse.
Give it a few minutes, and the simile won’t be needed.
“Gerard…” I whimpered.
Tears poured out of my eyes as I came to realize how real all of this is. It all became so vivid, so quickly.
“Damn it, what can we do…” I cried.
“We can stay with him until it’s over.” Ray said in a near whisper. “That’s all we can do.”
This is happening. Finally. And I’m not sure what to feel.
“Gerard… you’re not going to suffer anymore. In a few minutes, you’re going to be perfect again. And nobody or nothing will ever be able to take that away from you again.” I said to him, stroking his hand gently. “You’re going to be the brightest star in the sky.”
Mikey choked on his tears as he struggled to say a few words.
“I hope you’re happier… up there. R-Remember all of us, please... because we’re never, ever going to forget you.”
Ray pushed Gerard’s limp black hair out of his face softly and spoke a few words of his own.
“You changed all of our lives, more than you could ever imagine. I can’t wait until the day we can live, knowing not only that you’re happy again, but that one day we’ll be with you and we can pick up where we left off.”
I took in every single detail of him, knowing it would be my last time to do so. His cheekbones, made even more prominent by his weight loss, his eyes which I couldn’t see, but knew were there, his lips that were once pressed against mine, his pale skin, his long, dyed black hair… and all of it is just as beautiful as it ever was, if not more.
I looked over at Mikey, who’s tears were cutting craters down his face as he stared at his brother. Then at Ray, who as always, was managing to keep himself together remarkably well as he kept his fingers on Gerard’s wrist, waiting for the moment he could no longer feel anything.
Minutes passed in silence, before Ray removed his hand from Gerard.
“He’s gone.” He cried quietly. “It’s finally done.”
Those words drove into my heart like stakes but sent a warm calm into my mind like nothing else ever could.
He’s gone, and he’s never coming back. I will never tell him that I love him again, or hear his beautiful voice radiate around the stage. I’ll never hold him until he falls asleep, or feel his safe embrace around me when I’m scared. I’ll never see his face light up when he’s happy, or wipe his tears away when he’s sad. I’ll never have to hide him from the horrors of this world again… someone or something else will take my place.
But he’s safe. He’s happy. And he’s finally perfect again.
“Goodbye, my angel.” I whispered.
I believe in angels. I believe because I know one.
I wonder if he still has that sketchbook up there…
Ray put his arm around me, and I put mine around Mikey. The three of us stayed close; each tear-stained and heartsore, but together sharing a bond of both loneliness and strength for our dear friend Gerard.
“He left this world too soon.” Mikey said with a contradictingly hopeful smile.
“This world isn’t a happy place.” Ray responded calmly. “This is the only thing that could’ve taken the sickness and pain away from him.”
“I wonder what he’s doing right now…” I said, fighting back a flood of tears as I spoke.
Ray’s eyes traced around the room, and then out the window.
“I’d bet you anything that he’s looking down on us right now.”
“Do you think he’s proud?” I asked.
“I think he’s prouder than we could ever imagine.”
I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer; they flowed down my face like waterfalls. But they weren’t for the fact that he’s gone… but for the fact that maybe he can see us right now. Maybe he’s right beside us, even though we can’t see him.
“What do we do now?” Mikey sniffled, burying his swollen eyes in his arm.
“We should probably get an ambulance here.” Ray answered. “I’ll go call.”
He headed for the kitchen, leaving Mikey and I alone with the remains of Gerard.
“How’re you doing, Mikes?” I asked, shifting closer to him.
“It’s hard to believe that this body in front of us it’s just that… a body. I don’t know.” He struggled to explain.
I can feel the real Gerard. Not the one lying on the bed with us, but the real Gerard. The one that merely inhabited the body for it’s time spent on earth. I can see him all around me, and I know that it’s all going to be okay. We’re going to make it through, and he’s going to be there every step of the way.