He chokes in his sleep sometimes. It keeps me up and awake. I never sleep for the 12 hours everyone assumes I do.
It's like a dry sob. Something dramatic and hard and soft and punctuating. I used to keep count of how many times he did it each night. Two. One. Four. Two. Two. None. But I couldn't find a pattern, and I knew I might have been drifting in and out of sleep, so my count was most likely off. No one else seemed to notice it. I heard him above me.
Sometimes, he would transform the noise into a word...or what might have been a word if he was even slightly literate in his sleep. I lie under the covers, running whatever came from his mouth through my head and trying to fit it with a term we used everyday. But nothing ever made sense.
He wasn't there when I woke up this morning. I checked in the bed; I hadn't heard anything from him all night. I figured he was either in too deep or out too far.
We're somewhere in the gray land of England and I haven't slept properly since Belgium.
It was a standing joke on the bus during tour. Every morning we'd try and guess where we were as the giant tin can either sped down the road at 80 miles per hour or sat there, looking lonely and defeated in some vast parking lot. Whoever got the closest in miles wouldn't have to buy cigarettes for the next three days.
Cigarettes. I thought about them momentarily, wondering where the fuck the pack that I had bought yesterday was before remembering Gerard had found them in his bunk, and then declared that they were legally his and if anyone--staring pointedly at /me/-- tried to steal them back, he'd show them just how long he could hold a headlock.
And then he proceeded to smoke one in my bunk, watching me, inviting and tempting me to chastise him or yell or say anything at all. A smirk played on his face and the cigarette's smoke misted over green eyes.
I let him do whatever he wanted and ignored him. My bunk smelled like nicotine anyway.
He crawled out of my covers shortly after, and no one saw him until sound check several hours later, when his eyes were back to being simply brown and when he looked at me, it was just with a smile.
It bothered me. But in a way that I was used to, and yet entirely unfamiliar with.
I crawled out of the bus into dreary fog, blinking around and trying to distinguish the shapes of building from the shapes of mist. The light had barely struck the ground, and I guessed it to be around five in the morning. I wanted nothing more than to slip back inside that door and hide discreetly under my covers, regaining the sleep I had given up last night to listen for the absent breathing of the man in the bunk above mine.
But it wasn't that easy for me; once I was up, I was up, whether I felt like it or not. I wouldn't get back to sleep. Restless. Antsy. Twisting until the sheets closed me into a coffin.
I shut the door softly behind me as to not wake anyone, and made my way clumsily around the side of the bus, the scent of the ocean reaching a delightful, wakening peak. The bay was a mere half a football field from the venue we were to play tonight, and I sought out the water, hoping it would give me some form of inner strength, as I felt like collapsing at any moment.
But he was already there, sitting on a bench, staring out into the ocean, his body fixed in the position and his form slightly blurred at the edges. I sat down next to him and grimaced as I felt the wet wood beneath me. He didn't turn to look at me. His jeans were slightly frayed at the ends, and his shirt was old, and his hair hadn't been brushed in several nights. But it wasn't all that unusual.
We sat there on that bench, our pants soaking in the minuscule droplets of water and watching the swirls of fog breath on the ocean's surface. He shifts and I shudder, suddenly aware of how cold I am. The flimsy jacket I slipped on over my equal flimsy shirt released all of my body heat and prevented any from returning.
"You're up late."
He doesn't look at me. It feels like we should be smoking, but we're not. I try hard to keep my teeth from chattering.
"You mean early."
"I mean you never slept at all, Frankie."
I didn't turn my head. But I felt that cold sinking feeling in my stomach; the kind you get when you know you're in trouble. The trepidation. The frightening uncertainty.
But it's always been like that with Gerard. If you knew what his next action was going to be, then you were living among the dead. He'll pull something at you, just to gauge your reaction. Just to weigh the relationship. He'll say something and store away your first initial response to use later, when he's passing judgment. He'll take the look on your face when he does something scandalous and decide whether or not it was worth it. He'd meet your eyes and read everything in them. He'd use it against you.
They were always green when he tortured you with them.
I still hadn't answered him. I pulled something typical from the back of my brain, knowing full well that he wouldn't except it as a suitable answer. But I said it anyway.
"I just have trouble sleeping. It's no big deal. I'm probably getting sick again."
"You're not sick," he stated matter-of-factly, and I expected him to continue questioning me, but he didn't. "But you will be if you stay out here much longer. You shouldn't be out this early anyway, it's too cold."
Sometimes I would fight back. If the will was strong enough; if I had the urge to defy him from sheer frustration, apathy, or just to toy with the terrifying idea, I would. But he'd look at me, and the dominance would fade.
"Why are you out here? If you get sick, fuck up your voice, then we're screwed."
Gerard shrugged. "I know my limits."
I wanted to say it. The words were dangling from the tip of my tongue. But to remind him of his failure, his falter, and his fall was cruel; and besides, I believed him now. He learns from everything he sees, touches, feels...I had no doubt that he knew when to stop.
But I held my tongue, and silence elapsed between us, broken only by the sounds of the sea and the distant sound of birds on the far shoreline. I can feel his pulse in the air, and I wait.
"Do I scare you, Frankie?"
Yes, I want to answer. God yes.
But I don't answer. He prolongs the silence in that should-be-awkward way that he has, and I know he realizes what I'm thinking. The cold was burning my throat.
I can't let him keep this up. He can read me like a fucking book, but I act like I'm unaware of that. I crack my voice against the chill to answer him.
He waits. It's a different kind of silence. He asks me discreetly to continue, without opening his mouth. I comply and fold my arms into my chest, trying to shake out the cold and fear in my veins.
"I can't tell if you do it on purpose. Every time you...look at me, I can feel it. It's disturbing."
I swallow thickly, instantly regretting it as it makes me want to choke.
"You can read me."
He finally turns his head, but I keep my gaze locked straight on the shoreline. I can feel him move next to me. I shouldn't be able to.
"Is that bad? Frank, why?"
I shiver involuntary. "I have things to hide. To hide from you."
I make the mistake of glancing up at him, merely out of habit and courtesy. I can't tell if they're green or brown, because I'm still tired and the mist is still hanging, and I don't want to try hard anyway.
"What do you hide from me..."
Once again, I don't answer. He draws in closer. I wish he wouldn't.
He whispers, "I know."
And his mouth is over mine and all I see is green.
The instant I can move I'm up and out of his reach, standing next to the bench and looking at him dangerously.
"Gerard, why--what the fuck, man?"
And I turn on my heel and head towards the small cafÃ© several streets away, my entire body shivering.
Sign up to rate and review this story