My coffee tastes like old tar as it slides down my throat, but I don't mind. It's the caffeine that I seek, not an appeal to my tastes buds.
I choke out a rather violent cough and the plump waitress stares over at me with a look mixed with concern and not so discreet lust, despite my day-old stubble and weary, dry appearance. Dimly aware that I look like some sort of child molester, I take another sip of the coffee--black--and try and clear the fog that has recently settled in my brain. But it only makes me drowsy, and once I start contemplating if smashing my head against this table might possibly put me into a nice, long concussion, I shake my head and notice my shabby porcelain mug feels lighter.
I lift it up towards the waitress, who still glances back at me every twelve seconds or so, and she nods politely. When she brings it to me, she sets it down more gently than necessary, winking and smiling at her and I half expect her to call me "luv" and shove her bosom into my face.
But she didn't. She walked away and I pushed my empty coffee mug across the table and burnt my tongue on the second one. Wincing, I looked outside into the mass of pavement, my mind and conscious so out of focus that I didn't notice the door bell ringing until he slid into the seat across from me, his weight barely making a dent in the cushions.
"You still look like shit."
I cracked a smile. "Ditto, bitch."
But that wasn't entirely true. He looked like he'd been up for hours, when I know that I left him sleeping quietly in his bunk a little more than an hour ago.
"That may be true, but at least I don't have that "I'm-sick-like-a-dog-and-I-have-fucking-rabies-so-back-off" aura hanging around me."
This is why I loved Mikey. He was direct, and you would never be able to misinterpret what he said. If you wanted to know something straight out, from the heart--cruel or not--you'd go to Mikey. I had known this bastard since the third grade, and part of me knew that he was the best friend I could ever have; the other part just scoffed and looked him over disapprovingly.
"I'm not sick," I scowled, my mind jumping from the current conversation to the one I had not long ago. It felt wrong trying to lie, but I knew Mikey wouldn't believe me anyway, and, besides, I didn't know what was wrong with me these past few days, so it might even be right.
"Frank, you're always sick."
"I'm just jet-lagging, okay?"
I didn't feel as bad saying that, because it was mostly true. My internal clock told me it was near midnight back in Jersey, and that my weary body was demanding nothing but sleep. But as I had been recently denying myself that privilege, I had settled with a placebo: caffeine a la coffee.
"Yeah, alright," Mikey replied absently, waving to the waitress offhandedly and pointing at Frank's cup; the tone in his voice and his gesture spelled bad news for me, and I inwardly groaned as I could practically feel the words "We've got sooo much to talk about, Frankie baby..." radiating off of him.
When Mikey had settled in, several vanilla creamers added to his coffee, he took a long sip and locked eyes with Frank.
Frank, with a strong feeling of ease, met the gaze directly.
Mikey's eyes were hazel. Just hazel. They never changed back and forth between the two colours like some sort of insane bipolar reaction. I could trust him.
"So, what's wrong?"
I stare at him, ghosting my fingers over the rim of my steaming mug. The water condenses on my fingers and instantly draw back, grimacing at the reminder.
"Nothing." I shrug. "I'm just...working up to the tour, you know? Homesick already, I guess."
I'm fucking terrible at this. Usually it worked on my old teachers, Jamia....but never Mikey. Nor G-
"Jesus Christ, Frank," Mikey sighed dejectedly, pulling out a cigarette and a lighter. His voice became muffled by the white stick against his lips. "If you're going to lie, think up something believable."
I wanted to tell him that it was true. I was slightly homesick. But arguing was pointless with Mikey; he'd always win. Even if he had to pin you to the ground and whisper threats in your ear, he'd find a way to come out on top.
The fans thought he was cute and quiet. Every time I'd hear that, I'd inwardly roll my eyes. Oh, if they only knew.
"Fine, okay. My head's just a little fucked up right now."
He lit his cigarette and blew out smoke, and my eyes wandered casually over to the waitress, who was looking at us disapprovingly but didn't say anything.
"Maybe you shouldn't smoke in here, man."
He ignored me. "So, what's fucked up poor little Frankie's head? Is it a girl? A boy? The fact that you're still slightly out of place in everything you do?"
"Shut the hell up man...it's your brother."
Mikey twirled his cigarette between his fingers disinterestedly, but I knew that his curiosity was quipped. He idolized his brother, no matter how badass he seemed or how he could hide every emotion oh-so-well.
"Yeah? What about him?"
"He kissed me."
Mikey snorted, taking a slow drink of coffee. "Well, that's not unusual."
I looked up, and he met my glance with raised eyebrow.
"Oh, don't give me that ignorant look. You know that thing you do on stage? Yeah, that's called intimacy."
"Yeah, and you know that thing you do? Right now? It's called being a bitch."
Mikey smiled at the blatantly lame comment but didn't reply. He blew another trail of smoke from his mouth, and began to speak in the tone that people like to call "talking out loud."
"I don't know if you two do it for the audience, or for the show, or if you just don't know you do it all, but it's pretty funny from my point of view. It's sloppy and sweaty and funny, to me--" here he paused, a lapse in thought. "You keep it up, however, and it'll move to a next level, which my friends and I like to call dry humping."
"Would you please be serious for a minute?"
I sighed in irritation. Mikey wasn't taking this as I thought he would. I expected shock. Denial. Concern.
Not this amusing, normality shit.
"Mikey, your brother just kissed me," I said, lowering my voice for reasons I didn't even care about. "Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
Mikey shrugged. "Gerard kisses everybody. I don't know why you're getting so bent out about it."
"You weren't there, though..." I begin softly, more to myself than him.
"Thank god," I hear him mutter, chuckling lightly. I didn't respond, and he looked over at me, shaking his head and raising my face to look at his.
"Frank, listen. If it bothers you this much, then you need to go talk to him about it," he stuffed his cigarette into the inside of his empty mug, sighing lightly. "I can't pretend to understand the things Gerard does."
I looked at him dubiously, and he shrugged.
"Okay, well, I do, but it's not my place to try and decipher the ways he manifests them. He does what he feels needs to be done, solely for experimental purposes."
Is that what that was? Experimental?
"Go. Talk to him. I'm sure he'll have good reason."
I nodded, and he got up. "I'm going back to the bus, you coming?"
I shook my head. "No, no I think I need another cup. I'll be there soon."
Mikey nodded and stretched, his bones creaking slightly. The sound pierced my ears pleasurably. "Alright, just don't take too long. Bob is already backstage, and Ray left shortly afterwards. Catering should arrive in a bit, as well."
And the next thing I heard was the door bell jingling happily as Mikey walked out, looking as harmless as a sixteen year old kid coming out of a bookstore. I ordered another coffee, and watched with dull eyes as the greasy little joint filled up with kids on their way to school, or old men that stared at the menu before deciding that all they wanted was a bagel and a coffee. Fearing that I might be spotting and cursing myself for stupidly wearing my trademark jacket, I pulled up my hood and slinked out the place, leaving behind a rather generous tip.
I ran into no one on my way back to the bus, and entered to find my traveling home was--thankfully--empty. Without hesitating, I grabbed my phone and had already hit my third speed dial before thinking about what I was doing.
Jamia answered the phone after several rings, her voice still sweet like honey despite the groggy, sleepy overtones.
...And then, feeling like a complete ass, I grimaced when I realized it was probably just reaching two in the morning back in New Jersey.
"Hey, Jemmy," I spoke softly, as in apology.
She made a low groaning noise and I heard her stretching. "Frank, baby? What's up?"
"I...just..." I swallowed. I hadn't meant to call her; it was just a normal reaction when something happened. She cared for me, and definitely had better advice than Mikey.
"I just wanted to call and make sure you were okay."
But I certainly wasn't going to ask her personal opinion on what just happened.
"Why--" her speech was punctuated with a loud yawn, "Why wouldn't I be?"
"I...I don't know." I heard a loud bang from outside, and assumed it was one of the roadies, dropping more equipment. "How's home?"
"The same as you left it."
I tapped my fingers against the table, feeling incredibly guilty that I had called her, woken her up, and then had nothing really important to ask. I opened my mouth, and closed it again; opened it, and closed it, then sighed.
"I love you."
I could hear her smile through her groggy tone on the phone. "I love you too, sweetie."
We didn't say much after that, and since she was already falling asleep anyway, I let her go, and sat with my back against the table, and my fingers itching for a cigarette. I settled on smoothing out the creases in my shirt and wondering why I hadn't said something more meaningful when I had the chance. Maybe switched my words and said "I'm in love with you," rather than the shit-ass goodbye I always give her. But it just felt too awkward to say.
I pulled myself away from the light streaming through the windows and stepped into the tiny bathroom, looking over myself offhandedly in the mirror. My hair was frazzled and plastered to the sides of my tan Italian face; the red from my eye shadow the previous night still clinging to the bottoms of my eyes. I still needed to shave. Sighing, I took a quick shower and tried to clean off all the junk, not only from my face, but from my mind as well.
Stepping out, I shaved quickly and haphazardly, surprisingly not causing myself to bleed all over the sink and counter. I found I could do things better without concentrating on them anyway--another reason that I repeatedly found myself on the floor at a show without having any idea how I got there, or why my ankle was throbbing in pain.
Hoping against hope, I dressed and slumped into my bunk. My pillows felt cold and soothing compared to the hot shower, and I felt contentment wash over me for the first time in days, despite the reeling questions in my mind.
I fell asleep almost instantly.
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