the new beginning
I squinted my eyes shut, hoping that I may be able to get back to sleep and ignore the television, just this once. Just this once. Please.
And then my eyes shot open. Why was the TV on? I raised my head slightly, out of the pillow of warmth I had placed myself in, and saw a familiar figure sitting cross-legged on the end of the couch near my feet, the characters from Family Guy reflected on his glasses. He turned to look at me once sensing my movement.
He smiled devilishly. "Are you ready to admit it now?"
"Admit what?" I said, running a hand groggily over my face. "Fuck, Mikey, you fucking woke me up--"
"You really do come across as tactless most of the time, you know. Look."
He nodded his head in my direction, and curious, I looked around and my eyes settled on the couch, and it's two patrons.
He looked different in the daylight; his hair was whiter than it was blonde, his skin was paler than it was glowing, and his eyes were shut. Shut off, and making his face eternally peaceful.
He lay against the armrest, a pillow underneath his head as he slept soundlessly, and I knew that he was the source of all my warmth--a warmth that I had lost sitting up, and a warmth I sorely missed. I was between him and the back of the couch, occupying such a small space that is was simply a miracle that I managed to fit. My upper body shivered, and I glanced at Mikey. He looked smug.
"Whatever..." I muttered, before leaning back down. Mikey wouldn't care. He wouldn't say anything about it...
"It's nearly eight," he said, while I closed my eyes and gently curled against Gerard's body and snuggled into the nook of his arm. Exactly as I had been while asleep.
"Has anyone else been back here?" I asked, nearly in a whisper.
I could feel him looking at me, but didn't open my eyes to return the gaze. "Why, are you worried?"
I paused before answering. "Yes."
There was a short silence, before he stated, annoyingly casual, "No one would question it, if that's your concern."
"Then why are you?" I asked irritably. I was getting warm again, and I didn't really feel in the mood to deal with Mikey's shit right now, especially if Gerard managed to be a very light sleeper (which I didn't doubt).
"Because I know better."
I sighed and stretched my leg slightly, uncomfortably aware of every joint as I did so. Gerard didn't move.
There was a small silence, only punctuated by the slightly off-colour dialogue of the characters on TV, before my curiosity got the better of me.
"What are you thinking, Mikey?"
I tried to phrased my question delicately, so that he could take it any way he pleased. What he was thinking at that moment, what he was thinking about the situation, what he was thinking of at lunch yesterday...
He looked at me before saying, "Do you ever think about the way he speaks to you?"
Normally, a question like this would surprise someone, but I had lived with the Ways too long to expect anything close to normal. My mind was screaming to say /More than you know/, but I simply nodded my head, putting on what I hoped was an encouraging, curious face so that he would continue without asking me more questions.
"Like when he says "I love you,"" Mikey continued, "I've heard it different ways from him. And I've remembered each of them."
He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose; he still wore them sometimes, said the contacts made his eyes hurt, but I think it might have been his fiancÃ©e. She liked him without them, but she wasn't here, and Mikey had never given a damn about his appearance to any of us. That's how we could tell he cared more for us than he ever would for anyone else.
He continued. "When we were little, he only said it if I gave him something, but as we grew older, we would say it when I agreed to something. To walk home with him, to go to the park with him, to watch movies with him...finally, before he moved away, he would come tell me in the middle of the night."
He kept his eyes on Gerard's sleeping form as he spoke, but he wanted me to hear the words. He wanted me to know.
"I used to hate it. He was drunk a lot, and it hurt to hear him say it like that. It grew increasingly more desperate, and I grew to love it, because it seemed to be the only part of Gerard that he had never given up. His words. Sure, they were slurred, sure, he would pass out minutes after saying them, but he still said them."
"He tells Ray, I know. They were best friends, and still are. You can hear it when they laugh and Gee'll say "I love you, man," and it's all Ray really needs. He tells mom over the phone, and it's pure, and innocent, and cleansed of all the wrong he's done, and he'd tell his girlfriends all the time, and it was laced with secrets, coyness, and teasing." He turned to me. "Can you hear that?"
"What does he sound like when he tells you he loves /you/, Frank?"
I swallowed, my words clogged in my throat. "He doesn't."
I expected his face to fall, his conclusion ruined, but on the contrary, Mikey's eyes glimmered behind the glass as he stared at me.
I bit my lip nervously. "Well, there was that one time. That next morning. After everything happened."
Mikey didn't move, but simply said "Oh?", and I was relieved that I could bring up the subject without making the conversation uncomfortable.
"Yeah," I continued, with a side glance at Gerard to make sure he was still breathing deeply in his sleep. "He told me that he loved me."
"And how did it sound?"
"And how did you reply?"
"I...told him the same."
"And how did you say it?"
"Like I always do."
"Because I can't change that."
"And how did you sound?"
I felt myself jolt and looked up at the bassist, slightly bewildered.
Mikey smiled. "He changed a lot that night."
"But some things, Frankie, he never changed at all."
I knew what he meant by changing that night. We all changed.
After his suicidal breakdown during the Japanese tour, everything changed. We all waited on the edge, watching Gerard walk across the bridge to sobriety; if he tilted, we'd be there to set him straight, but in our hearts we knew that we'd never have the time to catch him if he fell. So we waited, and watched, and held our breath, selflessly enduring his inflicted torment with our own inner demons.
Before he got help, though, things were different. He'd down shot after shot, bottle after bottle, and word after word, trying to either console himself of purify himself. Several nights I'd find him sitting in a drunken stupor, his hand clutched around a half-finished bottle of Jack Daniels, and he'd stare up at me with broken eyes that emitted such emotion, such fragility, that I'm not sure how I managed to stand. And I'd gently pry his hand away off the glass and feel his fingers curl around mine, cold and wet, as I helped him up. I'd lead him to the bathroom and tell him to throw up, because he'd feel better in the morning. And he did. He trusted us because he couldn't trust himself.
The worst moment came when he hit Mikey. The argument had been going on for almost an hour, Mikey initially trying mixed versions of coaxing, tenderness, and reasoning, while Gerard sat there, his eyes placid as he continually muttered excuses and meaningless replies. Mikey eventually gave up on being patient, and tried to get Gerard into counseling. Gerard said no. Mikey stared solemnly at his brother before picking up his cell phone and asking the operator to connect him back home to Jersey.
And then Mikey was on the floor, blood streaming from his lip.
The rest of us acted like we never saw anything, like maybe it didn't just happen, but we waited quietly in case we needed to interfere.
Mikey looked up and Gerard looked down, and they held each other's gaze for what felt like an agonizing age, while the air around us hung heavy with angst and disbelief. With fear.
Mikey slowly pulled himself up and wiped the blood from his mouth. "You won't stop, will you?"
Gerard didn't move. He stood there awkwardly, his hands at his sides and his eyes shining with unshed tears. His words were choked. We couldn't tell if he was sober or not, but it didn't make a difference. Either of them would have been worse than the other if the story was recalled later.
And for the first time I'd seen, Mikey cried.
His entire body shook as he put a hand against his head to steady himself. Tears fell from his face in streams and ran down his neck to soak his collar, an emotional reaction to staying quiet for the past four years. When he spoke, his voice was torn and unnatural, and my heartbeat sped up just from hearing it. It just took that moment. That simply moment to realize that we had finally reached a breaking point.
He swallowed, his eyes shut, still sobbing. "I can't live without you, Gee."
Before Gerard could answer, and before we could move, Mikey was out the door and into the downpour of the afternoon, where he would stay all night, hidden, and catch pneumonia for a week.
Gerard attempted suicide that night.
And the next morning, he held his brother in his arms for three straight hours, as they cried.
And the first thing he did when we got back home to Jersey was set up a meeting with a therapist.
He was clean and sober a week later.
And Mikey was back to being Mikey, the bespectacled, emotionless bastard.
And Ray was back to being Ray, the giant comfort object and guitar god.
And I was back to being confused, sick, but finally at peace.
But we all knew, in the back of our minds, that the future was a mystery to us. Gerard had changed, but into what, well... we all knew it was just a new enigma.
That was only months ago. And yet, if felt like an entirely different life.
I curled against Gerard more, the sudden overwhelming thought of how close we came to losing him pouring on me again. "Mikey, please," I muttered. "Tell me what you're saying. I'm understanding you, but...fuck, I don't know if I want to."
I couldn't see him anymore, as I had closed my eyes again and delved further into Gerard's side, but I heard Mikey sigh--not in frustration, just... just because.
"Gerard doesn't hide things, Frankie, you know that. But...he doesn't want to ruin the effect by being blunt. You just need to figure him out."
"Don't tell me that. It's not that hard, Frank, you're just trying to deny the answer. You understand him better than you know, or he wouldn't have come to you."
"What are you--?"
"And you wouldn't have come to him."
He was silent after this, before standing up a few minutes later and shutting off the TV. "We're traveling most of the day today, so you can stay in bed if you want. Everyone's being really lazy out there anyway, so you won't be missed. Do you want me to go?"
I heard his footsteps, and the opening of a door.
"Bye, Frankie," he muttered, and I could hear the smile in his voice, before he shut the door and extinguished all sound except the quiet humming of the bus and the pulse of blood in Gerard's veins--which I shouldn't be able to hear, but still thought I could.
The peace stayed for a time--was it hours, or minutes?--before I felt him shift, still asleep, or just waking up. He turned in my direction, and, to my horror, his eyes were open.
He didn't say anything, and neither did I. He was too close to me, but I couldn't complain, because I could have easily gotten up and left the room with Mikey. His eyes were green. Oh, god, they were green, but they ensnared me and I couldn't move, even if I wanted to. I could almost see my reflection in them and tried to make it out, wondering whether I looked like the terrified fool I felt I was. He was so still. Barely breathing.
"You stayed," he said finally, his voice low and sleepy.
"Yeah," I breathed back.
I felt his hand touch my cheek, and I wondered how it had gotten there. When had he been moving? When did I become able to look him straight in the eyes without wondering where the border was?
You understand him better than you know.
"Are you going to leave me?"
I shook my head gently, barely, and he smiled. The ghost of an emotion I wasn't used to seeing publicly from him.
"I don't think...I can't sleep without you," I said, swallowing my words as soon as I said them, and hoping that he considered me literate enough to deserve a response. Afraid of giving him the chance, however, I turned into his hand and kissed the palm gently, watching every flicker in his eyes as I did so. My heart was pounding, but my mind seemed to be running at half-speed. The moment seemed to be passing slowly, carefully, detailed. His mouth opened ever-so-slightly, and I brought my own hand up to take his and place them between us. His fingers curled around mine, just as they used to, but they were warm and soft, rather than cold and wet. I was afraid to breathe because I knew my breath was shaky.
He ran his thumb gently over the skin connecting my first and second fingers, never releasing his eyes from mine. My heart was pounding so loudly that I was sure he could feel it against him. Or...was that his own?
I finally spoke again. "Why did you come to me?"
His eyes flashed beautifully, "Because I need you."
My heart was still pounding. My breath was still deep, yet short, and my mind was trying desperately to process and store every detail of his face and voice and words and pulse.
"Why won't you tell me you love me?"
He stayed silent, and I almost feared that I had said the wrong thing, but the way that he looked at me wasn't with disappointment, it was with...with my own fear.
"Because it will mean more than you want it to."
I swallowed. The clutter and questions piled in my mind were washed away by his honey voice, and I slowly shook my head. I shook my head and said the most important words that ever passed my mouth other than when I agreed to join the band.
"I don't think it will."
As soon as I spoke, he shut his eyes and leant forward, muttered something against my lips. I knew it was the three words I hadn't even realized that I longed to hear, but the kiss combined with the shock of what happened next drove the question from my mind.
His form shook lightly as he pulled away from my lips and buried his head against my neck while I kissed his forehead and wrapped an arm around his waist. He gripped my hand tightly between our bodies, tears soaking my shirt. I felt that I should've been surprised, or concerned, but I finally understood.
You understand him better than you know.
They were tears of relief. Of lost pain and torment, the tears he had wanted to shed for so long, but never had an outlet. Tears of built up frustration. Of happiness.
And as I pressed him further against me, I felt like crying with him for exactly the same reasons.
I love you.
Yes, Mikey is my verbal, metaphorical bitch. My friend said that he is definately her favorite character, which makes me laugh a lot...strangely enough.