I pause my music when I feel the familiar sensation against my leg. Deftly, I take the bud out of my ear and raise the phone to my eyes. The corners of my mouth twitch slightly at the name and I accept the call and the phone to my ear.
"Hey." It's in that tone that I've been saving especially for him. Completely void of the pain I've been feeling and completely full of the happiness I feel that he called /me/.
But my tone quickly wavers as all I hear on the other end of the phone is silence followed by a soft rustle of paper.
The only answer is a desperate sort of breath and more rustling of paper. I furrow my eyebrows, bite my lip and listen more intently. I know him too well to just start talking, asking what's wrong. He wants to talk, he wants to say something, and he is literally looking for the words.
Desperate breathing turns into an irritated sigh and I'm just hoping like hell that he finds the right page soon.
Finally, after I think he's flipped through the largest journal in the world, I hear him readjusting in his seat, trying to see the page better in his minimal light, I'm sure. Pete has this thing about night. He doesn't like to disturb it with the obnoxious glow of a light bulb, so whenever he stays up late and can't use his night vision to accomplish whatever it is that he wants to do, he uses as little light as possible.
I heard him clear his throat, like it was out of use. He paused, I thought perhaps wondering if I was still there. I picked up my keys and dropped them back down on the bedside table, feeling that should suffice.
"All I ever thought of was you. It's gotten where the only way I can function is to stay in bed, awake, in the morning for 4 hours. You couldn't care less if my eyes look darker from the smudges around them, because to you they always look like that. Dark pinkred, from countless nights thinking of you. You never say it, but I know it's true, for you, just like me, it's like looking in a mirror. Tonight, lets watch these stars fall. Get some sleep. Except I need you more than I need a nap," he takes a quick breath which quickly turns into a sigh and a slight pause, "ever."
I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. I quickly turn off all the lights but one in our bedroom. I pause. Our. It felt oddly foreign. I shook it off and crawled back into the slight dent I owned in the bed. I turned my attention back to the phone that had been glued to my ear the entire time.
The words ran through me just as always. I already knew this was going to be a long night. It was confirmed when he spoke again.
"I hate the way you say my name, like it's something secret."
I opened my mouth to utter a slightly desperate, slightly tired, "/Pete/," but caught myself just in time and instead said, "I wish that I was as invisible as you make me feel."
It was his turn to stop himself from slipping up, from ruining the game that he insisted on playing. I waited; expecting everything but what I heard.
It was the strangest sound I had ever heard and it took me many seconds to realize what it was. When I finally did, I could swear my heart committed suicide. A muffled, strangled sob tangled it's way through the satellites from his mouth to my ear. My freshly deceased heart ached inside my stomach. I had never heard Pete cry. When I thought of him being vulnerable it came in one thought of him sitting by himself for hours, silent, scribbling tirelessly, his eyes a fairly well protected raw picture of everything that was going on inside him.
In that moment I wished desperately that boys in bands and tour buses didn't exist and that late night cell phone calls didn't mean you were 3,000 miles away.
I found myself conflicted. He was hurting, I could feel it and all I wanted to do was comfort him, but I didn't have the strength to comfort him in fractional ideas and metaphors and less than apt lyrics. But as another stifled sob pierced my ears, I couldn't care less about the game. He was hurting and on tour, where he really only had Patrick to talk to, who he hated bothering. I was his last resort, I guessed, after he had tried to handle the situation on his own. I didn't mind being the last resort; atleast I was a resort.
I took in a silent breath and let it out slowly, trying for the strength I wanted to portray. "Pete.. Pete?" His named seemed to be the only thing that was safe to say. Another sob shredded my heart. In that instant I decided that it didn't matter what was right or wrong.
"Pete.. what's wrong?"
"Everything," the smallest, weakest voice I had ever heard, answered.
I took another breath, knowing it was only the start of the night. "Elaborate, please."
"It's-it's just everything. This tour has been the worst yet. It feels like every time I turn around there's someone new who's screaming my name, or wanting an autograph or a picture or an interview. It's horrible. Everyone wants something from me, and I'm running out of things to give."
I was thankful that he spoke in normal English, but I hated how his voice was laced with depression. "Why can't you just give them you?"
It was a laugh. It sounded more like a sick snorting cough, but it was a laugh, I could tell, sardonic as it may be. "Because. Because I want something. Something just for me. If.. if I let them take all of me, th-then what is there left for me?"
/Me/, I wanted to say. But I didn't. This wasn't about me; it was about him. "Then why don't you say no?"
He fell silent. The sobs subsiding for now. "I-I.. I don't know."
I sighed. This time it was purely exhausted and hadn't been put through any sort of filter. "Pete, I know touring is hard, and you hate it mostly, but just think about why you're doing it. Out there, somewhere, is a kid just like you, who sits at home on Friday nights reading The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, listening to 'Take This To Your Grave', and playing his favorite Fall Out Boy songs the best he can on the bass he got for Christmas, and all that kid wants is to see you guys, you, live."
I paused for a moment, letting him cut in if he wanted to. When he didn't, I continued. "And if you can't bring yourself to do it for them, well, then, do it for me. I care about them, and when they're happy, I'm-"
"I miss you."
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. That's what this was about. That's what this had been about all along. Pete was lonely and I shouldn't care because he did it to himself but I do care because- because I do.
"I miss you, too. But that's the life we both chose. And I'm glad we did because otherwise we probably would've never met and for there to be good things you have to have the bad things."
"No one ever told me it would be like this."
I was lost for words. Sometimes Pete amazed me how innocent he could be, how naÃ¯ve. Surely he must've known what he had gotten himself into. A part of me didn't think so. I wished again that he was merely done the hall and too lazy to come talk to me face to face. I wanted to hug him.
"Pete. Life is hard. Really hard. And sometimes you get tired and lonely and empty, but you just have to stick it out because better times are right around the corner."
"Two months around the corner."
I made a face and heard him writing something down. "What are you writing?"
Pete hardly ever told you what he was writing, when he was writing it. He'd tell you when he thought it was the right time.
I sighed and got out of bed and walked out of the bedroom. I walked into the kitchen, scratching Hemmingway on the head as I passed his couchbed. Once in the kitchen I went to the fridge and opened it. There wasn't that much in it, but what I was looking for was. I grabbed the orange soda and cradled the phone with my shoulder while I opened it. The can made a crisp sound when I pulled the tab back.
"What are you doing?"
I sipped at the can quickly and then took the phone back into my hand, "Getting an orange soda."
"I need something to keep me up." I immediately regretted what I said after I said it. I didn't mean it as I didn't want to stay up and talk to him, I was actually really eager to; my body just didn't want to cooperate. "I'm sorry, that came out wrong."
"It's okay, I know what you mean." His tone of voice was so strange tonight. It sounded so.. innocent. It made me want to be next to him even more.
I walked back to the bedroom and climbed into bed. At my ear there was a noise every now and then; something moving on the desk, the chair creaking, the shutter of a digital camera. I wasn't bothered at all. I was actually rather anxious to see what sort of caption he put with the picture he decided he could stand people commenting on.
"Pete. Put the camera down and climb into bed." It wasn't a sort of command like a mother would give her son. It was something that he knew exactly what I meant.
Without even an "okay", I heard rustling, more creaking, shuffling, and finally contented silence. I scooted down under the covers until I was lying with my head against the pillow, looking up at the ceiling.
It's silence for a few more minutes until he says it and I smile.
"There is someone out there designed to fit next to me in this bed."
The last thing I remember saying was, "Get some sleep. Except I need you more than I need a nap, ever."
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