I've always believed that if you listen closely enough, you'll hear things other people miss. The voices of the dead, for instance.
Just by standing here I can tell that many memories are confined within this place. There's no telling how long it's been here, let alone how many shows have played out on its stage. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the audience...
I close my eyes and try to picture it.
I walk through the glass doors and out of the cold of the night, grateful to be inside the warm, well-lit corridor. It circles around the entire auditorium, bent into a horseshoe shape that is abruptly interrupted at either end by flights of stairs leading to the upper floors. Bright yellow lights line the cream colored walls and cast dark, fluid shadows on the room. My shoes sink into the plush red carpet, the one that flows across every inch of floor and fills in every space as if it were liquid.
Red liquid. Like blood. His blood.
My eyes open as I feel a cold, bitter breeze flow across my face. It's not the air conditioning. Something else carries it through the dead air around me. I realize I've begun walking toward one end of the hallway, almost running into a wall. I stop and look up at it. My eyes widen at what I see.
There is a large painting on the wall, surrounded by an elegant gilded frame. It shows a stage, no doubt the very same one on the other side of this wall. A ballerina dances on the stage. The lights are all focused on her, and her white-skirted form contrasts with the surrounding darkness of the rest of the theater and the blood-colored velvet curtain with the delicate gold fringe. I look closer, seeing that there is no one in the audience. She's completely alone. My eye catches a glint of ghostly gray light just beneath the frame. It's a silver plate engraved with the title of the painting.
The Lonely Ballerina
A soft, delicate song breaks through the thick silence and echoes throughout the empty hall. I'm not sure where it's coming from, but it's a beautiful song. It complements the painting well.
I can almost hear the laughter and lighthearted chatter of the people who have long since left this place. For some reason, though, I can't remember his voice.
His speaking voice, anyway. It was always calm and smooth, holding no trace of his singing voice. It's not the same as listening to one of our songs. Gerard's voice took on a darkened, almost demonic quality whenever he sang. It was just something that happened. That's just the way he was. It always made sense to me. It made sense to all of us.
For some reason, it didn't seem to matter to the shooter.
That was what started the whole fight between me and Bob in the first place. He murdered the guy before the police could get any answers out of him. Murder is wrong in the first place. Killing someone because they killed someone else is even worse. But now we'll never know what was going through that guy's mind as he pulled the trigger, and I think that's the worst part of it all.
It's one thing to be angry. It's another thing entirely to be reckless.
We were all angry.
Only Bob became reckless.
However, I think our fight really got started when I asked if we should get a new singer. None of them seemed to understand. Gerard was not some kind of god. He was not the one thing that made our band what it was. Sure, his stage performances were unlike any other. But he was just a person. He was /human/, for God's sake! Why nobody could recognize that was beyond me. It was our music that made us who we were. That's what our band was about. That's what it would still be about. It wouldn't matter who the singer was. If we were playing music that truly came from our hearts, music we all cared about, then we would still be a band. We would still be My Chemical Romance.
He would want us to keep playing. I know he would.
There were only a few times our performances were canceled, like when he was on crutches with half of his leg torn up and bruised purple, or when we were all in the hospital because of food poisoning. And every time it happened, he would kick and scream worse than a five-year-old who didn't get the flavor of ice cream he wanted. He tried to get out of the hospital - 'breaking out of prison,' as he called it - both of those times (and many others) because he wanted to sing so badly. Singing was one of the things that kept him alive. And he sang until the day he died, because it was what he loved most.
I think the strange song is coming from the floor above me, so I jog up the single flight of stairs to see if I can find it. There is a long, straight hallway before me, and it's almost completely dark since there are no lights up here. I take a few steps forward and close my eyes. It's always easier to listen that way; it's usually how I tune my guitar.
There. It's coming from a door on my left. I cautiously open it. What I see is a little surprising.
The room itself is a dressing room that has remained untouched for some time. Old costumes are hung on the cracked, yellowed walls, along with a few photographs and posters - probably all belonging to the same person. The thing that catches my eye - and, more importantly, my ear - is a small music box resting on a wooden dresser not far away from me. Someone is kneeling on the floor and staring at the object, completely ignoring me.
"Bob?" I ask quietly. He abruptly turns his head to look at me. His blue eyes sparkle faintly in the glow of the single flickering light bulb that illuminates the room.
"Hey," he says in a low voice, standing and closing the music box. I walk over to him and pick up the small wooden box, turning it over to find a silver nameplate on the back.
The Lonely Ballerina
It's just like the painting. The script is even the same.
"What?" he asks me. I look at him, feeling clueless. So he asks again. "What did you say?"
"I didn't say anything."
"Yeah you did. Something about a painting."
"Oh. Well, I found this painting downstairs that has the same title as this song..."
I don't even know why I'm explaining it to him. But I lead him downstairs anyway and show it to him.
Now that I think about it...it kind of reminds me of Gerard.
Before you ask, no, I don't think he would make a very good ballerina.
But he was incredibly comfortable being on stage. He could let go of all nervousness and fear the second Frank or I began the first few bars of a song. He would throw every ounce of his energy into the performances, giving more than any of us had when there was nothing left to give. He held a certain amount of grace about him, whether he was jumping around screaming the lyrics to 'Teenagers' or crying inside during 'Cancer.' He handled everything flawlessly. Gracefully. With absolute perfection.
And he would always dance like no one else was there.
But he was also lonely. He'd suffered through his share of difficult relationships. I knew he was miserable whenever he saw Mikey and Alicia walking back from a concert hand in hand, or when Jamia scolded Frank for going within five feet of the stove and all he did was take her in his arms and kiss her. I knew it was killing him inside, because while there were - and still are - tens of thousands of people who loved him, who still do, not one of them really knew him like he needed to be known. And no one would take the time to do so.
As he promised us all in his most heartbreaking song, he never married.
But he wouldn't die. Oh no, that was impossible. The music kept him going. The music kept him alive.
He was also beautiful to so many people. None of us could comprehend just how many girls found him attractive. Probably a number somewhere in the millions, if I were to guess. But he also had a beautiful soul. He dedicated his life to helping others, never stopping for a single second to worry about how it would affect him. He would end up injured, crying, bleeding, and broken...and he would still sit there until the last autograph was signed and the last picture was taken. Because he cared about everyone else. Never himself, though. Never himself.
"Ray," Bob says softly. I turn to look at him, seeing regret in his eyes. "I'm sorry. For everything. I don't hate you. You're like a brother to me."
"...Thanks," I manage to say. We haven't even touched on the subject of our fighting since...well, it's been a long time. It feels like years, though it's only been months.
"What do you think he'd be doing right now?" Bob says with a faint smirk. "What would he say if he were here?"
"He'd tell us we should spend less time appreciating art and more time creating it," I say with a smile. "He'd tell us he wants to start a game of hide and seek, and that we're already losing because Mikey and Frank are hidden and we're not."
"He would tell you he misses you."
Both of us freeze at the sound of the voice. A chill skyrockets up my spine, because I haven't heard that voice in what seems like years. Bob glances at me sideways, and we both turn around at the same time.
Time seems to come to a standstill. I see him standing there, black uniform and platinum hair, too perfect to be real. His face holds a solemn look so heart wrenching that it should never be there. It doesn't belong there. He deserves to be happy. He deserves someone who really loves him. He deserves a better hand than the cards life dealt him.
He deserves better.
He smiles very faintly, hazel eyes darkening by one shade.
"But he would also thank you for coming to his performance."
He vanishes. He's gone. It's like he was never there. For a split second the air hesitates to fill the void, but only for a split second. And the cold air rushes past me as if its chasing him, leaving a guitarist and a drummer swirling in its wake.
I can hear the music again. It's clearer this time, and I know Bob is hearing it, too. Both of us pause for a second, then we start applauding.
Whether it's one or one thousand, there is always someone watching, waiting, and caring. Because there is even an audience for a lonely ballerina.
And Gerard deserves nothing less.