Wake. Check. Hygiene. Eat.
Every day was a rhythm. Every day was becoming less like a routine and more like a factory system. Gerard felt like he was being put together. He was a car, a piece of machinery, set on a conveyer belt to simply drift through the hours he spent being built into a suitable person. First he was washed, cleaned in the tiny shower he had to share until he was scrubbed enough to be put back on the conveyer belt, then fed so he might not pass out during the day. He had no sense of time. They weren’t allowed to have clocks in their bedrooms. Only the therapists had clocks. Apparently time could kill.
Group. Therapy. TALK TO ME.
They checked his vitals to make sure he was still alive. He was losing weight from eating tasteless food but his blood pressure was fine. Best put on an Eating Disorder watch. Not that he had that issue anymore. They checked for new scars, fresh wounds, but it wasn’t as if he could find anything to cut himself with. Ever since some pathetic girl tried slicing her arm with a plastic knife, the only plastic wear they got for meals were spoons. Something about that was so comical that at one lunch session he just sat there and giggled to himself, holding his hand over his mouth and laughing until he cried. Maybe he was insane.
Every group session was the same. Say your name
why you’re here
/(i cu-… self-injure)/
and what you’ll do to get better.
/(i’ll try not to…cut i guess??)/
And it went around like that until he knew each person’s name, why they were there, and their bullshit answer for improvement to get them out of the room. He knew that Amy was /Anorexic/; she sat directly across from him and always glanced at him with bruised-looking eyes and a conspicuous clavicle that protruded from beneath her tank top. /Spencer/, however, was addicted to marijuana, speed, and heroine, and had purple bruises up his arms so he looked more like he was suffering some rare disease that was eating away at his tissue. Gerard would always stare at Spencer’s arms and silently thank himself for not becoming addicted to anything that required injecting. He was more partial to the things that grew in the ground or came in a bottle, and even then those things came rarely.
No one bothered him, no one made him feel as unsafe and afraid, as Meghan. Everyone else kept to themselves, had issues that directly affected themselves. Meghan was thirteen years old and looked about nine, and for the first few days she talked with Gerard as if he was the older brother she never had. She asked him his favorite colors, if he had any siblings, and then, with a sad face, why he was there.
He felt awkward telling her, as if it might disturb her and cause him guilt. “I, uh, well, I like, hurt…”
Gerard stopped and looked down at her, taken back and a little shocked. “Well, no. I, uh, hurt…/myself/, actually.”
Meghan said ‘Oh’ as if she was a little disappointed, or maybe even a little confused. She licked her lips, hungry for something, and asked, “Can I see?”Gerard bit the inside of his lip and tore away at the skin. He suddenly felt awkward in his skin and in some abstract way he wished he could slip out of it.
“I don’t know,” he said. It was in a quiet voice. She didn’t look at him. She looked at her feet. She asked him hopefully, “Please?” He wasn’t sure whether to tell her yes, she could see the horrid scarring he’d caused himself, or no, she could not. And more importantly, he didn’t understand why she wanted to see. It made sense that the want spawned from her child-like curiosity. She was biting her bottom lip.
“Okay.” He looked around and made sure none of the advisors were watching, then rolled up his sleeve. Meghan turned in her chair and leaned over to look at the cuts. A lot of them had healed over, became raised lines of flesh. The name Frankie was still visible. Meghan reached over and brushed her fingers across the lines, following them. He jumped, startled, when she smiled and giggled. He jerked his arm away and rolled his sleeve down. She licked her lips and sat back down in her seat.
Gerard sighed, filled his lungs and forcing out the discomfort. He hesitantly and delicately asked why someone as young as her would be in a mental hospital. She sat herself cross-legged on her chair as she said in a high, childish voice, “I killed my dog.” She paused, then added, “And I hung my parakeet.”
Gerard stopped. He said nothing at first. All he could do was imagine that juxtaposition, that little girl, that four-foot-something little girl killing her family dog, the green bird hanging in its cage. The words were caught in his throat, feeling too round and big to make it though his mouth, before he could actually ask, Why?
Meghan looked at him with big eyes and full, childish lips. “Because I /wanted to?/” And he could see she thought it was obvious. She situated herself again, perpetually fidgety and uncomfortable. “He was warm.” She blinked slowly, and Gerard could see that, even in her youth, she was getting some sort of sexual satisfaction from the idea. Something about it was so deeply disturbing he felt his nerves crawl beneath his skin like mealworms.
He cleared his throat and tried to move away from her in his seat. “You’re in here because you /killed your dog?/” Meghan twiddled her thumbs and then played with her hair.
“No,” she said simply, coolly. And she suddenly wasn’t a little girl anymore; she was someone much older, someone who had developed no human emotion or conscience. “I’m here because I liked it.”
Gerard bit his lip, rubbed his scars, and realized that he could be much, much worse.
Once a day, every day, and for about three straight weeks, Frank received a phone call from Gerard. Gerard split his time on the phone between Frank, Finch, his brother, and his parents, so as much as Frank put on his sweetest, most flirtatious voice to keep his love interest talking, their time was very limited. Gerard would often wait until the last moment, until the phone’s timer screeched in their ears and threatened to shut down their conversation, before saying goodbye and mumbling something sweet and nervous along with it.
“Well, um, goodbye Frankie…You’re really sweet…”
Frank would always bite his lip and feel those happy ants in his stomach, the ones that used their tickling little legs to make him mutter something with his shaky words like, “No problem, I…I like…you-TALKING- talking to you…” They would laugh. Say goodbye. Hang up. And he would feel a combination of sadness, relief, and bliss. It felt a little bit like being rained on.
He leaned his chin on the palm of his hand and rested his elbow on his desk, bending his pinky finger so he could mindlessly chew on the nail. Frank had pulled his hat over his eyes, hearing but not listening to his instructor speak several yards ahead of him. Gerard’s sentence in the hospital had taken a toll on Frank’s mental state. His day revolved around the quivering excitement in the pit of his stomach; the knowledge that in however many hours he’d get to speak to Gerard again. And each day he’d sit in class or lie on his bed, telling himself, ”Yeah. Today’s the day. Today I’ll say, “Gerard, I love you”, and he’ll say, “Frank, I love you too!” And then we’ll move to Vermont and get married and have wild sex on my bed. Or just sex.” But his mouth would freeze up, shut like a latch, and nervousness forced him into silence. Frank chewed on his nail and wished he was somewhere else.
Something rapidly tapped him on the shoulder with what felt like a small, sharp object; a pencil maybe. He felt as if his shoulder was under rapid machinegun fire. The pressure stopped but the voice next to him did not.
“Hey- /hey!/” The voice was female and in a forced whisper.
Frank lifted his beanie and glanced at the girl next to him. Her long, black hair had been replaced with a shorter cut that was now an unattractive shade that Frank thought of as “Black-Shit-Blue.” It reached just above her shoulders, no longer giving the impression that she was cat-like and small. She looked very average sized at this point. Frank glanced at her then up at the board where his teacher stood, now using his perfected art of defying authority to half-listen to both parties at once.
“What?” he snapped at her in a low voice and she rolled her eyes.
“Oh, shut /up!/” she whispered, her voice a low hiss an her face pulled into a grimace. Frank felt like slapping her. “I just wanted to ask you something.” Her face relaxed and she pulled her mouth into a sly smile, the expression sliding across her face like a knife pulling through butter. It seemed like she had two personalities; an alter ago. One of them was a vicious, evil human being who just wanted to tear information room his insides. The other was a smiling snake. Jekyll and Hyde and all that.
Frank glanced away and mumbled to himself, “Why here?” The girl snapped her fingers to get his attention.
“Hey, hey, I’m over here!” she hissed. Frank gritted his teeth together. She regained her composure, breathing as if it flushed out her system of the horrid bitch that infected her from in very inside of her body. “I wanted to know because my friend wanted to know- and you know how that works; if she wants to know, I want to know- anyway/…” She looked up at the man in the front of the room, who had his back to them. Her mouth spread across her face, her teeth prominent. Her voice turned from gravel to oil, maple syrup. “Where’s /Gerard?”
Frank gave a tiny snort, his eyes darting to the front of the room in order to make sure his sound wasn’t heard. “You’re a real piece of work.”
She smirked and leaned towards him, nibbling on her bottom lip. Yeah, right. Frank was feeling way too gay at that moment to care that her shirt was exposing the Tweedle-Double-Ds all over the place. And even if he was straight, her ass was flat and her face, no longer hidden by hair, looked just a little bit lizard-ish. He also didn’t find “vapid bitch” to be a desirable personality trait, among humans or lizards.
“I told you, it’s not for /me,/” the girl whined, smile still plastered to her face. “It’s for…my friend. She wants to know where he is. Is he sick?”
He turned away and sat forward in his seat, pulling his hat back over his eyes so he might entirely block her out. “Back off. He’s nowhere.”
“I heard/…” She was smirking. “…he tried to /kill himself. Or maybe he did kill himself. And now he’s finally /gone./”
Frank said nothing. She was nothing but a smile. He just stared at her with her goose shit colored hair and her cigarette-yellowed teeth that possessed her features. He wanted to shake her, to hurt some sense into her head. Simultaneously, he didn’t want her to think straight because then they’d be too much alike; she’d be too human and maybe it would make him hate himself. He grit his teeth and dug his nails into the palm of his hand, physically willing himself not to move. She just smiled at him. Her eyes were too big.
If he had any less self-control he would have killed her.
Sign up to rate and review this story