At this point, Gerard had narrowed it down to several choices, none of which he was too fond of. The first being the pick of his cell phone and call Frank. This wasn’t particularly difficult, but fearing a very sudden and very fatal nervousness-induced heart attack, the possibility of this option being chosen was slim to none. He had never liked phone conversations anyway. The second choice was to wait it out. Frank had no choice but to return to school at some point or another. Maybe he could be confronted then, calmly and collectively.
Yeah. If Gerard grew the balls.
It was most likely that he was going to choose the final option: do nothing. The pathetic thing about this was not even that this was an option out of fear. Half of it was out of laziness. The sheer unwillingness to open his mouth and /speak/. It was taking way too much emotional energy in order to display affection. He shouldn’t feel the urge to take a long nap after a half an hour of mindless chatter. His lack of spine and balls told him that this choice was a good one, the right one, that there was no reason to take the risk. If Frank wasn’t just fucking with his feelings, he’d take the time to do some of the talking, maybe relieve Gerard of some of the harbored anxiety. If it takes two to love then Frank had better have some input.
His heart told him to stop being so stupid, that if he felt for Frank what he told himself he did, it wouldn’t matter if he was scared, and if he never found out what Frank meant by the kiss he’d probably spend the rest of his stupid, lonely life wondering. And that would probably be worse than the rejection he wasn’t even sure he was going to have to face.
His brain said that it probably wasn’t healthy for his body parts to be arguing. His kidneys told is brain to shut up. It didn’t know anything anyway.
The internal arguing made him think that he should probably stop drinking with his anti-depressants. It was growing more and more evident that Prozac had an issue with vodka and Pucker. Well, /Bitch-/zac was gonna have to deal with it because Gerard didn’t have any more long-sleeved shirts. And if he couldn’t leave a physical scar, he was gonna at least leave an emotional one. Bitch.
The alcohol burned on the way down, but Jesus H. on a popsicle stick, it felt so God damn good. He could feel it burning holes in his stomach, but he didn’t care. If he died from internal hemorrhaging, then so be it. It would be a peaceful death. Or at least a satisfied one. After swallowing another mouthful, he leaned his head against the wall behind his bed and sighed heavily. Gerard’s brain felt soft, beaten. His thoughts were nothing more than fragments, blurred pictures and slurred phrases coalescing, emotions and memories blending together like mush until he wasn’t sure of the difference between happiness and sadness and anger and bliss. He imagined his brain sloshing like a fish in a bowl of water that he was shaking over and over.
He giggled stupidly through his nose, low and thick. Brain. Fish. Haha.
Gerard held up the rectangular bottle by the long, rounded glass nozzle and rocked it back and forth, the clear liquid sloshing against the walls like waves against rocks. The bottle was more than half empty now and not nearly as cold against his hand as it had been when he had started sipping on it. The yellow light from his bedside lamp made shimmering blues and greens and purples through the glass so they sparkled in the liquid like gems. The sound was delicate, soothing, a light splash as the liquid sloshed against the glass wall and onto itself. It was beauty in simplicity. It called for a drink.
He probably shouldn’t have taken so much. The bottle had been twice as full- somewhere more or less than two-thirds full- when he started. And he couldn’t quite remember- looking through his memory in this state was like groping blindly through a thick fog- but he might have taken one or three or six more tablets of his medication than he was supposed to. But it was okay. He was numb. His organs and appendages had stopped fighting. When he went to put the bottle back in his family’s alcohol cabinet in the kitchen, the room wouldn’t stop moving. Every time he took a step, the door would move a few feet to the right or left. He’d step and the floor would wobble beneath his feet. At some point his knees became weak and gave out. On the soft carpet he laughed until it ached. Silly carpet. Always wiggling in the wrong place.
The vodka bottle made its way back into the cabinet where it belonged, snug and sound. He’d put the Pucker back when his brain wasn’t such a fish. Now both bottles were comfy-cozy in their little cabinet home. Comfy-comfy-comfy-cozy until Gerard would want to take them out and guzzle their insides again. Slurp and swallow and fog and fish. It was all so damn beautiful.
But the coming down hurt. It didn’t take long, or at least it seemed like it didn’t take long he couldn’t really differentiate between what seemed and what was/, before he could feel the fog of numbness being sucked out of the back of his head like thick sludge down a drain. As he blinked his heavy eyelids, he heard his own mouth thickly utter the mumbled word /’withdrawal’ But he wasn’t withdrawing from he alcohol or the Prozac-no, they were simply leaving; temporarily on hiatus until he reached for them again. He was withdrawing from Frank. The hope and happiness- the drug that didn’t come in any pill or smoke- the blissful, human emotions that should have still been there when every last substance had faded from the cloud in his head were disappearing. And he couldn’t go out and buy more or steal more from his parent’s cabinets. It was one of a kind. It was his drug.
Gerard pulled the bottle of anti-depressants from his nightstand drawer. The pills in his throat filled his head with fog and fish.
About three and a half seconds after the alarm clock buzzed like an electronic hive of angry bees, the headache hit. On the Richter scale, it was about a 12.5. He ran his hand along his scalp in search of fractured bone and was actually surprised when he didn’t find any. It felt a though there was a deep, sharp crevice in the bone, located directly between the left and right halves of his brain and wide enough so that he could possibly place the fingers of both his hands inside it and pull apart his skull into two fractured pieces. And when he rolled out of bed (literally /rolled out of/) he had the sneaking suspicion that somebody had come in during the wee hours of the night and raised his bed off of the floor another two feet. Falling out of bed shouldn’t have resolved in the near breaking of his arm.
Not only that, but his stick of eyeliner had crumbled off at the tip and he hadn’t been smart enough to ask Finch for a sharpener so all day his eyes were going to look cow-ish with only the mascara on his lashes. He also found that their freezer was severely lacking coffee, a pesky cowlick directly on top of his head refused to lie flat, and he was forced to hold his arms tightly at his sides when his mom came downstairs during breakfast in order to hide the deep, red, scabbed-over wounds on the inside of his arm.
Today was not a good day.
Although it didn’t necessarily make the day any worse (but most certainly not /better/) when he came to the realization that options two and three of how to handle Frank were pretty much the same option, only one contained a certain catalyst to what was most likely going to be his death. Basically, he had been counting on option three (keeping his head down and pretending no one could see him) until he saw Frank standing in the lobby. At that point, his only option was to converse- conversate? No. Conversate isn’t a word. He made a mental note to read more.
He also made a point to recognize people by their faces and not their hair. When he saw Frank standing there, his back against the wall and his hands in his pockets…he didn’t initially see him. He looked directly at Frank’s face, saw the nose, the eyes, the lustfully full lips, but didn’t recognize him. But when Frank looked up and blinked at him, hunching his shoulders and letting a nervous smile spread over his pink lips, Gerard knew who he was staring at.
Gerard had forgotten that Frank’s hair was no longer the vibrant and conspicuous yellow and black it had only recently been. The newly brown hair made him seem more relaxed, less noticeable. Even so, Gerard couldn’t help but find it to be one of the sexiest things he’d ever seen. In the past month or so, Frank’s hair had grown considerable. When it had been two-toned, the blonde had begun to sick out awkwardly from the side of his head while the black fell in front of his eye, obscuring his vision so that he was forced to incessantly blow it out of his face with a puff of air. But now the color and length accentuated each other. It was obvious Frank hadn’t prepared his hair this morning as it curled just passed his earlobes and waved into his eyes. The only word Gerard could think of to describe it was ’beastly.’
As he approached the wall- Finch made a beeline for the table where she sat and swung her legs- his eyes looked nowhere but the floor, watching feet in order to avoid smashing into another person. He stopped about a foot and a half in front of Frank and clutched the strap of his backpack. The both of them glanced around nervously. They could have won awards in the area of avoiding eye contact. Frank cleared his throat lowly and stood up straight, his hands pinned between his lower back and the wall.
“…Hey…Gee-gee…” he muttered. Gerard heard Finch giggle through her nose. He silently admitted that Frank calling him by his nickname was both awkward and adorable. He shuffled his feet.
“Hi…I like your hair. It’s…nice.” Gerard made a mental note to punch himself in the near future as punishment for his lack of conversational skills. ’Nice’ simply did not cover how he felt about Frank’s hair. Maybe, /’It makes me so horny that I’m going to need a new bottle of lotion’/. But one didn’t say such things to others…that he knew of. Frank smiled weakly.
“Thanks. I, uh, took the dye out and…cut the bangs.” He flicked a finger across the hair in front of his eyes. Damn right you cut your bangs. “It was getting kind of, um, retarded looking.”
No, it wasn’t. It had not been getting retarded looking. In Gerard’s humble opinion, it was simply growing out the sexy. Growing out the sexy. That sounded like a cheap porno. Well, even if it was, Frank kicked that porno’s assumedly sore ass. Gerard would have said that, but he had a feeling that Frank would have no idea what he was talking about. Hell, Gerard didn’t even know what he was talking about. He bit his lip and tried not to laugh. He looked up to see Frank blink back at him. In that moment of senseless joy, Gerard took a tiny step closer. Frank suddenly brought his hand to his mouth and chewed on the already short nails. When he spoke his voice was low.
“Hey, um, I’m sorry I wasn’t here yesterday,” he said. He looked down to the floor. “I just…” He was quiet for a moment and he clenched his eyes shut for a second. When he opened them and spoke his voice was no more than a low whisper. “…Listen, I’m really sorry about what happened.”
Gerard swallowed and felt his heart descend into his stomach and begin to pound. He unstuck his lips. “You mean…/the kiss?/…Thing?” Gerard saw Frank glance over at Finch, who had turned her head sharply at the word ’Kiss’ Gerard alternated his glances between Finch and Frank. Finch swung her legs and examined her friends. They both looked awkward and anxious.
“Oh,” she sighed out, the word long and slow. “I see. Well-” she hopped off the table and swung her backpack over her shoulder. “…I have to go…and…” She squinted her eyes and lowered her voice to a whisper. “…/masturbate to gay porn,/ so I’ll leave you two alone.”
Gerard wasn’t sure if he appreciated her gesture or not.
He turned back to Frank who was chewing his nails and staring at the ground, pretending the be nonchalant.
“It’s okay,” Gerard said. “I, uh…” He bit his lip and his mouth reacted before his brain had time to filter his thoughts before they became words. “…didn’t mind.” Frank looked up at him and his eyes looked so large and innocent that Gerard had a hard time containing himself. Some barrier of self-control was beginning to fracture, he could feel it. If something…/something/…didn’t happen in the next few minutes, something was going to spill passed the barrier inside him and he might just reach out, cup Frank’s beautiful face in his hands and kiss him like they weren’t going to make it to tomorrow. Carpe Diem.
Frank swallowed. It seemed to be more for stalling purposes than actually needing to ingest his own spit. “Oh…” He shuffled his feet and scratched the back of his head. As if with a sudden spasm, Frank shook his head and his features stiffened, his eyebrows rising. His words were quick. “It didn’t mean anything.”
Gerard’s insides knotted and he became aware of the ache of his fingers gripping the strap of his backpack. He felt his mouth drop open slightly. The little happy thing that had been happy to see Frank dropped dead, withered like a flower. His mouth felt dry. He lowered his eyes and whispered out, ”Oh. Yeah.” Frank’s gaze suddenly softened, his eyes becoming large and sympathetic, almost thoughtful. He took a very tiny step forward. Gerard almost didn’t hear him speak.
”…Unless…” His voice was so soft, so quiet, it was like cotton. Gerard’s insides were being caressed by it, wrapped in it. ”…You want it to…” Close, close, soft, soft. He could feel Frank’s breath. ”…mean something…” Oh, beauty and bliss and rapture.
And in one sudden motion, Frank was jerked sideways. A thin and pale, long-fingered hand rested on his shoulder and the sound of smacking gum reached his eardrums. Gerard felt a lurch in his stomach, and he was suddenly struck with the vivid memory of the first time he spent on a rollercoaster. There was a moment right before that first drop, the drop that made his stomach fall and his skin tingle beneath the surface, where he felt nothing. It was peaceful. And then he looked down and saw the drop and was overcome with a rush of pure horror. Right now, he was at the top of the rollercoaster, he was looking down on that drop and the terror wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t subside. Emmie gave Frank’s shoulder a playful poke.
“Hey, Frankie!” She squeaked. Cute. In a sick sort of way. Gerard hated to use violence but his fingers were itching for her Hello Kitty necklace, the one with the cheap plastic ovals and the Japan-made beads. He wanted to strangle her with it. Frank turned to her and openly cringed.
“What do you /want?/” he snapped. Gerard felt a wave of relief relax his muscles. Emmie stepped back and widened her eyes. She grabbed her colorful necklace and fiddled with it. If he hadn’t known she was a Nazi in little girl form, he might have felt sorry for her.
“…Are you mad at me?” she whimpered. Frank scoffed and shook his head. He looked genuinely aggravated.
“Are you God damn serious?/” he spat back. “I saw what the hell you were doing, I heard what the fuck you /said/! How can you even play innocent right now? Really, how can you even /think I would buy that?” Emmie looked up at him. For a moment she only stared, her charcoal-rimmed eyes large and child-like. She gave a pathetic sort of sniffle and her lip quivered. Gerard felt the urge to laugh and cry with unadulterated joy well up inside him. Emmie ran a quivering hand through her teased, white hair.
“You don’t even…/know/ what was happening,” she started. Her voice was soft and sad. “We…you just don’t even /know/…” They could see her lip was quivering. Gerard wanted to yell at her, to tell her that that was pure bullshit, that he couldn’t have been more humiliated by what they did to him, but he didn’t. Somewhere, lodged within his insides, was this underlying fear, the fear that she could still hurt him, that she could still be that powerful, cruel bitch that induced the terror and self-loathing that she had always been, even in her weakest state. Frank shook his head and picked up his bag off of the ground, adjusting it on his shoulder.
“Fuck you,” he cursed. “Really, fuck you. I’ve been through that, I know it. You can’t fucking treat people like hat, especially people who already have enough shit in their lives.” His expression gave the impression that he might spit on her, snarl at her. It disrupted his soft features and Gerard could see that the emotion he was expressing must have been buried. It seemed as if this was the first time in he didn’t know how long that it had been unearthed. Gerard thought Frank might say something else, but he didn’t. He just mumbled a quick goodbye to Gerard and headed off down the hallway. A sudden sense of abandonment enveloped him and he wished that Frank would come back, but soon he had been consumed by the pulsing throng of students.
He looked at Emmie. Her expression had changed. She didn’t look vulnerable anymore, she looked angry. her large eyes were narrowed and staring in the direction Frank had disappeared down. When he went to step away she looked up at him. The gaze was harmless, maybe even a little soft. She was still fiddling with her necklace. She opened her mouth as if she was going to speak to him, not even shoot out something nasty, but simply speak. Somewhere above them the bell sounded for first period. Emmie closed her mouth and released her necklace from her fingers. She walked away. Gerard didn’t move until he was pushed out of the way by another student. His legs felt weak.
Today was not a good day.
Frank came to the conclusion that he did not like people. He really didn’t. He sort of disliked them in the way some people disliked cats: They were tolerable and if you scratched them just right they might sit on your lap and purr, but if they so much as hissed in his general vicinity they were getting a boot up their ass. This didn’t mean he was a misanthrope, just that it was better if he stayed clear of them. And it wasn’t like he went around searching out people to dislike because, honestly, not all of them were bad. Not all of them were the bitches who humiliated other for game, or fuckers who found it funny to cause pain for their own pleasure. For example, Finch was okay. And Gerard…well, Gerard was very okay. Most people had managed to leave him alone otherwise, but there were still a few people who wore his patience as thin like hot, stretched wire.
Like his precalculus teacher. How someone could enjoy this subject enough to teacher it, to dedicate an entire occupation to it, he just didn’t understand. Frank, honestly could not give a rat’s ass about triangles and squiggles. That’s not math. Those are doodles, pictures he could draw in his notebook. Random symbols and lines and teeny tiny numbers that carried over to the four thousandth power then disappeared for no reason were not math. This is not a subject he will be using in the future. And if a job requires him to pull out his TI-85 college-grade calculator and graph something, he will quit that God damn job. And anyone who decides to go to college for however many years it takes to major in mathematics is not cool on Frank’s list.
Not cool at all.
With this in mind, Frank scratched his pencil mindlessly against his notes. Something inside his stomach felt hallow and cold, as if an ice cube had melted inside him. The way Gerard had looked at him earlier…God, that face, that smell, those eyes. He chewed on his eraser thoughtlessly for a moment. The image of Gerard’s terrified face when Emmie and those girls and boys were pulling on his arm broke his daydreaming. He felt sick. He scribbled on his notes while the teacher explained an equation. Silly equations, I don’t give a fuck.
Frank covered his notes with penciled spirals and wiggles, the formulas and problems consumed by doodles and scratched in song lyrics. He even hesitated, then started to scratch in a tiny heart in the corner of his paper. Ooh. Hetero at its finest.
The paper had just begun to look like some abstract work of art, like Picasso or something, when Frank felt a poke in his arm. He turned. The first word that popped into his mind was ’cat’
The girl’s black hair was enormous, sticking out of her skull with immense volume and falling over her shoulders. She looked as if she had been shocked with static electricity. Her green eyes were rimmed with black that extended towards her temples. It was more than obvious that her faux-rebelliousness screamed her relationship with Emmie. Frank couldn’t help but think she was more attractive than the girl she followed like a pet.
”Hey,” she whispered, the sound like a low hiss. Frank glanced up at the teacher. He was still lecturing, his back to them and his eyes on the board. The Cat leaned in closer in order to keep her voice to a minimum. “I heard you freaked out at Emmie. She was crying in the bathroom today.”
Frank felt bitterness begin to burn in the pit of his stomach. “She’s a bitch. You were there. You saw what she did to Gee-/Gerard./” The Cat looked up at the teacher again, quicker this time, her eyes with the irises that looked as if they were carved from jade sliding in his direction then back to Frank.
“You don’t understand, she’s been through a lot lately,” the Cat explained. A certain edge of desperation strained her voice.
“We’ve all been through tough shit.” Frank snapped in a whisper. “I don’t give a fuck who you are, you can’t treat people like that! Did you see how scared he was?”
“Her parents are divorcing! She has to choose between houses and parents! She’s frustrated all the time!”
”Fuck you!” He retorted sharply, causing the Cat to flinch at the sudden aggression in his words. His usually sleepy eyes were narrowed. “My parents are divorce too, I never see my dad. I’ve been through so much more shit than her!” Frank twisted himself around in his seat so he was facing her, his legs between the side of the desk and the chair. “I know what it’s like to be shoved into lockers, to…to have shit thrown at your head, to be tripped and spit at! Gerard’s…Gerard’s a good guy. He doesn’t deserve that.” The Cat sharply laughed through her nose, her eyes becoming slits. He thought she might purr.
“He’s not who you think he is,” she whispered while the teacher blathered on in front of them. “D’you honestly think he’s a reject for no reason?”
Frank felt a lump form in the pit of his throat. He swallowed, attempting to clear his airway. The saliva only seemed to accumulate there.
“What’s that supposed to mean? He’s my /friend/, I know him.”
“Yeah, right,” she spat. Her words became quick and sharp, each syllable like a stab from a needle. “You think he’s all innocent and naïve and shit? Everyone knows he fucks around with that girl. I haven’t seen them do anything since you came around but trust me, before you got here, it was all hands and tongues, 24-7.” She gave a sort of half-smirk while he stomach clenched tight. “It’s sorta sick, but I heard- /heard/, so I don’t know if it’s true- that they got busted for fucking in one of the old bathrooms. I wouldn’t put it passed ‘em, though.”
Frank sneered and scoffed. “Yeah fucking right/. Gerard is so God damn /shy/. And he told me, they haven’t done anything…He meant it.” He listened to his own words. His heart seemed to turn into solid rock and fall, clunking against his ribs. The Cat flicked her hair over her shoulder seductively. He could have sworn a tiny /mew escaped her lips. She adjusted herself back into her chair so she was facing the teacher again.
“You may not like Emmie,” she whispered. “But she knows what she’s doing. That…/Gerard-kid/-” She seemed to not like to say his name, as if it was something dirty and embarrassing. “-deserves everything he gets.” Her face suddenly fell. Lines on her face became more prominent. “He stole someone very important from Emmie. You have no idea how broken up about it she was. And as soon as he found out she was…/hurting herself…/” She said this like a deep, dark secret. “…/he/ started doing it, too.”
The Cat didn’t look at him again. Frank turned back in his seat. He became aware that his mouth was hanging open slightly. He closed it. He wanted to vomit.
Liar. She was lying. She was saying things to make him angry, to confuse him. He knew better than that.
The lump wouldn’t leave his throat. His heart wouldn’t leave his stomach. Frank hated people. He hated people like cats.
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