That’s what he thinks. Monster because love is not fists and love is not this. He thinks Monster out of envy and then he thinks it out of remorse. He thinks it while he draws, while he uses different marks and pens and paper and ink in the back of his sketchbook to make thick lines of hate and blocks of colored sadness. He breathed Monster when they exchanged rings and sobbed Monster because they don’t match. Because he doesn’t want them to match.
Today he’s leaning against the cement wall behind the CD store where they first met. It’s a solid wall of cracked and dirtied grey, and standing with his back against it, the coolness seeping through the back of his shirt with the smell of cigarettes that he can identify down to the brand and the sound of some song he can’t listen to anymore because it reminds him of the things he loves is so nostalgic and sweet that it makes him ache for older says. He wants to weep but won’t.
Gerard’s old enough to know this is stupid but too enveloped to care. So he reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out his pen, the cap ending up in his mouth, between his teeth and lips, while he brings the ink to the wall.
He’s had this idea for a while. Ever since Frank got married. It was about March, then. So six months Almost seven. It was just a collage of thoughts. A thought wall. A thought wall on the side of a building where someone might see it and think, ”I get it. I do.” He’s drawing dense lines and thinks, ”They won’t."
He pulls the cap out of his mouth, rubs it dry on his jacket, and puts it back on the pen. That one was black. For thick, cartoonish lines. The next one is red. Fine-tipped for words he thinks but doesn’t say. So he wrote them at the bottom of the first drawing.
That’s another idea he’s had. Gerard’s had this idea of words. These ones are only four months old. Fledgling ideas. These came with abuse. These words came with petty arguments and You’re so stupid.They made sentences with What the hell is wrong with you? and Just shut up. Then he brought out the black again and started over with another idea.
And he did this every day. Every day stood behind that CD store and brought his markers to the wall. The permanent markers that wouldn’t fade in the rain or the weather or time. And they wouldn’t fade just like the relationship between Frank and his girl wouldn’t fade. It might dull or the colors might change but someone would come along and paint over them again. Color them in. It would probably be her. Frank wasn’t much for coloring.
After a week at the wall, Gerard had covered a third of the concrete. After two he wondered why he still came there. And after three he thought, ”Because I can.”
Gerard leaned against his ink-covered block, his three-foot-wide canvas, and just stood at the end of week four, at the end of his twenty-eight days. He was incomplete with his want of something he couldn’t have and complete with his incompleteness. His lack of satiation was somehow fulfilling. He filled his lungs and still felt empty, feeling like a man who no longer cares that he’s lost something important. Contentment in discontentment.
Gerard didn’t turn but he spoke anyway. “Hey.” He heard the crunch of footsteps on alleyway debris but didn’t want to look.
“You wanted to talk to me?”
Gerard sniffled and rubbed his nose. ”Yeah.” He could feel the presence of the man next to him, could sense his heat and his thoughts, his discomfort. Gerard wanted to say something, to spit something angry and hurtful that had been biting the back of his tongue for months and years and hours and hours and hours. But he didn’t. He could feel that the two of them were held together not by the string that connected them to every other human being, but by a stretched and fractured line of glass. If his words were too heavy or harsh or fast the line would break. The two of them were so fragile that it made Gerard feel like a child.
He tried not to choke when he sputtered, ”Are you-?” He paused and exhaled thickly, then said, “Are you happy?”
Frank didn’t answer right away, seemed to be gnawing on his own thoughts and feelings, deciding between what he was and what he wasn’t. He breathed the way Gerard had and said, “I-…Yes.” Gerard paused as if holding an open palm against the words he wanted to speak, then said almost bitterly that he didn’t believe him.
Frank was quiet. He radiated exhausted sadness as he spoke, “Why did you bring me here, Gerard?” He looked so tiny. Gerard felt so clumsy and helpless.
Gerard looked at where the building across from them met the sky. He could feel them breaking. “It isn’t supposed to be this way.” Frank sharply asked What do you mean? and Gerard said nothing. Not because he didn’t know but because he just wanted Frank to understand.
They paused before Frank’s voice slipped into the silence like a jackknife, “Did you think I would be happy with you?” He said it sharply and angrily, like a snake spitting venom that was supposed to hurt. “Did you really think that? It might have worked when I was fifteen and stupid but I’m-”
“Oh, shut up,” Gerard whispered ad it was almost a laugh. A soft, tired laugh. “You’re so stubborn. You’ll bite off your nose to spite your face and you’ll stay unhappy with your girl forever.” Frank said in a weak, small voice that he was happy and Gerard breathed flatly, “Don’t lie to me.”
“You can’t make me happy,” Frank whispered. Gerard exhaled through his nose.
“I could once.” When Frank didn’t say anything Gerard seemed to ask to no one, “What happened to us?”
Frank answered as if he’d either been anticipating the question or had known the answer like common knowledge. He said it almost flippantly. “I grew up. I changed. And you didn’t.”
Gerard snarled. “Yeah, if changing means marrying a bitch with an inferiority complex.”
In a sudden, sharp move, Frank arms shot out in front of him. He twisted and pushed Gerard into the wall, against the cold concrete. Gerard made a small whimper and clawed at Frank’s hands but the other man pinned him tight.
”Shut up!”he growled. “Just shut up! I don’t want you! I don’t want you!”
Gerard loosened his grip on Frank’s hands and looked up at him. “Do you want her?”
Frank held him there, held Gerard pinned by the shoulders to that hard, solid wall. He clenched his teeth and breathed through his nose. And as he finally unlocked his jaw, finally softened his boyish features, he said in a small, quiet voice, “No.” He let go of Gerard’s shoulders and took a few steps back. For a few moments he looked at Gerard as if trying to string together his thoughts. He opened his mouth, parted his full lips as if he might say something insightful, then looked above Gerard’s head for a few moments before saying a little dully, “D’you draw that?” He put his hands in the pockets of his jacket and Gerard stood up against the wall.
Frank looked at the wall for a few more seconds, squinting his eyes slightly at the pictures and words, before he breathed, “I can’t do this. I can’t leave her. I can’t leave her for you.”
Gerard made a sound like laughter but with the bitterness and hurt of a scoff.”This so stupid.”
Frank snarled and snapped back, “What?! What is so stupid, Gerard?! Am I stupid because I won’t leave my wife or are you stupid because you want me to? Tell me, please, because I can’t possibly understand why this would be stupid except for the fact that you’re making it stupid!” His arm flew up and he pointed sharply at Gerard while he said it.
“You don’t know what the hell you want!” Gerard snarled back. “You’ll stay with your God damn angry, abusive wife when I’m here for you! I’ve always been here for you! For God’s sake, you left me for that woman who doesn’t give two shits about you because…” Gerard put a hand to his forehead as if afraid his brain might escape. “…I don’t know even know why!”
Frank’s eyes softened and he said in a restrained voice, “I was young, Gerard. I can’t get out of my stupid mistakes anymore. I can’t just…pack up and leave her like I left you.” He looked off to the side for a moment before adding, “That was a long time ago, anyway. It’s different.”
Gerard asked almost pathetically, “Why not?”Frank said I just can’t.
Gerard realized that the glass holding them together was gone. “She’s a monster.”
Frank just looked at him for a while. “Then what are you?”
Gerard said they should leave.
Frank was married for two years, and even that exceeded Gerard’s expectatios. Gerard left the place where there was nothing left for him for New York, and Frank…he never said where we went. Gerard heard from a friend or so-and-so that Frank’s wife stayed in their home state. Gerard hoped she would never leave.
The alley behind the CD store where they first met had been cleaned up by some pro-Earth citizens hoping to sanitize that part of town. They scrubbed the wall that Gerard had spent four weeks drawing on. He didn’t want to go back to see if it was gone.
Frank came back to that town to collect some old things and to talk to some older people he hardly even knew anymore. He strayed down to the alley behind the CD store, half expecting to see Gerard standing there against the wall, waiting to ask him, ”Are you happy now?” And if he had been Frank would have said no. He looked up at the wall where he’d pinned Gerard down, where they’d last spoke. It was hardly speaking, anyway. The drawings were still there. The colors were faded and almost invisible, but they were still there. A little.
There was a little cartoon Frank, drawn on the slate of grey with black marker. And it had Frank’s big eyes and wild hair, his little body. There was Frank again, still small and cartoonish like the sketches of an artist made to look like a child’s, a cartoon Frank crying beside an eel-like monster. And another. This one spoke of a broken heart. The words below them, in small red letters said, “That’s all I asked for, love me, love me.”
There had been things there on that wall that he could no longer read. Some he didn’t want to read. Words of “Monster!” and “Bruised and broke him.” There were things he wanted to remember and things he needed to. And if he had to come back, had to be in this place where Gerard no longer was, where he should have been, then he’d do it.
Frank pulled out a pen and brought it to the wall. They wouldn’t fade.
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