The sun was setting and the air in my lungs was feeling thin. I could feel my friends around me, warm and asleep. The chill was cold in my veins, shaking my body at such a speed, it was a miracle no one woke up. Or maybe they were awake. Maybe they knew and just refused to come to my aid. Wouldn’t be a surprise. They’ve done it before.
Mikey was asleep on the floor, sidekick still buzzing with each message on his chest. Ray was leaning against the chair Bob was knocked out in, snoring loudly. I sat on the loveseat, Frank beside me and somewhere between awake and unconscious, moving here and there. He always moved closer, never away, lodged in the middle of the cushions with a leg draped over one of my own.
My hair strands snap when I pull on them, eyes fixated on my friend beside me as he moves. His eyes open only for a moment before blinking 15 times - I counted - and locking in on me, sitting up haphazardly. He seems to know just what I’m thinking even in his sleepy state. Of course he would. He always knows when I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
“Gerard?” His voice cracks, humming for a second to try and get rid of the raspiness. It doesn’t work, “You alright?”
I open my mouth but nothing comes out. My throat is dry and my face feels like 100 bees stung it at once. As if my tongue is way bigger than it should be. The hair in my hands falls to the ground when I brush them off on my jeans, promptly pulling them to my chest. Frank doesn’t look alarmed but he doesn’t exactly look excited to see me. (To see me like this.)
“Are you?” He repeats.
I just shake my head and the frown on his face says it all.
“Come on,” he yawns, “bathroom, now.”
Over the course of a month, every time I got like this, every time the stars were too bright, we would go in the bathroom and talk. We would talk and talk and talk. He would babble about nothing and I would babble back and sometimes I would take a shower and he would just sit on the closed toilet, singing my favorite Smiths songs to calm me down. I would always sing along.
He leads me with a careful hand, helping me as a fumble over myself. My legs have turned to jello and my brain is just static by the time I’ve been sat down on the edge of the sink. The bathroom is dark, the only light coming from a tiny night light near the soap dispenser. Dressing room bathrooms and dressing rooms… homes away from homes and tonight, a place of rest. I don’t realize just how violently I’m shaking until Frank wraps his jacket around my shoulders, quiet.
“I-I’m sorry.” I mutter, fiddling with my torn suit jacket.
“Anxiety is a bitch.” He simply replies, a tiny smile on his lips.
After a pause, I blurt, “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” He says without hesitation, “You’ll be okay. You always will be.”
“Promise.” I demand, joining in the giggles when I realize what I’ve referenced, “Please, though. Promise.”
“I promise, I promise.” He smiles, voice like honey.
We’re in close proximity and silent for the longest time. He fixes my hair and grins. He takes off my suit jacket so his fuzzy one can actually warm me up. He puts his hand on my back and traces circles. All without words. None need be said when I’m with him. It’s like this with everyone. I could look at Ray for just a second and he knows what I know. It’s beautiful, it’s psychic.
When he yawns, we make eye contact. Impulses seem so right in the moment that I lean over and kiss his cheek. His reaction is small but expected. He utters something along the lines of ‘what’ before he blinks away the confusion and smiles. He leans over and kisses my cheek. I smile at him before the butterflies in my stomach turn into monsters.
He holds my hair back while I eject the night’s mistakes into the toilet that smelled oddly like lilacs and cigarette butts. I could hear him talking but the words were nothing but white noise as the static grew louder and louder in my head. But then for one shining moment, I could feel something good. It felt like the best high or the greatest romance or what it felt like to be king of everything. And then in the next, I was in a different room.
“What?” I questioned aloud, in my full makeup and costume, completely sober.
“Hey!” A far off voice called.
I turned swiftly around and stopped. My jaw dropped and I couldn’t help it. In the white room I was in, there was a freaking wall. There was a sign next to it and some art along the outside, a door to the left of someone sitting atop the brick. I wasn’t sure where I was or who that was until I was close enough to read the sign.
The 27 Club.
“Hey, kid!” The guy calls out again.
So this is heaven? Well, heaven for rock stars that died too soon, anyway. I sort of knew I would end up here someday. I would turn 27 and my world would collapse. Before I could get too upset, I strode up to the wall, face to face with none other than Kurt Cobain.
“I’m here to join the club,” I say easily.
He gives me a squinty-eyed look, leaning over, “And who the fuck are you?”
“Gerard? Gerard Way. I’m sort of in this band-”
Lifting up a page, he says, “Nope. Not on here.”
“What?” I blurt. Why was I here, then? After a second’s thought, I ask, “I could be in there as Gee? Or Gerry? Or maybe even Aunt-”
“Aunt?” He chuckles, “Kid, you aren’t in here. Which is a good thing. And first of all, you look more like you’re 12 than 27. Not the 12 club.” He starts to scribble on the paper, kicking his feet off the side. It was then I knew it wasn’t a list, “Second of all, if you’re in some big band, they wanna see you get all fucked up. They love it when we die in our prime. Don’t give the people what they want.”
I watch him tuck some hair behind his ear and set the clipboard to the side, staring me right in the eye. Mikey would never believe this.
“Give them hell.” He smiles before adding sternly, “And don’t come back.”
I hesitate. Where would I go? There doesn’t seem to be a door anywhere other than the one leading to the club. When I glance behind me at the white nothing. There’s a wooden door. I look back at Kurt and he just looks back at me. With a sigh and a nod, I walk towards the door.
“Good luck, kid.” He calls after me, “And nice suit!”
As soon as I open the door, a flash of darkness blinds me. I don’t gasp awake like I thought I would, but instead, I grab on to whatever I can reach.
“Gerard!” Frank says happily, sniffling.
When I move to look at him, he’s crying with a sad grin on his face. My head is resting in his lap and my hand has a death grip on one of his own. I try to ask what happened but I end up choking on the words and coughing. Frank becomes concerned and sits me up, rushing about the bathroom before handing me a bottled water. Smart. Never drink the tap water.
Once I’ve finished half the bottle, he sighs, “You just stopped breathing. I tried to check your pulse but then you woke up.” After a pause, he adds, “Drugs and alcohol don’t mix. You know that.”
“I’ll get better.” I croak, “I’m - I’ll get sober. Serious this time.”
“Okay.” Frank comforts me, sitting on the bathroom floor, “Okay."
I rest my head on his shoulder and close my eyes, “I died.”
“You don’t know that.” He says defensively.
“I do. I saw something. I met someone.” I’m vague but I’m weak and it’s hard to form thoughts into words. (Especially when cold fingers are snaking their way under my shirt.)
“You met someone?” He chuckles but isn’t mocking, “God?”
“No.” I take in a deep breath, “Kurt Cobain.”