"So, have you thought any more about the band?"
I raised my eyebrows and glanced over at Ray from where I sat in the passenger seat of his car. He was watching me, half worried and half irritated. I didn't blame him. I was being pretty irritating and worrisome these days – I knew both he and Mikey thought it. I wasn't oblivious to the things that went on behind my back. They were worried about my 'delicate mental state' or something of that nature. Ever since I'd stopped writing…no, Gerard. Don't think about that, you'll only make it worse.
Ray didn't give up. He was one stubborn bastard, but then again, wasn't that partly how he put up with me? I'd found that the only people I could surround myself with were the stubborn ones. Hm.
"But it makes you better, Gerard! The music, it's like…it's like how writing was for you!"
I stiffened, eyes narrowing. Too stubborn, Ray. You went too far. "And you don't see me doing a lot of that lately, do you?"
"And why don't you?" he asked softly. "You love writing."
"Not now I don't!" I exclaimed. I was being childish. I do that sometimes. "I can't…I can't ever think of anything to write about! It's like my brain just short circuited and now I just keep going back to stupid things to write books about."
I scrunched up my nose. "Like romances. Dumb, sappy romances. What's wrong with me?"
Ray ignored that last part, because it was a big question that would probably be better left unanswered. "Then write them."
I couldn't believe him. "No! What would I even…who would I even write about?"
Ray shrugged. "You're the writer. You can write anything, you can write anyone. All you need are the words to bring them to life."
"Stop being so cheesy."
"Then you stop being so damned stubborn!"
Now I was the stubborn one?
"What do you suggest I do?"
"I don't know, how do you usually get inspiration?"
"I don't know. It just…comes to me."
"Then let it come."
"What kind of advice is that?"
I huffed and stared at Ray. He was completely serious, of course he was. "You really think I'll get inspiration just by waiting for it to come?"
"Let's find out."
I don't really dream very much.
Or, well, that's wrong. I do dream, I dream every night, just like everybody else. Did you know that the average human has dozens, even hundreds, of dreams every night? But we don't remember most of them because the encoding associated with the memory is too weak for our brains to retain. Perhaps that encoding is especially weak with my mind, because I never wake up with images in my mind from that night.
But I did recall the dream I had that night, because it had just been so vivid, so incredibly…real.
There was a man in the dream. I'd never seen him before in my life. And I know that that makes absolutely no sense, because you can only dream about people you have seen before, whether they are close to you or just random strangers on the street.
But I'd never seen him before. I just knew. There was nobody in this world like him, and I couldn't explain how I determined that, only that I did.
He'd just been standing there, with dancing, playful green eyes and curling dark hair, skin a shade somewhere between porcelain and coffee. Like milk with chocolate, perhaps. He had a tipped up nose, full lips, and a piercing on both – a lip ring and a small silver stud on the left side. Tattoos were visible from their dark outlines underneath his sheer white T-shirt. The man was short, too, shorter than me, but not by too much. He was young, a bit younger than me, but again – not by too much. And he was beautiful.
He'd only done one thing in the dream, besides standing and smirking, that is. He'd sidled up to me, and said in a soft, slightly nasally voice, "My name is Frank Iero. Bring me to life."
And then I'd woken up.
Now I was writing. I was writing down the dream. I was finding my inspiration which had so strangely come to me.
I was bringing Frank Iero to life.
"You seem happier today," Mikey remarked, peering at me from over his steaming cup of coffee. We sat inside a Starbucks, silently sipping our drinks. I was a bit miffed that he'd broken that silence. I rather liked silence, if it was a good silence. Otherwise, it could be most unpleasant.
"What makes you say that?"
He sighed, took a sip, set the cup down, and repeated. "You're writing again."
My head snapped up. "How did you know that?!"
"Oh, come on, Gerard. I'm your brother, I know these things. What's the story about?"
I contemplated whether or not to answer. "It's a romance," I replied cagily.
"A guy named Frank."
"Gerard, you're writing a romance about this Frank and yourself? Really?"
"I couldn't think of anything else," I mumbled, wringing my hands. "And I just…Frank is like this perfect character. I mean, of course he isn't, because nobody's perfect, but he's perfect for…"
"For you?" Mikey guessed. "Gerard, don't you think you should stop creating fantasy boys and going out to meet real ones?"
"Frank's real," I snapped, turning away. "Real enough."
Mikey just shook his head, and I drank my coffee angrily.
I burned my tongue.
Frank was quite a character, that was for sure.
I made him stubborn, of course, because only stubborn people could stand me. That was just how it worked. But he was also very loyal, and very protective. Somehow it fit him. He could be fierce, and he could be gentle, but most often he was a mix of the two, with the fierceness the more dominant of the traits. He liked to break the rules, which was why he'd been kicked out of high school (for having an affair with his art teacher). He loved to play guitar and cook breakfast foods, and he had more energy than anyone I'd ever met. He was born and raised in Belleville, New Jersey, and he loved dogs. He liked the word 'fuck.' He adored dogs. He smoked, although he was attempting to stop.
He had a lip and nose piercing and lots of tattoos – sparrowbirds on his hips, the words Search And Destroy wrapping around his body, accented by two crossed handguns on his lower back. There was a scorpion on his neck and a pair of scissors with 'Jinx Removing' written over them in curling script. (Jinx Removing being, of course, the name of one of Frank's favorite songs.) He had a full sleeve on his left arm, and he wanted to get another on his right.
His birthday was Halloween, and so he had that written on his knuckles in the colors of the holiday. He was twenty two years old, short at five foot five, and had the shittiest immune system known to mankind, because, well, I figured every character needs some flaws. His uncle was part of the Italian American Mafia in New Jersey, but he'd failed in trying to bring Frank into his schemes. Frank wasn't a pacifist by any means, but he had a very defined sense of right and wrong.
And, most importantly of all, he loved me. We'd met in Times Square on New Year's when he, a complete stranger, kissed me on the stroke of midnight. Very romantic, at least in my mind. I wasn't good with these kinds of things, give me a break.
We'd been together five years.
I was going to ask him to marry me this New Year's, which was exactly thirteen days from now.
Yes, very romantic, I do believe.
Writing about Frank had made me high-spirited enough to be convinced into going to one of Mikey's insane parties. Though I didn't exactly participate, he was thrilled that I was even there. It wasn't that I had a grudge against parties. I just didn't particularly enjoy them when there was alcohol involved. For my sake, Mikey had at first tried not to include it, but someone spiked the punch anyway, punch that I, foolishly enough, drank.
Alcohol and I do not mix well.
It was late when I got home, in the early hours of the morning. It was even earlier, or, well, later I suppose, because I had to drive a very drunk Ray home. It wasn't a picnic having to smell his beer breath the entire ride, but then again, I'd rather smell that than him try to drive and get into an accident.
So it was that I arrived at my unnecessarily large house at four a.m., with the frustration that only past alcoholics understand, and gratefully collapsed upon the absurdly vast mattress on my even more monstrous bed. Sleep came easily, and words danced behind my eyelids.
I woke up the next morning with an insatiable craving for coffee. This was not out of ordinary. In fact, nothing was out of the ordinary.
Nothing ever was.
I stumbled down the carpeted stairs, which seemed endless to me in my sleepy state. My hair was beyond help, and I smelled a little bit, but hey, that was alright, because –
– there was a man in my kitchen.
I froze on the last step, hand caught in my hair, tired eyes widening as they processed the situation. Goddammit. Of course, I should have expected that somebody would rob me, one of the biggest houses in the neighborhood. Or maybe it was a crazy fan, one who had somehow found his way into my house and was…
Wait, was he cooking?
"Uh," I said in a voice somewhere between a squeak and a grunt.
The man turned around.
Oh my god.
"Oh, shit," he said, chewing his lip ring, "did I wake you up? I wanted it to be a surprise."
I blinked, closed my eyes, and blinked again. Ray and Mikey were right to be concerned about my delicate mental state. This wasn't real. This couldn't be real. Because…because the man standing in my kitchen was Frank. Without a single doubt in my mind, I knew it was him, and yet, that wasn't at all possible.
"Uh…you…oh my god," I uttered, falling to the side and clutching the banister. "Fuck, Frank."
"Yeah, that's me," he said cautiously, giving me a weird look. "Are you feeling okay, Gee?" Before I could even manage to gather my thoughts, he looked down guiltily at the Marlboro in his hand. "Oh, shit, I'm sorry. I know you don't want me to smoke inside 'cause it sets the smoke alarms off but, I dunno, I just…"
"No, that's, that's fine, smoke away," I stuttered, unable to stop staring at him. How? How was he here?
He giggled. "You're dumb when you're tired. Anyway, what's up? You're like…off."
I'm off? You're not even a real person! "What…what were you doing last night?"
Frank's giggle broke off and he raised an eyebrow, suddenly intense and quiet. "I think you of all people would know the answer to that."
"Um. Care to elaborate?"
"Well," Frank said, and fuck, this was crazy, he had smoky eyes and that smirk that I imagined him with and he was creeping closer, "we got back from Mikey's party, after a really long ride in the car. And so as soon as we got inside, I slammed you up against the wall and we-"
"Okay, okay, fuck," I gasped hurriedly, flailing my hands around. There was one more test though, to see if he was actually the Frank I created. I paused. "T-take off your shirt."
He laughed, not giggles, but low, husky laughter that was sort of creepy and sort of sexy and really perfect. "Wow, someone's a little eager."
My face flamed. I was so bad at these things, but it had to be done. I watched hesitantly as he extinguished the cigarette and pulled the black hoodie up and over his head, exposing his chest, neck, and arms…and all the tattoos on them. They were all there. This was fantasy Frank, except he wasn't a fantasy anymore.
Unless I was crazy.
That would be a whole other situation entirely.