Cut My Life Into Pieces
It's nearly 3am the morning after a hellish night before and Frank lies sleepless in his bunk staring up at the scratched base of the bed above his own. The sleeves and cuffs of his hoodie are stiff and shiny with drying blood, the pale grey fabric stained and sticky. Both arms this time. Too much for sure but he didn’t have time to find anything to stop the bleeding. After everything blew up and everyone started yelling at him he panicked and fled in here to his bunk, his tiny sanctuary of safety that smells like him and feels almost like home. A blanket and a curtain to separate him from everybody and everything else in the world tonight. There's no first aid kit in here but at least no one followed him and hey the bleeding’s almost stopped now.
Despite the numbing effect of his recent diet of booze and painkillers he still hurts, inside and out, and to put it bluntly it sucks. It sucks a lot and he's so tried of feeling this way. He’s played around with pain his whole life of course, making it his friend and an accomplice to fun: tattoos, piercings, hurling himself off stages and into drum kits: all of it hurts. But this isn’t the good kind of pain anymore. This is about bottling things up and carving a release out of his own flesh. It's about control and risk and just being able to fucking breathe.
Seeing his blood trickling away helps him know he's still alive and real and in control of that life, no matter what circumstances might come his way. As the blood flows out it seems to carry some of the suffocating stress and anxiety and rot out of him too and every drop is another guilty second of relief from feeling completely overwhelmed.
After puking in the service station toilet he slept for most of the day and didn't eat a thing so by the time sound check and the show came around he was already light-headed and running on caffeine and not much else. During the band's loud aggressive performance of the song 'House Of Wolves' he actually fell over from dizziness near the end but no one seemed to notice. He often played guitar on his knees or lying his back during 'House of Wolves’ so this was nothing new. No one saw the truth.
During intermission, when the band left the stage to change out of their Black Parade uniforms into regular clothes to play hits from their back catalogue, Frank hid in the dressing room toilet to change in privacy with no one to look at his scars. As he dragged off the too-hot Parade jacket and yanked a thin grey hoodie over his sweaty head, he could still hear the noise from the arena – brought to his ears by tiny speakers embedded in the walls - and the excited audience were screaming and chanting for him and the others to return to the stage. Over their ecstatic cries the song ‘Blood’ was being piped loudly through the sound system and it made him feel proud and sick at the same time.
The show ended late and after forcing himself through the rest of the set and half-heartedly smashing his microphone during the finale, Frank felt exhausted and more miserable than ever. He went straight back to the tour bus on his own, skipping a meet-and-greet with the fans with the excuse that he felt sick because he really couldn’t handle faking smiles for anyone right now, no matter how much he cared about them.
Shutting himself in the bus washroom again, he sat down in the shower and rolled up the sweat-soaked sleeve of the hoodie he’d worn onstage. With adrenaline still pumping in his veins and a migraine throbbing behind his eyes, he whipped out his lighter and a double-edged razorblade and quickly burned the stained metal with the sterilising flame, desperate to slash it through his skin. He needed this so much he was almost in tears. As bad as it was and as good as it felt, he needed it now more than ever like an addict craves a fix. Playing concerts used to make him feel amazing and on top of the world but tonight he had only felt nauseous and empty and that made him so sad he wanted to cry with loss but he still couldn’t shed a single tear. All he had now were these smeared shower walls, his sweating skin and an ugly blade.
The razor was halfway down his right forearm with a dozen crimson slashes behind it and a hundreds splashes of red on the shower tiles already from his left arm when the washroom door suddenly sprang open. “Frank? Ohmigod what are you doing?!”
It was Mikey. Why did it have to be Mikey? The bassist took a long, horrified look at where Frank sat cowering in shame and shock in the shower and then began yelling almost hysterically for his brother, “Gerard! Gerard, get in here!”
Not that Frank blamed him - he would have probably done the same thing when confronted with something this unexpected and terrible. Of course Mikey called for help. Lord knows, Frank needs it. But not like this.
Gerard and Ray both came charging up to the washroom door and this was pretty much when the screaming began. Voices overlapping each other in a chorus of upset and horror...
“Mikey, what’s wrong? What_?”
“Frank, what the hell?!”
Frank doesn’t remember much after that. Somehow he snapped out of his stunned paralysis and dropped the razor before jumping to his feet and bolting through his friends where they crowded in the doorway, twisting out of Ray’s frantic grasp and ignoring Gerard’s pleas to stop. Running down the bus he made it to the sleeping area and dove sobbing and shaking into his bunk, pulling the curtain shut and shrinking back against the wall with the cuffs of his bloody sleeves scrunched up in his trembling fingers and his hands pressed over his ears to block out the noise of the fight he knew was coming. How could he have been so careless and not locked the door? This wasn’t happening, oh god this wasn’t happening!
Three pairs of running footsteps thundered towards him and Frank squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the curtain to be whipped aside and his sanctuary to be broken…but then another voice joined the chorus. Brian. The young tour manager must have stepped onto the bus in the middle of all of this chaos and intercepted Mikey, Gerard and Ray before they could reach the bunks. Sliding his bloodstained hands off his ears and down his sweaty cheeks, Frank heard Brian asking them what’s wrong and Gerard explaining in a halting, hurt voice and then Mikey whispering something else before Brian somehow calmed everyone down, called out the door for Bob, and told everyone to give Frank some space – after all he obviously ran away and hid because he wants to be alone right? There was some more hushed talk for a while, too quiet for Frank to understand, and Brian ordered the others off the bus and shut the door with a dull slam.
Muffled voices sounded outside, occasionally raised in anger but then getting further and further away until there was only silence.
Frank curled up miserably on his blankets, still bleeding, his hands shaking, and tried to think of something to tell the guys when they inevitably came back looking for him. How could he explain this to them when they had no idea what went on inside his head? Hours passed and the bus remained empty as midnight came and went and the wintery dawn slowly approached.
It is now 4am the morning after the hellish night before, and Frank is still staring up at the empty bunk above his own. His arms are slowly scabbing over but he feels ripped apart and humiliated for everyone to stare at and pity and judge. He’s turned the spotlight on himself now and it’s all his fault. There’s no one else to blame. As he finally falls asleep from sheer exhaustion he doesn’t feel numb anymore, just afraid.
When dawn comes Frank wakes with a dry mouth and blurry head and tries to remember why he feels so nervous and shitty. Dull spikes of pain are dancing in his arms and his entire body feels stiff and cold, the mattress too hard under his legs and back. His face is wet and itchy under his eyes and he can't remember how long he's been sleeping. Rolling wearily onto his side and sitting up a little, he shakes off a wave of dizziness and glances down at the bed. “Oh god.”
There is blood everywhere. Hours of restless sleep have caused his deepest cuts from last night to re-open again and again and now both the bed sheets and his clothes are stained with dark patches of red. Staring in surprise at the sheer amount of blood – did he really cut this deep? - his first thought isn’t about how he might have endangered his health but how he’s going to hide this mess from everyone else on the bus. But then again they all know about his secret now don’t they. Fuck.
Sitting up a little more while his head aches in protest, Frank listens hard to his surroundings but over his own tired breathing he can’t hear anything at all. The bus is silent. No running engine or voices or bleeping laptops. Nothing. Where did everybody sleep last night? Despite his desperate desire to stay hidden, he feels a small stab of self-pity when he realizes that everyone pretty much abandoned last night without stopping to check if he was okay.
Rubbing his sore eyes with bloodstained fingers he notices his hands are shaking. Rows of wide moist cuts, gunky with clotting blood, are burning and shivering in his arms and wrists. His dry mouth tastes like metal and everything in his bunk smells like sweat and iron. A wave of nausea sears his stomach and he feels dizzy again and unbearably faint and sick. Ducking his head between his knees, he lets his black hair fall over his eyes and tries to breathe deeply and swallow the nausea but it doesn't work. Oh man he really needs to puke! Throwing back the curtain on his bunk, Frank swings his legs out into the small corridor beyond and feels a rush of cold air hit his skin. Cold air? Someone’s opened the tour bus door...
It’s Gerard but Frank only glimpses a blurry snapshot of his friend – wide hazel eyes and the shadow of black clothes – before dizziness takes over and he’s suddenly lying on the carpet watching the world grey out around him.
Gerard is a like ghost in the grey, only outlines and shadows, too plastic-looking and fuzzy, like an old cartoon, and he’s moving so slowly... Frank closes his eyes on the confusing sight and lets a warm numbness wash over his body.
“Open your eyes, Frank. Wake up!”
“Yeah,” he mumbles, weakly pushing Gerard’s plastic hands away from his face, “I am awake…”
“Then open your eyes!”
Tasting sweat and acid, Frank opens his eyes and sees Ghost-Gerard kneeling over him looking frantic and terrified. “Jesus, Frank what did you do? You’re fucking covered in blood!”
“I don’t feel so good,” Frank groans as another surge of dizzy nausea tramples through his skinny body, “I think I'm gonna barf...”
“Alright, come on,” Gerard says, grabbing his younger friend under the arms and pulling him to his feet.
The singer drags Frank down the empty bus to the washroom and sits him down in front of the toilet. Frank slumps over the porcelain bowl with his eyes closed, damp hair falling in his face, and spits up a little pill-water and snot. He hasn’t eaten anything for nearly two days.
Gerard hovers around him worriedly, making him sit down against the wall and handing him a glass of something. Frank takes the drink without looking at it and sips, coughing on the sour taste.
“Ugh, what is that?”
“Just orange juice,” Gerard says anxiously, “It’s from the fridge.”
“It doesn’t taste right,” Frank sighs, drinking it anyway as part of him wishes that he could throw up properly because then he might feel better. Gerard takes the empty glass and puts it aside.
“Do you still feel like you’re gonna pass out? Shit, Frankie what were you trying to do? You could have cut an artery something. Lemme call an ambulance."
“No! Don't,” Frank begs, shivering in his blood-stained clothes, "I can't handle that, please Gee, it's not as bad as it looks."
“Yeah it kinda is.”
“No, please don't call anyone.”
Biting his lip, Frank blinks away a few shameful tears and looks despondently around the tiny room, feeling stupid and miserable and angry at himself. It smells like cigarettes and drain-water in here and the shower is still stained with his blood. It wasn't supposed to turn out this way. “I’m gonna be alright,” he tells Gerard shakily, forcing the words out, “I don’t want you to think...I mean, this isn’t a suicide thing. I would never do that. I just... I dunno. Please don't make this into a big deal!”
“Will you let me fix up your arms at least?” Gerard asks quietly, pulling a First Aid kit out from under the sink, "I think you need proper stitches but we do have some paper sutures here, y'know, like for bad cuts." Too tired to argue, Frank just nods and takes off his hoodie, grimacing as the thin fabric sticks to his skin and pulls out the partially-formed scabs, re-opening the wounds once again.
When the hoodie is off and Gerard starts getting out bandages and antiseptic, Frank finds himself struggling to keep from crying and he almost laughs at the irony. For the last few weeks he’s been too numb or too sad to cry - so much that it scared him - but now that he's actually on the verge of bursting into tears he doesn’t want to. Not right now, not in front of Gerard. Looking up at the ceiling he screws his eyes shut until the tears are gone and soon enough the urge to cry is gone too.
“We've checked into the old hotel across the street,” Gerard rambles nervously as he cleans Frank’s broken skin, “Brian said you needed some time alone and everybody should calm down separately but I had to come back and check on you. I was so worried I couldn’t sleep and now it's morning already. I'm sorry we left you for so long, man, we didn't know you were this badly hurt and I’m really really sorry I got mad at you last night. I didn't wanna scare you off, Frank, that's the last thing I wanted. I was just…shocked I guess. We all were. I’m sorry.”
Frank nods faintly, resting his head against the wall and listening to the sluggish rhythm of his heartbeat as it pulses through his drained body.
I am alive. I am alive. I AM alive… so why do I feel so dead?
Gerard is still talking: “Remember when I told you I used to hurt myself in high school? I was so lonely and sick of all the fucked up cliques and it was an escape I guess, like my art, but I never did anything this serious. It sounds weird but it made me feel special in a twisted sort of way, like I was the only member of a secret underground society or something. I always did it alone, hiding, but I think deep down I wanted somebody to figure out what I was doing because it was so central to my life and got me through so many bad days I figured it would be obvious to everyone. I guess I wanted to see people’s reactions, to see if they thought I was as disgusting as I felt. I wanted to be helped or comforted or even just screamed at, I didn’t mind as long as somebody cared enough to notice I was hurting. The joke was on me though because it turns out people too wrapped up in their own worries and pain to pay attention to anyone else's.”
“What's your point, Gee?” Frank asks warily, wincing as his friend tapes a pad of clean white gauze around his arm.
“Because you left the door unlocked last night,” Gerard replies, gazing steadily at his face, “And that was a pretty dumb thing to do if you didn’t want us to find out what you were doing in here, Frankie. Was there maybe a part of you that wanted us to know?”
Frank looks away, not answering, and spits into the toilet bowl. He doesn't want to say it out loud but he wishes more than anything right now that he could turn back time and lock that fucking door. He's scared of living without a way to cope when things get hard and he doesn't know how else to deal with the static and suffocation in his heart and head if he can’t unleash all that white noise in blood once in a while.
Now that everyone knows he’s a “cutter”, they’ll be watching him like hawks to make sure he doesn’t do it again – probably even Gerard who thinks he understands what it's all about. What if they hide his razors or take the lock off the washroom door! Ohgod. Panicking, Frank starts to sweat in the damp claustrophobic room and pulls his bandaged arms away from Gerard's kind touch, getting unsteadily to his feet. He isn’t relieved about his secret getting out, he’s terrified. Terrified because he knows that his friends care too much about him to let him keep hurting himself and they’ll try to make him stop. But stopping isn’t something he can do right now. He needs this! He needs it!
“Just think about it, man,” Gerard begs, putting the first kit away, “I only want to help you Frankie. You're such a sweet guy and you don't deserve to be so mean to yourself.” Both of Frank’s forearms are now dressed in white and Frank folds them over his bare chest, fidgeting anxiously. He misses the red.
“I’ll find you a clean sweater and then I think you should come to the hotel and eat something,” Gerard adds gently, “They have great room service.”
Frank sighs okay and tries to muster up a smile. He feels ten pounds heavier with bandages and now that the nausea has passed he is actually craving something to put in his tortured stomach. Maybe he could try filling the hole inside him with comfort food instead of self-abuse for a change. Maybe breakfast will make him feel better. For a while. Maybe.
------------------------- I will update this again soon. I also post stories on Archive Of Our Own. x ----------------------------