Cut My Life Into Pieces
An hour crawls by and the guys don't hear any news about their injured friends. Cups of coffee turn cold and dozens of faceless medics hurry past down endless white corridors where everything looks too bright and harsh to be real. Details scream and whispers shout and people walk around wearing a heavy sadness like a second skin, all their happiness and hope abandoning them at the door. Brian and Mikey sit in melancholy silence, emotionally and physically exhausted, as they wait for a doctor to finally approach them and tell them...what?
That both their friends are going to be alright?
That Gerard is recovering but Frank is dead?
That Frank will live but Gerard died of unexpected complications?
That both of them are beyond saving?
That Frank has liver failure and Gerard is brain damaged?
That both of them will be fine?
He's going to be okay...
He'll never be the way he was again...
I'm sorry, there was nothing we could do...
Minutes crawl painfully by. The faint smell of scorched flesh drifts through antiseptic air and the sound of someone vomiting. Groans of pain. Footsteps and voices. The mechanical bleep-bleep of machines. Coughing and crying. Someone laughing and a staticky radio. Distant shouts and a ringing phone. The dull clunk of a vending machine.
Mikey sits in a corner chair with his arms folded and his thin legs fidgeting restlessly as he tries to keep his frantic anxiety under control. Beside him Brian leans forward on the edge of his seat with his hands folded between his knees and his eyes on the floor, silent and lost in thought. Frank's dried blood is smeared across his sneakers. It's 2:30am, a time when most people on the tour would normally be going to bed, sleeping off tonight's concert in preparation for tomorrow's, but not anymore.
Brian called the record company from the parking lot and they've cancelled the rest of The Black Parade Tour until further notice. An official explanation will be prepared for the music press and the fans but Brian knows that it will all be lies. There's no way that the real story of what happened tonight can be allowed to get out - mostly for Frank's protection but also to protect the band's reputation and their legions of fans too. Who knows what might happen if some of the kids who look up to MCR get dangerous ideas in their heads because of what one of their heroes has done? Lying is the only option left.
Frank's mom has been contacted too, but since she's at home in New Jersey and her son is in a Seattle hospital on the other side of the country, there isn't much she can do until she can catch a plane out sometime tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Brian and Mikey - and everyone stuck on crew trucks and tour buses throughout the city - are left to wonder whether there will even be a band left after tonight, and whether everyone involved will still be alive when the sun rises.
By 3am, Brian has gone for more coffee and Mikey is sitting alone with his knees bunched up against his chest and his coat hood hiding his face, shivering with anxiety as his stomach flutters and twists inside him, trying not to cry. Gerard is more than just a big brother to him, he's also his best friend; someone who makes him feel safe and understands his fears and nightmares. He loves Gerard more than anything and he can't handle losing him tonight. Or tomorrow. Or ever - he just can't! And if Frank dies tonight it'll be almost as bad, as painful. Mikey would lose everything he had ever fought for: his and Gerard's dreams, My Chem, a family, a friend, love and a sense of belonging, years of memories... He couldn't survive that, perhaps not even with Alicia by his side. After everything he and Gerard have gone through and survived together – the depression and drugs and darkness - this is just too cruel, too hard. It's not fair!
Scraping a rough hand across his eyes, Mikey grabs his cup of coffee from the floor and hurls it at the waiting room wall, watching the cold brown liquid explode across the white paint and drip slowly down to the floor.
Ten minutes later a passing janitor mops up the mess and Mikey has nothing left to throw.
4am has come and gone before a young female doctor wearing glasses brings Mikey and Brian some news of Gerard. She tells them that he has a fractured wrist, a torn shoulder and a moderate concussion but CT scans have shown that there's no brain damage, and his condition has improved enough for him to be moved up to an Observation Ward if they would like to go and see him. Mikey lets out a long tortured breath of shaky relief and nods gratefully, tears in his dark eyes.
"What about our friend, Frank Iero?" Brian asks her, getting to his feet on legs that are aching from sitting on plastic chairs for so long.
"I'm not sure,” the doctor replies, “He isn't one of the patients under my care. But I can go and check on him if you'd like."
"Please do," Brian says tersely, barely restraining himself from screaming in her face about how long they've been left waiting here scared to death about Frank's condition while no one told them anything. The doctor nods, nudging her glasses further up her nose, and beckons a male nurse over. "This is Malcolm," she says, "He'll take you up to see Gerard. I'm sorry no one has come to talk to you about your other friend. I'll send someone to update you on his condition as soon as possible."
Brian sighs wearily and opens his mouth to thank her but he's suddenly too tired to form words and the next moment she's already gone.
They find Gerard two floors up on a dimly-lit, clean-smelling ward with ten other patients. He's asleep in a bed near the door with the sheets pulled up to his chest and his black hair falling over his forehead. His left wrist is encased in plaster from his fingers to a few inches below the elbow and strapped against his chest in a special sling to immobilise his damaged shoulder. The medics have cleaned the blood off his face and he looks peaceful and safe now, although his closed eyes are still puffy from crying. Mikey sits down in a chair that's been left next to the bed and rests his elbows on the soft white bedcovers, leaning forward to watch his brother sleep. Brian stands quietly against the wall behind them and watches Malcolm check equipment around Gerard's bed. "Visiting hours are technically over," the nurse whispers with a conspiratorial smile, "But we can make an exception as long as you're quiet. Take a seat and if any of the other nurses question you just tell them I said it's okay. I'll be back soon to wake Gerard up for a neurological assessment - we can't let concussed patients sleep too long without checking on them."
"Okay," Brian responds automatically, watching the Way brothers with tired eyes while he worries endlessly about Frank, "Thanks."
"No problem," Malcolm shrugs, moving down the ward to the next bed.
Giving in to his weariness, Brian sinks heavily into a nearby chair and rests his chin in his hands. Mikey has nestled his face on his folded arms on Gerard's sheets, still wearing his hood, and seems to be drifting off into exhausted sleep. It's so calm and dark and restful on the ward that Brian can't help but want to do the same thing but he can't let go just yet, not until he knows if Frank is going to be alright.
The long, harrowing night slowly draws to a close and the thunderstorm outside dies away, fading into a chill grey mist. Malcolm and a few other nurses wander silently through the drowsy twilight of the ward, shadowy figures in the dimness, and everything is still and quiet and waiting. Brian settles back in his chair, half-awake in the lull of the pre-dawn hours, and watches over Gerard and Mikey as they escape their fear and trauma in sleep.
Beyond the hospital walls, birds begin to sing even though it's still dark out and one of the night-time DJs plays a My Chemical Romance song on the radio.
At long last a grey-haired doctor in a white coat enters the ward and ominously beckons Brian out into the corridor. Stretching his aching muscles, Brian stands up with a sinking heart and makes sure that Mikey's still asleep before following the doctor outside and down the bright, sterile hallway.
"Brian Schechter?" the doctor asks him formally when they are a good distance from the ward. "Yes," Brian gulps, bracing himself for bad news, "Have you come to talk to me about Frank?"
"I have. My name is Doctor Stevens. I'm one of the Attending Physicians down in the ER and I wanted to apologise for the delays you've suffered tonight, we've been very busy and unfortunately the friends of patients sometimes get lost in the system."
"Fine, whatever. Just, please, tell me what's going on. Is Frank...is he still alive? Is he going to be alright?"
"He's alive," Dr. Stevens says, frowning slightly at Brian's blood-stained clothes, "But as for whether he'll be 'alright' again after this, I honestly don't know. Since you are apparently legally responsible for him in the absence of any family, I'll be blunt with you, Mr Schechter. At some point tonight, Frank tried to kill himself and he very nearly succeeded. We had to flood his digestive tract with charcoal and pump his stomach. His heart, lungs and liver were badly compromised by the amount of drugs he took and he's very lucky that he didn't give himself organ failure. We've also had to give him a blood transfusion, intravenous fluids, sodium, and oxygen and he's currently intubated because he can't breathe properly by himself right now." Dr. Stevens pauses for a moment, his face grim, before continuing, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this but there's also a chance that the seizures Frank suffered as a result of his overdose have caused some permanent brain damage. We won't know for sure until he regains consciousness but you should prepare yourself for the possibility."
"Ohmigod," Brian whispers in horror, sinking back against the wall as his legs go weak with shock, his mind reeling, "Oh no..."
"Brian?" Mikey interrupts, appearing in the corridor behind them, "What's going on? Is Frank...?"
"He's alive," Brian says quickly, standing up straight and trying to mask his distress.
"Yes," Dr. Stevens adds softly, "But as I said before, he hasn't yet regained consciousness. At the moment we're doing all we can to keep him comfortable and bring his body chemistry back to normal so we can move him to the Intensive Care Unit but_"
"Can we see him?" Brian begs, "Please can we see him now?"
"Briefly. He's still downstairs in the ER at the moment so if you'd like to come with me, I'll take you to him."
"Thanks. Mikey, are you coming?"
"I don't know," Mikey hesitates, chewing on his lip and looking anxiously back at the ward, "I don't want to leave Gerard."
"Gerard's resting right now," Brian says gently, "Even when the nurses wake him up to test him he'll be too sleepy to talk to you."
"I know," Mikey sniffles, tears shining in his tired eyes again, "But I don't want him to be alone in here, Brian. He doesn't like hospitals and there's so many needles here - the doctors put them in his hands and everything - and he hates needles! He'll be scared when he wakes up and_"
"Okay, that's fine. Calm down," Brian says soothingly, not wanting Mikey more upset tonight, "You stay here with Gerard then and I'll go and see Frankie and that way we can keep an eye on both of them, can't we."
"I guess so," Mikey whispers, wiping his eyes on his hood.
"Will you be okay up here on your own?" Brian adds seriously, "I mean it, Mikey, are you feeling able to deal with this right now?"
Mikey nods uncertainly, his eyes heavy and worried, “Yeah. But there's...I don't..."
"What's wrong? Tell me."
"I missed taking some of my medication today," Mikey confesses, "And then I forgot to catch up because we were looking for Frankie and then he swallowed most of it himself..."
"Oh, I see," Brian says calmly, "Well, are you feeling alright? Do you need any of it now?"
"I'm not sure. I feel kinda sick... and weird. I need to talk to someone.”
"Tell you what," Dr. Stevens interrupts kindly, "Why don't you come downstairs with us and I'll find out where they've put the medication bottles that the paramedics brought in. Or perhaps we can arrange for a psychiatric nurse to come and talk to you about what you need, okay?"
Mikey nods doubtfully, obviously still upset about leaving his brother alone, "Yeah, okay...Thanks."
Dr. Stevens leads Brian and Mikey down to an ER Trauma Rooms: an enclosed dark green space with tiled walls and three glass-panelled doors connecting it to other Trauma Rooms and the ER hallway. There are orderly trolleys filled with gloves, gowns, defibrillators, crash kits and screens lined up against the walls and the floor is smeared with blood around the single bed where Frank is lying unconscious under a mass of bandages and plastic tubes. The lighting in here has been dimmed a little and the hollow air is silent except for the rhythmic beeping of the monitors recording Frank's vital signs. A young doctor wearing green scrubs is sitting near the bed scribbling notes on a clipboard. No one else is here.
Bracing himself, Brian walks slowly towards Frank's body, vaguely aware that Mikey and Dr Stevens are behind him, and stops beside the bed, laying his hands gingerly on the metal rail running down its side. Frank's face is partially obscured by the breathing tubes coming out of his throat but under the thick plastic he's barely recognisable. His sleeping face is as white as paper under his damp, matted hair and there are dark circles that look more like bruises under his closed eyes and charcoal stains around his mouth. Thick white bandages cover his bare arms and wrists and there's gauze taped to his chest under the hospital gown clothing his skinny body beneath a thick grey blanket. He looks completely drained and used up. He doesn't look alive anymore, no matter what the doctors say, and Brian can't remember the last time he felt so scared.
The next day is a disorienting whirl of tearful phone calls and anxious visitors. Bob, Ray and Alicia turn up at the hospital just after 8am, bringing coffee and clean clothes for Mikey and Brian who have fallen asleep next to Frank's new bed in the I.C.U. Alicia gently wakes Mikey with a kiss and takes him outside for a long walk to clear his head and talk him through the stress of last night as best she can.
After visiting Gerard again Brian wanders outside too, cradling his coffee against the chilly grey daylight, and sits down on a bench to take a dozen phone calls from the record company. Stacey Fass - the band's lawyer and adopted "mom" - calls him too to offer some support and much-needed advice. 'I'm so sorry you had to deal with this alone,' she tells him sadly, 'How are they doing this morning? Any improvement?'
"Gerard's awake and doing fine," Brian says, rubbing at his tired eyes, "But his arm's going to take a few weeks to heal. Frank's still unconscious but the doctors say he's breathing on his own now, which is good I guess..." he trails off miserably, staring into his coffee as dark gloomy thoughts cloud up his head.
'Brian?' Stacey's voice asks worriedly, ‘Brian, talk to me, honey. What's wrong?’
With an effort, Brian brings himself back to reality and asks Stacey the question that's been burning inside him all night that he's been too scared to ask: "What if Frank doesn't get better, Stace? What if he never wakes up?"