Chapter Two: Frank
Children, and the childish worlds they inhabit are an endless source of mystery.
When some children are born, their birth heralds great joy in the family and the greater community in which they inhabit, and will grow to become a part of. The parents are ecstatic and brimming over with love, the extended family and friends visit with flowers and cards, little gifts of congratulation. Symbolically the birth of a child is considered to represent growth, new beginnings, and hope. It is almost always associated with positivity and happiness, without fail.
My birth however, was a disaster. From the very beginning I was known as a parasite, a little life-destroyer. But I will explain the details of this later.
My name is Frank Iero, and how I got my name is an amusing little tale. Legend has it, that on the day I first emerged, mewling and gurgling into the world on a tidal wave of my mothers blood, the nurses took me away as my mother fell into an exhausted sleep. They bathed me and wrapped me, and when my mother awoke, they returned me to her, cooing eagerly over my infant sweetness. My mother took one look at me, and groaned. "I'll be frank with you" she informed the nurses. "After all the pain he caused me, you might want to take him away or I won't be responsible for my actions."
However, the long labour had taken its toll (as had, I suspect, the copious amounts of screaming) and my mothers voice was sufficiently slurred and rough, that the only words the nurses could pick out was "...be Frank." They naturally assumed this was to be my name, and labelled my crib in the infant ward appropriately. My mother, upon recovering her sense of humour, never corrected their mistake. Thus, I was christened.
I, of course do not remember that day. I have very few memories of my early years, which I am grateful for. I try not to remember whenever I can. Memories are painful to a person who has no hope, and I live in the moment instead. Living in the moment is equally painful, but it is a more easily managed form of pain. I am seventeen, and I am dying. But everything has a beginning, and this day is mine.
Curled up in a ball. Darkness. Cold.
They're gone. They're gone and there's nothing left now.
So why does any of this matter at all? Why does it matter that I can still feel the bruises aching from the last place he kicked me? Why does it matter that blood is trickling down my arm, dribbling out from between the stitches where she slashed me with a carving knife, then sewed me up by hand. They loved me. I know they did. And now they're gone.
I can hear myself whimpering, but in a distant, disconnected way. Nothing seems real anymore.
I wonder idly why it's taking so long to die.
That night, I woke up screaming.
Gasping for air, I bolted upright, clutching one of my trembling arms around my waist and throwing my other hand over my mouth, trying to hold in the screams that are erupting from my chest. I tried to drag in a deep ragged breath but my throat was dry and raw. Wrapping my arms around my bony torso I howled again and again, into my bare pillow. Clenching my hands into fists, I gritted my teeth so hard I could feel them eroding, as I hyperventilated. Minutes, or maybe hours passed. I worked on slowing my breathing, screams turning to sobs, then eventually calming down. I was still shaking though. That was one of the worst. Nightmares are not new, but they may as well be. Every single one has individual new and different torments hidden within, ready to torture me.
Groaning, I rubbed my eyes, and stretched out, wincing as the movement tugged on some of the deeper scar tissue across my chest. Then I gradually allowed myself to remember the dream. A difficult task, to remember without truly acknowledging. Tears filled my eyes, and spilled slowly down my cheeks. I just lay there. Remembering.
I lay there all through the rest of the night, and my hands never relaxed the death grip they had on the bed. I lay there gazing out the little window, and watched the moon slowly swim across the velvet sky. I closed my eyes, because I didn't want to see that moment before the dawn, when the moon slips over the edge, and it is completely dark. When I opened my eyes next, the sky was still flecked with stars, though a thin line of red showed along the horizon. Not that I cared about the beauties of nature anymore.
Not that I cared about anything anymore.
They won't come back, I reminded myself like I did every morning. I've accepted that now. I know I can make it too. I will carry on through every day. Maybe I do wake up screaming in the middle of the night, terrified of my own insides. Maybe I cry, cut and bleed every night. But that doesn't mean I'm not surviving.
Because you don't have to survive if you your not really living in the first place.
And that's what I'm banking on. I'm not living; I'm just making it through each day.
After all, it's nearly time for me to go. Just another month or so.
After those appalling first few months when they first left me alone, I managed to find a way to make the social services believe I was still here. When I stopped attending school, they starting chasing me, and found that I was alone. Then they wanted to have me fostered. But I couldn't have that. I managed to pull myself together long enough to do the necessary research, and eventually I became an emancipated minor. No one wants to foster a seventeen year old boy, and I couldn't afford to let anyone close even if they had wanted to. The system is like a fucking meat-grinder. Children go in one end, and raw bloody meat comes out of the other. We aren't people to them, we're problems to be solved, and I refuse to become part of the system. It was easy to pull enough strings to get my own way on the matter. It was necessary.
I feel physically sick to my disgusting stomach at the thought of anyone getting even remotely close to me. No one will ever know how close I came to snapping, when they interviewed me, went over all the details, to make sure I could survive on my own in that hole of a flat, all alone.
I lied through my teeth, and I did it well. I sat through the psych tests, and I flashed my best smile like a smashed keyboard. As a child, the library had been my second home. I had read advanced books on psychology no teenager would usually get their hands on, and I knew every trick they were trying to pull. I answered every question with the model answer they needed to be able to tick the boxes. Even easier was the statements, and the police interviews. I was polite and unassuming towards nurses in white hospital scrubs as they took blood samples and checked my health, and I chattered away helpfully to my personal social worker about the various difficulties and problems that came with living alone. I let them deal with finances, and made sure I knew enough facts to get me through the discussions. The legal part went over my head mostly, but as I was technically already adopted, they weren't keen to send me through the system again. They told me it was only short-term, until they found the people who were supposed to be taking care of me. You won't find them if they don't want to be found.
Then I left the office, officially my own person.
I was stronger then. Strong enough to make it through all that. As soon as I stepped back into the flat though, the smell of pain and fear brought me to my knees. Because I'm such a fucking mess. I haven't stepped outside the front door in six months. Just the thought is enough to make me retch, or bring on another panic attack. I'm not real anymore.
I don't feel real. I feel disconnected, as if the real world was this dream I once had. I spend my days and nights in the dark. After all this time, my skin is so sensitive that sunlight blisters it in minutes. I'm like a filthy disgusting animal, crouching in a hole to die. With only one way to escape.
The knives. I know I've already mentioned it, but I cut every night. And day, for that matter. It just makes the pain go away, if only for a moment. I can never fully describe the relief I feel every time I drag that razor across my skin. The pain and beauty of it, the first time stunned me to silence it was such a monumental moment for me. Sounds stupid, I know. Calling the first time you slit your wrists for recreational purposes monumental. But that's what it was. For one beautiful moment it all disappeared into the air. All the pain was gone.
It was like using drugs to anesthetize the gaping hole in my chest.
See the truth of the matter is, I am only human. I am weak and feeble and pathetic, and it's no wonder they left me. So all I have to do is keep my mask in place while I live as a minor, and then when I turn eighteen I can quietly and calmly take my own life with no fuss. She promised she would come back then, and tell me the truth. When I know, then I can die. It's not too long now, that I have left to survive. Thinking about it is the closest I've been to excitement since … since they left. Just a few more months of life. Never has a boy anticipated his own impending death with as much pleasure as I. But we've already been there. You can't survive if you were never living.
Lying in my narrow cot bed, a grimy sheet wrapped around me, I dropped the pillow over the side of the bed, and winced as the tiny movement sent spasms through my gut. I couldn't remember the last time I had eaten. To shut it out, I turned inwards, blacked out the world around me with the too-fast beat of my own heart pounding in my ears, and thought once again about how pleasant it would be to die.
I was so busy musing my deplorable existence that I completely failed to notice where my wandering mind was leading me. And when I did notice, I wished I hadn't.
'What are you?'
'A stupid whore sir!' I sob, curling up against the wall, for protection.
'No! A stupid fucking whore. Can't you get anything right?'
A boot hits me in the small of my back, and I dry retch reflexively, gagging as my face is ground into the filthy floorboards by a large calloused hand. He grabs me by my upper arms and throws me against the wall. Then I feel a smaller hand tugging on his arm, pulling him away from me. This hand has long nails. Long sharp nails.
I can't see them with my eyes squeezed shut, but I don't need to. I know everything about that hand. From the delicate way the love lines and heart lines cross, to how those bright red nails feel raking down your face. And what those long fingers look like folded around the handle of a knife.
'Now, now dear. Be careful of the boy'
The voice is sickly sweet, and I whimper. She's here.
'Darling' she whispers in my ear, and wraps an arm around me, half pulling me onto her lap.
I feel like vomiting at the sickly sweet stench of her perfume, and I gag a few times. She slaps me. It stings, but she kisses it away, smearing her whore-red lipstick down the side of my face. I'm trembling, shaking like a fucking leaf, but my eyes are dry. I haven't cried since mama died.
They will not make me cry.
'Baby boy' she croons, stroking the side of my torso. 'I have a gift for you'.
I'm truly retching now, my stomach seizing into cramps as I writhe in her arms. Gifts hurt. But it's too late. It feels like ice first, and then like fire. And then the hot wet trickling down my side, before the pain really kicks in. I open my eyes, taking in the blonde woman holding me against her, her filthy skin a stark contrast against her heavy makeup. I raise my eyes to her face, blank now. She smiles, and the knife blade glints in the light.
'Who loves you most?' she half sings to me.
'You do' I whisper.
My eyes are closed, and my mind is already a million miles away. Years past tears, I barely notice as her mouth settles over mine, sealing our deal once more.
Agony ripped through my chest, and I slumped back into the filthy mattress, my legs no longer able to support the weight of my body. My arms locked around my body, and my legs drew up instinctively drawing my body into a foetal position. I could feel the springs in the bed digging into my back, yet I felt nothing at all. I was as terrified as though I was in mortal danger.
But the danger didn't come from the outside, the danger was I.
I was a menace to the whole world, incapacitated as I was. When the pain was like this there was only one way to stop it.
Reaching for a small battered matchbox under the bed, I carefully slid open the damp cardboard, and with shaking fingers I removed from it a slim, silver razor blade. So beautiful, in the half light. Even the tiny line of red along the horizon could still make it gleam. Stretching out my left arm, clad in a black plain long sleeved top, I pulled back the sleeve slowly. Even though I had seen them a hundred times, the ugliness of the scars on my arms still made me gasp.
I ran my fingers over the scars slowly, despising the feel of the puckered skin under my fingers. Finally I found a spot. Picking up my razor blade I angled it to point at a spot right on my wrist. Pushing the tip of it beneath the skin, and then deeper into the flesh I gasped out loud at the exquisite pain. Then in one motion I slashed the blade across my wrist. First, the whole pink flesh where the cut was as visible, a slash of pale, baby pink on my arm. Then tiny pin pricks of blood began to well up, fill up the cavern in my arm and spill over. I lifted my eyes to the ceiling and sighed.
My name is Frank Iero, and I think I died eleven years ago.