He was released with a prescription for some sedatives. Theresa had gotten back into town, and during her visit to the hospital promised that she would be there to pick him up and take him home. She kept her promise. She had only been there once, but during that time she had done more for him than anyone else had in years. She offered to take him home and supervised the cleaning of his place. He expressed his thanks in monosyllabic grunts; he couldn’t find the strength for more conversation.
He entered his house and felt it an alien world. Where was he without Francie? Theresa and whoever had helped her had done a great job cleaning the place up; no one would ever have known a murder had been committed here. He sat on the couch looking around wondering if he would keep this place or movie. So many good memories had been made here, yet one memory seemed to destroy them all.
By the time of her funeral a week later he had decided to stay. He felt the place was imbued with her soul now; it was the only way he could feel in touch with her. If he left he felt he would lose that connection. Family and friends came to visit and they never really ever seemed comfortable in the place. They expressed their condolences and Gerard expressed what gratitude he could under the tranquilizers and sedatives he was taking. Many of them brought food. Gerard ended up throwing most of it away. His appetite never fully returned in the wake of Francie’s death, or maybe it was the tranquilizers, either way he didn’t want the food in the house.
Her funeral came and went, and Gerard was able to wean himself enough off of the sedatives and tranquilizers to the point where he was lucid. He still remained sedated enough to keep a lot of thoughts to himself at least, which was beneficial when it came time for him to make a statement. He was also still grieving at the time; anger hadn’t replaced sorrow by then.
It wasn’t long before anger, hatred, betrayal, and a need for vengeance replaced the deep well of sadness within him. It ate through Gerard; bore a hole in his gut as if he was rotting from the inside. By then he would do anything to take his mind off that night; but no matter what, his vision turned toward Francie’s scars and the malice of the one who did it.
It was at this point when he started going to the local dive bars looking for fights. He just wanted to find the toughest meanest son of a bitch in the place and take him down. Gerard didn’t care if he would win or lose. If he lost the physical pain would fill the emotional void for a short time, if he was knocked unconscious he didn’t have to think at all for a while. It was never enough though, and picking a fight wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Often he would get kicked out of bars for causing problems, or he just found himself wasted, puking his guts out on the side of the street or in a back alley.
It’s in places like that where he began to make friends, but not with anyone he’d normally want to see in the light of day. It was puking in a back alley that he learned a line of coke could keep him from throwing up when he drank too much. All it took was a few more lines to learn that with coke he could drink all he wanted, but then he also couldn’t sleep. When he did sleep thought he dreamed of his days as a child on his father's boat, but those dreams were probably more associated with his brawls than his drug induced state. By the time he realized coke was the cause of his insomnia he couldn’t stop, and he didn’t want to. It made him feel like he was in total control; he just didn’t realize he was spinning completely out of control.
Coke and brawls brought him to his current position: passed out in an alleyway. Gerard was awakened from his drugged out sleep by someone kicking him in the ribs. He moaned and rolled over onto his back. He dared not open his eyes. On one hand he didn't want to lose the limited happiness he had in his dream state, but he also didn't feel like he deserved a better bed than the curb side one he napped in now.
The kick came again and he opened them expecting to see the bartender telling it was time to leave, instead it was his dealer. "What the fuck?" he exclaimed as he sat up.
"Bar's closed, I figured you were still out here. Tractor don't come back in the bar from a fight unless dude he's fightin' is knocked the fuck out. Figured I should check on ya."
"Thanks, I'd rather you find me than the bartender. Besides I'm runnin' low."
"Seriously? I just sold you an eight ball a couple days ago. If you're puttin' that down this fast maybe you should slow down."
"I thought you were a dealer. Just sell me the fuckin' coke."
"Alright, I only got a little on me."
"I'll take whatever you got, I've got a family reunion later today and I'll take whatever I can get to deal with those bastards." Gerard got a dime of coke and was on his way.
He didn't sleep or eat the rest of the morning; he didn't go to the doctor either. When he showed up at the reunion he had only run a washcloth over his bloody face. When he showed up at the reunion his left eye was swollen shut, his right cheek had an open cut that was still oozing blood, and some of the bruises on his face were being covered by the beard growth that had accumulated from weeks of not shaving but a few bruises could be seen elsewhere.
The reunion took place in his Uncle Steve's backyard, and there was a lot of family around. He didn't really want to have anything to do with them so he found a spot by himself next to an old oak tree. Every so often people would reluctantly make their way over to him and express their condolences for his loss. He would simply nod, but with each expression of regret he felt angry. He knew none of them gave a damn, if they did they would have come to visit every once in a while, said more than a word or two when we came to these family gatherings. After a while he excused himself to the bathroom so he could do a couple of lines.
When he came out he ran into Theresa. "Hey, how are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm doing alright I guess," he responded. "You?"
"Pretty good. Are you sure you're okay? You look like you've lost a lot of weight and you're lookin' pretty pale."
"Yeah, it's just an after effect of all the shit I've been going through. I'm starting to get my appetite back," he lied, "I was actually about to go grab something to eat."
Gerard walked back outside and true to his word fixed a plate of a hamburger, brat, and some fries. He hadn't been gaining his appetite back, but he felt obligated to Theresa to at least try to eat something. After a couple of fries though he felt he could stomach no more and threw the rest out.
He looked around the reunion from his lonely place by the oak tree and saw laughing smiling faces all around; except for the ones that looked at him with worry and concern in their eyes. He looked at them knowing it was nothing more than an act. It was all a lie. Those were the faces of hypocrites. He desperately wanted to tell them all so.
"What the hell are we all doing here?" he yelled out to them all. "We try to meet once a year like we're one big happy fucking family, for what?" Now he had gotten up and started walking around them, his mangled face contorted into an angry sad grimace. "You come up to me expressing your grief like you actually gave a fuck about Francie when she was alive, but how many of you tried to talk to her when she was alive? Not a single one of you! But now you care, now you want me in the family, but I see the way that you've been looking at me. Staring at me like you want me gone. Like I'm an outcast. But Cindy's still in the fucking club. Hey Cindy, I still haven't heard from your fucking caretaker, Alice. How's she doing? I betcha her kid is still alive. Guess what Francie's not and maybe I should blame her. Or should I blame you because you recommended her?
"No, I know why y'all look at me like you do, because I'm to blame. She was my family, my responsibility. I should have known better than to get help from any of you. I…I…" He was standing in front of a table of food when he collapsed.
When he woke up he was in the hospital; Theresa sat by his bedside. "Hey," he muttered, startling her from the magazine she read.
She looked at him from her seat beside his bed with a tender smile lined with worry, "Hey, how are you feeling?"
"Like I got hit by a truck."
"Yeah, you look like you've been hit by one too."
"No, just Tractor."
"Never mind. What happened? What am I doing here?"
"You don't remember?"
Theresa recounted the events of the reunion leaving out the more colorful language he had used. She had always been averse to the joys of cursing. The doctors blamed Gerard's collapse largely on dehydration, but also noted from his chart that he had lost 20 pounds since his hospital stay after Francie’s passing.
As she recounted the story of the reunion Gerard noted how Theresa averted her eyes from his. He felt shame in the way that she told the story. A deep pang of guilt hit him that drove tears to his eyes, tears of the saline they were pumping into his veins rather than any reserves of water that had been stored in his body. This guilt stemmed from the thought of what Francie must think of him if she were able to see him in this moment. Where is she? Can she see me? he thought. If she can surely she must be devoid of the maladies that plagued her in this life, her mind no longer feeble as it once was. There with Theresa by his bedside, for the first time since the night of Francie’s death, he sobbed until he could cry no more.
They kept him overnight and then released him in the morning. Theresa was there to pick him up and take him home. When they arrived she offered to stay with him. He thanked her for her offer but declined. He had things to do.
After she had left he walked inside and sat down at the desk in his bedroom. He pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil; it had been a long time since he had written anyone a letter. I'm sorry, he started, I'm so sorry. The letter was addressed to his family, but those words were meant for Francie. When he first sat down he wasn't sure exactly what he was going to say, but now he found the words mingling with ink as they dripped from his pen onto the page.
When he was done he closed the letter in an envelope and printed, "Please make sure the rest of the family gets this," on it. From his closet he pulled out a suitcase and packed some clothes. Then he went to the kitchen and packed some food; mainly cans of soup, fruit, and vegetables. Now he knew what he would do. The last bit of his coke he flushed down the toilet.
He loaded the suitcase into the back seat of his car and placed the envelope in the front passenger seat. First stop on his itinerary was Theresa's house. It was right across town from his place, and gave him an opportunity to clear his mind and think of the future. Most of it was hazy, but he was surprised that he hadn't thought of this sooner. He pulled up to Theresa's home. She wasn't there just like he had hoped. He placed the envelope in her mailbox by the street and drove away.
Next stop was the marina on the river. Over the past ten years he and Francie would come out here and take the old boat for a spin just like in the old days. It was when they were both most happy. He loaded his suitcase onto the boat and looked around him. This was his father's spot: the captain's seat at the wheel. He inserted the keys and started the engine and took off. Where he would go he didn't know, the wind blowing through his hair as he drove the boat down the river seeking the ocean. In this moment he was happy.