|On the Road
The van was small and white and filthy and Gerard loved it on sight. It didn't look like a chariot of freedom, but that's what it was: his ticket out.
"What do you think?" Mikey asked, shoving his hands into his pockets. Gerard turned to look at him. Mikey would think pretty much whatever Gerard thought, at least at first, so he had to be careful about what he said. Mikey always followed his lead.
"It's cool," he said, touching the side of the van. His fingers left pale streaks in the grime.
"Yeah," Mikey said. "I think so."
"I think it's a piece of shit," Frankie said, coming up behind Mikey and shoving him, a hand flat in between his shoulder blades. Mikey laughed and ducked his head, like Frankie was six inches taller than him instead of six inches shorter.
"Fuck off," Gerard said. "It's gorgeous." He patted the dirty metal affectionately. "I'm sorry if it's not up to your standards, Iero, but Bertha here is fantastic. I love her already."
"Bertha?" Frankie said, touching the van himself. "You didn't tell me it was a girl."
"All tour vans are girls," Gerard said authoritatively. "Like ships."
"All ships are girls?" Mikey asked.
"And her name is Bertha?" Frankie asked.
Gerard nodded. "Bertha," he said.
"A nice solid name," Frankie said. He patted the van. "When do we leave?"
"Thursday," Gerard said. "Our first show is in Pittsburgh on Friday."
"'Cause, um. I distinctly remember that, like, some ships are named after states like Indiana. And that's not a girl's name," Mikey said.
"Cool." Frankie nodded. "And you're getting directions and all that shit?"
Gerard nodded back. His mom was doing it, actually, and was even packing them a lunch, but Gerard decided to leave that part out. He was ostensibly the adult of the group, and sometimes tried to act like it, even though the sight of Frankie in a white t-shirt and baggy jeans, his hair flat across his forehead, made Gerard feel like he was twelve years old and had just popped his first boner.
"Excellent," Frankie said.
"Like, okay, U.S.S. Minnesota," Mikey said. "That's not a girl's name, is it?"
"So, do we have places to stay and all that?" Frankie asked.
"The bar finds us a place," Gerard said. "Like, with the owner or something, I guess."
"Sure, sure." Frankie crossed his arms over his chest. "We did that before. It sort of sucked, but it was free, so that was cool. One time, though, there were like three bands playing and we all had to stay at this chick's house, who was, like, the bar manager or something, and I had to sleep with this totally fat sweaty drummer from one of the other bands. He kept trying to hug me; it was totally gross."
Gerard laughed, imagining Frankie lying awake in a unfamiliar house, staring up at the ceiling while a fat drummer groped him, the whites of his eyes glimmering in the dark. "Well, if that even happens, you can sleep with me."
"Or what about, like, the S.S. Minnow? That is definitely not a girl's name, Gerard," Mikey said, but Gerard couldn't say anything in response because Frankie had looked up when Gerard offered to share his hypothetical bed and smiled and suddenly Gerard couldn't even summon the breath to say "enough with the fucking ships, Mikey," because his heart was beating all the way up in his throat.