Disclaimer: I don't own RENT or any of its characters (kudos to the almighty Johnathan Larson, may he rest in peace.)
Warning: ANGST! ANGST! ANGST! And some language. And mentions of drug use, mentions of suicide, and a suicide attempt. Also, it's written in a very strange POV that I am now addicted to (I believe it's second person).
Now, read on, young ones.
Every single inch of you hurts, craves, wants, needs. You're tired of sweating, shaking, throwing up, waking up screaming. You're tired of watching Maureen escape to go be with whoever the hell she's seeing on the side and leaving Mark to clean you up and hold you and tell you it's going to be okay. Because it's not going to be okay, and as much as you care about Mark, he's not the one you want to hold you.
You wish she was here to hold you, but she's dead now. April's dead and gone and you are stuck here, stuck in this freezing cold loft to shiver and sweat and die. Because that's exactly what you're doing – you're dying, dying slowly, wasting away bit by bit, blood cell by blood cell, breath by breath.
You crave smack and you crave razorblades and you crave music. But you can't have heroin or razors, because Mark and Maureen combed the loft and got rid of anything sharp and pointy or white and powdery. And you could make the music, but without April, the music will always be just one waltz, a waltz about some girl named Musetta, because all the other music reminds you of April.
For the first time in three days, you don't feel nauseated. You could get up off the couch and try to make your way into the kitchen, because you really do need to eat, but you don't want to. You don't want to force down some Cap'n Crunch or some ramen noodles. If you're going to die, then you're not going to prolong it and die fat. Right now, you're actually the opposite of fat – you've seen the way Mark worriedly eyes your jutting collarbones and the bumps of your ribs, and your cheeks are sunken, making you look like exactly what you are – a junkie dying of AIDS. And to think you used to grimace as you walked by the junkies that sit on the street corners and hide in the alleys. You're no better than them – you're just as addicted, just as thin, and now, just as doomed.
Suddenly, you can't stand it. With as much energy as you can muster, you quickly get off the couch, throwing your arms out to balance yourself as your knees threaten to buckle. You stagger towards the bathroom, leaning on the wall for support. You thank God that Mark and Maureen saw fit to leave you alone, even if they locked the door and the fire escape exit (you might have laughed at that – what if there had been a fire?)
You feel dizzy suddenly upon entering the bathroom, and you clutch the sink until the spell passes. Panting, you open the medicine cabinet and dig through it wildly, knocking toothbrushes and containers of dental floss everywhere. You already know that you're not going to find any razorblades, but that doesn't stop you from swearing loudly and violently when you can't find any. Instead, you settle for the next best thing – a bottle of Tylenol.
Fumbling, you struggle with the child-proof cap. Again, this might have once made you laugh, but now you're not laughing, you're gasping with exertion and choking back dry sobs of frustration and anger and desperation. Finally, you get the cap off – you chuck it carelessly aside, because it's what's inside the bottle that you're after. You dump some pills into your hand – you don't bother to count how many, because the more the better. You cup your empty hand and fill it with water, then, without thought, you swallow all of the pills.
You nearly choke, but you don't throw up, which is thankful. You close the medicine cabinet with trembling hands, and you're startled by the face you see in the mirror. You knew you looked bad, but you didn't know you looked that bad. You're pale and ashen-faced, your eyes large and glazed, your cheeks sunken (your high cheekbones don't help – your face now looks rather like a skull), your hair, which used to stick up in every direction, blond and uncontrollable, is limp and dirty-looking now. The rest of you is too thin – skin and bones – and you look so much like a corpse that suddenly, you hate yourself. You hate looking like this, you hate feeling like this. What makes it worse is that you only have yourself to blame. Yourself and April. April, who killed herself in this very room.
Hating the person in the mirror, you don't think when you punch it.
In hindsight, you know that probably was a bad idea. But you can't bring yourself to regret it – in fact, you find a strange sort of fascination in looking at the broken glass now littering the floor and the blood dripping into the sink. You stare at your hand, which hurts like hell, and watch the scarlet blood – dirty blood, tainted blood – drip down, standing out sharply against the white porcelain of the sink.
Suddenly, you know what to do. You stumble towards the bath tub, your hand dripping blood onto the tile floor. With your uninjured hand, you turn on the water, watching it rush into the tub. Feeling weak and dizzy, you sit on the edge of the tub, cradling your bloody hand close to your chest. You eventually realize that you're making soft whimpering noises, rather like an injured animal, but you can't stop. There's blood all over your shirt and your pants now, but again, you don't care.
By the time the tub has filled with water, you're doubled over, gasping as your stomach cramps, as if some unseen person is forcibly punching you in the gut over and over. You feel sick, like you're going to throw up, but you simply don't have anything in your stomach to throw up, so you're dry-heaving, the little whimpering noises becoming gasps of pain and fear. Your hand is still bloody, but it seems to have stopped bleeding as much, and every time you look at it, you feel dizzy.
You nearly tumble backwards into the tub, water splashing over the sides. You shudder violently at how cold the water is, but your head hurts so badly that you don't give a damn. You're going to die here, in this bathtub, just like April did. You're even in the same position – your head tipped back against the wall, one arm draped over the side, the fingers of your bloody hand just barely brushing the floor.
Your vision has gone fuzzy and a little gray, and your mind feels blurry and muddled. When you suddenly hear screaming, it sounds like it's far away – across twenty football fields, maybe. Your foggy mind registers that it's a girl screaming, and for a second, you think it could be April. But you realize, dimly, that it's not her, because she's dead, and soon you will be, too . . .
"Roger! Mark! Mark! Oh my God! Roger!"
You crack open your eyes, and you can see Maureen, standing by the tub and shrieking. You feel her hands shaking you, feel the water sloshing, but you can't move now. You hear Mark enter, hear him cry out with shock, but you're slipping away now, away, into darkness . . .
"Oh my God – I'm calling 911 . . . Mo, don't touch him, there's blood – oh my God, Roger, no . . ."
You're already gone, into the darkness.
After a while, you realize that this is not permanent darkness, but you're too tired to try and figure out where you are or what has happened to you. Gradually, though, you pull out of the darkness enough to realize that you are lying on a bed, and that you feel like complete and utter crap.
Slowly, with more effort than it would take to move an elephant, you force your eyes open. Squinting, you wait for your vision to clear. You're in a small, white room – very nondescript, except that you're in a bed with rails on the sides and there is something beeping rather annoyingly to your right. You squint over at it, and you see a large monitor – there's a tube running out of it, running straight to your arm. Resisting the urge to grab this tube and rip it out of you, you look around again.
Mark is in a chair at the foot of the bed, asleep. His head is bowed slightly, his glasses threatening to slip straight off his face. He's wearing that stupid scarf of his, his arms loosely wrapped around the camera sitting in his lap. Behind him, there's another chair – it's empty, but there is a brown jacket thrown over the back of it that you recognize as Collins'.
Maureen is in the chair to the left of you. Her head is in her hands, and for a second, you can't tell whether she's asleep or not. Then, she looks up at you, and she gasps quietly.
"You're awake," she says softly, and you want to scream at her, because obviously you have realized that you're awake, and that you're alive, and you really, really wish you were back in the darkness again. You don't say anything, though, and she carefully leans forward and hugs you gently (you don't return the hug). She pulls away after a second, and then, without any hesitation, slaps you across the face.
Stunned, you stare at her, feeling the sting of her slap across your cheek. "What . . . ?", you begin in a voice that sounds like there's a wad of wet cotton in your throat, but she cuts you off.
"What were you thinking, Roger?" she says in a quavering voice, and you suddenly realize how terrible she looks. There are dark circles under her eyes, which are red-rimmed and rather bloodshot, and her hair is sticking up wildly. You don't say anything – instead, you merely stare at her.
"I cannot believe that you would do that, Roger," she spits at him. "After she did it. After she killed herself and left you, you think it's okay to leave us?"
You grimace automatically, and open your mouth to speak, but she cuts you off again.
"You scared the hell out of me," she says, her voice a little softer now. "Pale like you were, with blood and glass all over the floor . . . I didn't see April after she died, but – but I'm sure you looked just like her," Maureen stammers, not looking at you anymore. You wince, shifting in the bed.
"Say something," she tells you.
Softly, you speak. "What happened? After you found me?"
She gives you a hard look. "Mark called 911, and they came and got you. They pumped your stomach and put roughly 25 stitches in your hand."
"Oh," you mumble.
She sighs heavily. "We shouldn't have left you alone."
You wait a moment before you speak. "It wouldn't have stopped me. April slit her wrists while we were all in the other room."
It's Maureen's turn to wince. "I heard."
Just then, Mark stirs. He looks up, blinking sleepily, and for a second, he doesn't realize that you're awake.
"Maureen, where's –," he begins, and then he notices you. He looks shocked. "Roger . . . hi," he says awkwardly, offering you a weak smile.
You don't bother to smile back. "Hey."
" . . . How do you feel?" Mark asks carefully. You force back another grimace – he's been asking you that every single day since April died, and the answer never changes.
"Fine," you say, because you're too proud to admit that you feel like hell.
Mark pauses, then accepts this without comment. Maureen rolls her eyes and starts picking at a hole on the knee of her jeans. You lay there in silence, fingering the bandage on your hand.
The door opens, and Collins enters. He's awkwardly juggling three cups of coffee, and he pauses right in the doorway when he sees you, awake and staring at him.
"Roger," he finally says, depositing the cups on the table in the corner of the room.
"What are you doing here?" you ask sharply, before realizing how angry that sounded. "I mean, why aren't you at MIT?"
Collins rolls his eyes. "Gee, whiz . . . Mark calls me from a payphone in a hospital lobby telling me that you've gone and killed yourself . . . Mm, my poor students can wait, considering you are one of my best friends. I just got here this morning. Do you have any idea how long you've been out?"
"No," you say honestly.
"Two days," Mark interjects.
"We've been here the whole time," Maureen adds, giving you a half-grimace, half-smile.
"They kept you out with some pretty hard meds," Collins continues. "I'm actually quite surprised at how alert you are."
You smirk mirthlessly. "Me, too."
Collins shrugs. "Well, at least you aren't dead."
You stare at him incredulously, as do Mark and Maureen. Collins blinks, unfazed.
"What?" he asks curiously. "It's true. It'd be one hell of a shame if you went and committed suicide."
"April got away with it," you mutter, mostly to yourself.
"April didn't realize how much we'd miss her," Collins says simply.
"What does that mean?" you finally ask. Collins doesn't answer.
Mark is the one who finally speaks. "April thought she could cheat HIV by killing herself," he says, his honest blue eyes nearly burning a hole in you.
"She did, didn't she?" you spit bitterly. "She's dead now. She doesn't have to waste away and die slowly, and she doesn't have to watch me die, because that's what I'm doing. I'm dying."
"So am I," Collins points out. "So is everyone else on earth."
"You know what I mean," you snap.
The other three are silent for a second, and then, Maureen speaks. "April wasn't strong enough to handle it, Roger. But you've got to be strong – you are strong. We know you are. And so what if you've got HIV? You don't know how much time you have. Why throw away whatever time you have?"
You stare at her, shocked. "But I don't want to die," you finally say, grimacing at how weak you sound.
"Who does?" Collins asks rhetorically. You want to yell at them, and tell them that April wanted to die, because she killed herself, and that two days ago when you downed half a bottle of Tylenol, you wanted to die, too. But now that you think about it, you really don't want to die. You miss laughing and playing your guitar and being happy, but you can't fathom doing any of that – not now, when you're dying and April's dead.
"Rog," Mark begins. "You have to live, Roger. You can beat this – I know you can. Maybe not for forever . . . but you have time. And you have us."
You stare at the three of them, your gaze flicking from person to person. Finally, you say, "Fine. If I've got time . . . I'm not going to kill myself and waste it."
You don't know if you can hold to your promise – after all, who knows how you'll feel in a year, or two years, or five years. Maybe you'll be so sick that you'll pray for death, or maybe you'll give up and let yourself waste away until you do get sick. But for now, you're alive. You aren't happy, but you're alive. And maybe – just maybe – you can be happy again. Maybe you'll learn to laugh and love and live again. Maybe you'll write more songs and make more music. Maybe you'll meet someone else who can make you smile, someone else who will love you and who you can love. Maybe you will, maybe you won't. But for now, you're alive, and you're going to be happy someday, and that's really the only thing that matters.
You're gonna hurt, but you're gonna make it.
A/N: Well, kiddies? What did you think? I just love weird POVs, don't you? Anyhow, reviews are like chocolate chip cookies -- warm and squishy and full of love.