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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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One Year Later

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She's Coming On Like Smoke

I went home for lunch today. Too tired to make anything that required more than two steps, I ate one of the Cup O' Soups I keep on hand because the kids like them just as I did at that age. I read another strange chapter in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, took an unapologetic swig of icy lemonade straight from the container in the fridge then turned up the heat a smidge in anticipation of my kids' afternoon arrival. Two hard-earned rights of The Divorced, I acknowledged with a small smile; drinking straight from the container and turning the thermostat up to seventy-goddamn-five if I feel like it.

Drove slowly back to work in the rain experiencing an unexpected and inexplicable jolt of pleasure at the swooshing noise my tires made as they splashed through deep puddles. Then I sat in my car in the parking lot, rain trickling down my windshield like tear streaks, listening to this song, thinking about this girl I kissed once who introduced me to it. A girl I will probably always be in love with. She's a Lifer, a term I use to describe people in my life I will always be connected with in some way. The people you can not communicate with for six months, a year, and pick right back up where you left off.

As if sensing my mood the rain increased, transforming the windshield and the bleary objects beyond into a Monet painting. But still I sat. The same parking lot in which I had the worst panic attack of my life almost a year ago. An attack so bad my muscles cramped up and I couldn't breathe. Divorce, and the shit you have to slog through to get to the other side, will do that to you.

I willed myself to return to my desk inside the building. Not that I dread work, it is often a respite from the chaos of regular life, but recently I feel like molasses. I find myself staring at nothing while thinking everything.

Over the past year I crammed a lot of stuff in my head, I guess to avoid thinking about reality. I binge-watched a bunch of Netflix series, read book after book and took countless road tips alone while listening to music as loud as the volume would allow to drown out my thoughts. But lately I've been unable to follow a series, realizing I've zoned out and can't remember the past five minutes of whatever show I'm attempting to watch. I think a thought and follow that down to the next thought and before I know it I've lost time. Instead of avoiding thoughts, I'm losing myself in them. It's interesting and mostly good yet I feel a pervasive sadness creeping into my bones.

Maybe it's just that time of year. Daylight Saving Time change is always a bitch. But maybe it's just where I am right now. I feel restless; a longing for something I can't define. The trick is to not look for someone to fill the void or numb the pain no matter how tempting it is to spend time in the company of someone who is clever or funny or cute or whatever else it is that initially draws us to people. Diving into the aloneness is key to figuring shit out. It just is.

Ain't no shame in hanging out with someone who gives me butterflies or makes me smile - because, GOD, that is some of the best stuff in life - but it has taken many years to realize I have a pattern of unconsciously transforming people into what I need them to be at that particular moment in my life, even if it's not who they are at all. Mentally creating or exaggerating certain characteristics - or focusing only on the good things and disregarding red flags - until the person fits who I want and need them to be. Then I have the gall to act surprised, disappointed and even accusatory when I eventually realize they aren't who I turned them into at the outset. Unfair all around.

At this point, when I'm working and succeeding at being comfortable alone, I want to make legitimate connections based on who I really am and who somebody else is, not who I'm attempting to be because it's what I think someone will like or who I need them to be based on what's going on in my life. Truthful connections. No pretense or bullshit.

Anyway, regarding the restlessness or longing: whatever I need is here within me already, it just requires the right thoughts and shifts in perspective. Everything is perspective. Your entire life is perspective. Reality is an illusion. All we have are our individual perspectives. I feel whatever it is I need to learn or figure out right now hovering at the corners of my awareness, I'm just not there yet, I guess.

In a week it will have been a year since I said a final goodbye to Max. I think about him constantly then wonder if it's weird that I do. His absence in my life has fucked me up immensely but I feel silly acknowledging that particular pain. As if a dog, a pet, shouldn't warrant this kind of intense grief a full year later. People are grieving spouses and children and here I am, still sobbing regularly about my Max. But there it is. I miss my dog.


The Ghost of Monica Future

I didn't anticipate it would happen the way that it did. Me doubled over in the darkness, swallowing sobs. But then again, I didn't anticipate pretty much anything that's happened over the past two years, so there you go. If there is but a single take away it is that: life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. I'm no longer much of a planner. Nothing surprises me now; plan nothing, expect anything.

My friend Doug and I were driving around listening to music as the sun set a while ago and I ended up cruising out to my old house. The one out in the country. Where Charlie was born. The last house we lived in as a family before the divorce. I had wanted to show Doug where I'd lived before he knew me. But when I turned onto my old street I fell into some kind of crazy zone of painful remembrance and forgot about Doug. Ended up parking the car down the street and walking up to the house alone while Doug sat in the car fiddling with his iPhone.

The old white pastor's house was dark with the exception of the bluish tones of a television glowing spectrally from the room I used to call mine. I stood there looking up at that window, shaking, remembering everything that went down on the other side of the glass all those years ago. I don't know what I wanted or what I expected or what I was doing but I needed to get up close to the house.

Even though we moved out more than a year ago it is still all up in my blood. The bones of that home are my bones. I can close my eyes and negotiate my way from the kitchen to the bedroom by sense and feel. That horrible feeling of familiarity and foreign-ness battling in my brain. This is MY house. No it's not! It will always be my house! Someone else lives there now. Your memories inside those walls belong only to you and they're busy making new memories now.

It's not just a house to me, it's a character from my life. An old friend. The other day Serge and I were talking and I asked him of all the places we've lived what was his favorite. Without hesitation he said the Hublersburg house. It was the first house we thought we'd live in forever. It was the last house we lived in together.

I stood there in the violet twilight shadows remembering. I remembered my family there. I remembered triumphantly pulling up in the moving truck from Utah. I remembered lying on the porch swing and singing to my babies when it rained. I remembered planting trees I thought I'd witness into maturity. I remembered going into labor in the bedroom and racing down the stairs to give birth in a pool in the living room. I remembered tiredly holding my son for the first time and marveling at my body's ability to recover from childbirth seemingly within minutes while Serge laugh-cried beside me. I remembered love and laughter and hatred and fighting. I remembered the end; the moment I knew my marriage was over, right there in that kitchen.

My son took his first gasps of air in that home. My marriage died in that house.

I stood there, an outsider now, staring up at the home in which I used to live and imagined myself two or three years ago... Me on the porch singing quietly to my babies not knowing that in just a few short years a completely changed Future Monica would be hovering awkwardly on the perimeter remembering that very moment. Me confronting me. Me on the porch swing smoothing back the hair from my babies' foreheads and singing songs, Serge somewhere in the house doing his thing, both unaware of how it would all turn out. The heartache, the complete devastation.

Sometimes the pain is like a wild animal biting down on my flesh and shaking its fucking head until I pass out from the agony.

And I wonder... How many Future Monicas are hovering around me now? Like I said, I make no plans now.

I'm Going To Be Single Forever Because You Hate Cheese

I can’t date someone who texts “wut r u doing?” Is he trying to save time by eliminating letters? How much time can he possibly be saving? Well, I’m not going out with him tonight so he just saved himself a crapload of time.

How can I kiss someone who loves to jam to Steely Dan? It just feels so monumentally indicative of who they are, you know? It’s not going to work out. I just know it.

How am I supposed to show my naked body to someone who has never seen Goonies?

I refuse to engage in sexual acts with someone who doesn’t like cheese. Are you a Russian spy? HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE CHEESE? You better be lactose intolerant or else we have a problem.

You know the drill. To keep reading, click on over to Babble.

Sharing Custody: Snapshot of Kidless Life 

The other morning when the kids were with Serge I accidentally started watching The Killing on Netflix. I didn't really set out to watch The Killing. Upon daylight's unwelcome arrival I broke up with my bed and was becoming one with my couch, scrolling restlessly around my Apple TV thingies - I think the kids call them apps - avoiding CNN like it was an ex-boyfriend at a dinner party because goddamn CNN depresses me anymore and I will beat myself with a giant gay dildo if I have to see Kentucky marriage clerk Kim Davis trotted out like some kind of republican show pony one more fucking time.

As is usually my way, I ended up on Netflix and there was The Killing and I clicked play just to see, kind of like you read the first paragraph or page of a book before buying it, and much like one of those all-night frat parties in college, suddenly it was eight hours later and I was lying underwearless on a couch wondering what just happened. And I was hungry.

I looked at Milo, he looked at me and we were like, Chipotle, bitch. Ándale. Twenty minutes later I was standing in line at the Chipotle near Penn State which means this line rivals the line for cupcakes or cronuts or gluten-free pretzels or whatever baked good is currently fooling folks into waiting in line for hours.

This is a long fucking line, I thought. Really long. I should definitely buy two burrito bowls, you know, if I'm going to be waiting in a line this long. It's the right thing to do. Of course I'm not going to eat them both today. That's just ridiculous. One burrito bowl fills me up for a day. I'll eat one now and save one for lunch for tomorrow. Look at me! Planning my lunch a day in advance and shit!

It's funny how you can straight up lie to yourself even though you are you and you know you're lying. Eat the second burrito bowl tomorrow. Like that was going to happen. Like that second bowl ever had a snowball's chance in hell of making it through the night. That burrito bowl - with guacamole, OF COURSE I'LL PAY EXTRA - had as much of a chance of making it through the night as the last beer sitting in my fridge. Lone beers are fair game at any time of day, frankly. They should be consumed as quickly as possible because anybody who's anyone knows it's just wrong to leave one beer sitting in a fridge. What can anybody do with one beer? Nothing, that's what. Who are you single-beer-in-fridge-having folks? The only time there's a solo beer in my fridge is when I don't know it's there. So either finish that bitch up during the original drinking session or have it for breakfast the next morning. Otherwise, there should never be one beer sitting in your fridge. One beer is about as useful as the white crayon Crayola insists on putting into every box. It's like leaving a single chip in a bag of Doritos. Who wants one chip? This theory also applies to cookies.

I stood in line behind a college kid who looked like some kind of business professional lumberjack (suspenders/flannel/skinny jeans/boots/man bag/beard) reaffirming my decision to buy that second burrito bowl and save it for lunch the next day. Just lying right to my own face!

And then I took both those burrito bowls home and ate the fuckers right in a row while finishing up that lone beer and season 2 of The Killing just like I knew I would.

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