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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Thursday
Jan182007

To See Or Not To See... That Is My Question

The kid who was throwing the party? It was his Dad's gun.

When we were 15, a very good friend of mine swallowed the business end of that gun and pulled the trigger. It happened during a party celebrating the 4th of July. You can safely assume, there were certainly fireworks after that.. and not the nice kind.

It was a strange set of events befitting a plotline on CSI. My friend was in a bedroom, alone with another girl to whom I was loosely acquainted. Both girls were staggeringly drunk. At some point, my friend became upset over the kind of dramatics that agitate the minds of teen girls the world over. Boys. Friends. Boys. She produced the gun and, with the twitch of pink, nailpolished index finger, she was gone.

I happened to be going through similar although unrelated boys-friends-boys-friends agitations, only I was on the left coast of these United States in an attempt to remove myself from the sick-to-your-stomach anxiety about life that only a junior high girl can understand. Nothing out of the ordinary...During that fateful summer between junior high and high school it was just my turn to be The Hated Girl. So I spent the summer of '92 hiding at my aunt's house in California. You know, the way every 12 to 17-year old spends her summer vacation. Hating and being hated.

As every girl worth her Chanel lipstick knows, somebody has to be The Hated Girl. Sometimes it's you and then blessedly, the collective girl group ire rolls over its next victim. Maybe she was seen talking to the boy another girl happened to like, maybe she didn't say hello in the hall, or just maybe she wore the wrong fucking shirt. The alleged misdemeanor is never really the issue, now, is it? It's just a spectacular opportunity for mean girls to avail themselves of your self-esteem and, you know, like Dracula, suckle on your dignity for that much needed ego boost. But hey, don't you go all soft for the victim. Soon enough she'll find a way to get back in the dragrace to prom queen stardom and will toss the next gal under the crushing wheel of girldom.

Mean girls are nothing new. La Lohan's performance not groundbreaking. But that summer? The last thing I said to my friend, who decided that a moment of teen drama was a perfectly valid reason not to live, was a lie. Yup. Lied to her. LIED!

It went a little something like this; She loaned my friend Jenny her shirt. Jenny loaned it to me. I liked this GAP shirt so much I absconded to California with it when I retreated from my own friend drama. While in California I received a call from my friend.
Her: Hey!
Me: Hey!
Her: How are you?
Me: Um. Good. How are you?
Her: Good. Um? Like? Do you have my shirt?
Me: Um. What shirt?
Her: My green and navy blue striped one? From the Gap?
Me: Green and navy blue? Um... like, no. Why would I have it, anyway?
Her: Jenny said she loaned it to you. You didn't take it to California, did you?
Me: Seriously, I don't even know what you're talking about.
Her: Oh. Well. Okay then.
Me: Okay.
Her: Bye.
Me: Bye.

And then she died. And because Mom had very nearly purchased my flight to California with food stamps, I couldn't go to the funeral. Never saw her body. Sometimes, I go to her grave but I can't quite work out that she's really down there. Six feet under. All hair and bones. It's like, because I didn't see her dead body at the funeral, she's off somewhere, living life. Like, maybe she moved away before high school and went to college at, oh, say, UCLA. Maybe she dropped out before she got her degree and became a flight attendant. She traveled all around the world. She met and married some guy and has one kid and they live in a Pottery Barn stuffed house in the suburbs of Chicago so he can commute to his fancy finance job in the city. She and I, we just lost touch, right?

Nearly 15 years later, I still can't wrap my head around her death. I've lived twice as long as her. She will always be a 15-year-old girl and I'm a woman now. She never got her driver's license. Never had sex. I think. At least she never told me she did but I'm hoping a couple rumors I heard that summer are true and she neglected to share because of the vast Mormon machine operating the hearts and minds of all of us. Still, 15 fucking years later and I can't picture her as a dead person.

And now Grandma is dead. Died over Christmas. Although Grandma's death is certainly less tragic than my friend's, Grandma was an institution in my life. Shit, at least half of my family's inside jokes are based on Grandma's beautiful brand of kookiness. Her Utah accent alone has afforded us thousands of hours of side-splitting, pants- pissing laughter.

Because of the new job, I couldn't make it home to her funeral. Now, I can't decide if that's a good thing, y'know? To see the body, or not. Because I'm sitting here, picturing Grandma not dead. Like with my friend's death, is my mindset a form of subtle denial? But is that so very bad?

My Grandpa? I went to his funeral. Looked into the waxy countenance that was and wasn't Grandpa. Touched his cold, hard, arm. Like slightly thawed steak, I'd thought at the time. And I know. Grandpa is dead. But Grandma? Last I saw, she was doing her Grandma thing, waving goodbye to me. And that's good, right? To picture her as she was and not as she is now. Six feet under.