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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Girls Will Be Girls

When I was a bitchy, judgemental, annoying teenager, coming of age in Orem, Utah A.K.A Mormon capital of the motherfucking universe (duuude, Mormon AND motherfucking in the same sentence. Awesome.) I was ALL about my girlfriends.

We did everything together. Pranced to school in groups, stood at lockers in huddles, pushed desks together in shared classes, ate lunch together, went to the restroom together, traipsed home together, tittered on the phone about NOTHING for hours, slept over at each others houses.. Girls draped all over each other like clothing. Hands clasped, arms tangled, playing with each others hair.. Hugs and squeals upon reuniting, even if the last time we saw each other was before English class.
"Omigosh, I missed you." I would slurp then lick my teeth, as one tends to do with braces extending two feet from lips.
"Me toooooo!" Hugs all around! Then we'd proceed to laugh spasmodically and generally act like the adorably annoying teens that we were.

Of course, at any moment, the tide could shift and you'd be the odd girl out. After all, there HAS to be some drama, HAS to be someone to hate. That would quickly blow over when the next girl would commit the cardinal sin of talking to someone's boyfriend (in a flirty way!) or, like, wearing somebody else's jeans and stuff. And things. Like, omigosh!

Now, even though we women in our twenties are more cordial, not as catty (not as overtly catty, anyway) we aren't as chummy. The touching doesn't come as naturally. Somewhere along the way we morphed from gaggles of giggling girls hanging all over each other to reserved women with boundaries.

Are we respecting each others space, or are we fearful of rejection? Have we learned how terribly women can actually behave to each other and so we erect boundaries, emotional barbed wire fences to keep each other at bay?

My girly-girl still comes out to play... she's shy though. Afloat on the liquid courage of liquor, the giggling girl peeps out from behind layers and layers of my tough girl self. She has to be treated delicately though. If she comes into contact with a tough girl who rebuffs her, purposefully makes her feel silly, she retreats.

Ironic, isn't it, that every tough girl has a girly-girl who wants to play, wants to bond, but the older we get the more afraid of rejection we are.. so there we are, sitting coolly in bars, sipping our tough girls drinks, smoking our tough girl cigarettes, flicking our tough girl hair.. and then we go home and cry because we're so lonely.

Open Up And Say Spa

I am alone in a room. Candlelight flickers in the corner, casting pleasant shadows on the soothing mint green walls. Romantic music pulsates softly in the background. Did I mention I am naked? A woman enters and begins to rub hot oil on my breasts.

Wait, I better start at the beginning.

To celebrate my 29th birthday, my two best girlfriends, Kate and Anna, scheduled three appointments at one of Manhattan's finest spas. You know the type of place... words like facial, serum, anti-aging, foam, gel, peel and moisterizer are printed across brochures in calming blues and tranquil greens - a peaceful yet painful reminder of just how lacking my daily regimen of soap and water truly is.

Before heading off to the appointment I shower, of course, and pick my blackheads, much the same way women I know clean their houses before the maid comes.. God forbid the maid actually sees the toilet skids she's there to clean.

I ascend the subway stairs to Lexington Avenue and Kate and Anna's shrieks of Happy Birthday! Incidentally - I always hate that moment when I'm meeting someone at a predetermined location - you've made eye contact and have nodded hello, but you're still too far away to speak.. That's an uncomfortable wrinkle in time, ain't it? Where do you look? Do you glance away and pretend to be absorbed in the cracks on the sidewalk? Or the exposed crack of the homeless guy pissing in the gutter? Do you continue to leer uncomfortably at the person you're approaching? It's like awkward small talk, without the small talk.

So we take the elevator, walls painted blue, fluffy white clouds skillfully stencilled over the top, to the spa. Upon arrival, we're handed bottles of water and instructed to change into our robes and flip-flops.
"You goin' naked underneath your robe?" I ask Anna
"Hells yes!" Anna, always one for a good time whether in church or a night club is already stripping. Kate opts for underwear. As I don't believe in underwear, I'm on Anna's side of the underwear divide.

SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! We flip-flop our way to the waiting room---... What? Oh! I see.. when I said 'SLAP! SLAP! SLAP!' you thought we were spanking each other on our naked asses, didn't you? Wrestling around, perhaps a little hair pulling and such? Maybe somebody's robe slips off her shoulder a la Tara Reid on the red carpet. Nah.. it was just our spa issue flip-flops on the tile floor. Perv.

So anyway, we flip-flop our way to the waiting froom where, for a moment, I wonder if we've stumbled onto some strange Kabbalah conversion ceremony.. Several other women wearing white robes are lounging on velvet couches, daintily nibbling on cheese and crackers. I search for the tell-tale red bracelet and see nothing but bare wrist. I shrug and proceed to snack trays laden with tiny brownies, cheese squares, crackers and other precious lady foods. Snacks? I can dig this spa action.

Four brownies and six slices of cheese later, a diminutive blonde woman with an unidentifiable accent calls my name.
"That's me." I hop up and scuffle after her.
She escorts me to a quiet room off a long hallway and hands me a single tissue paper.
"Put dees on, den take dee robe off. Lay here and I vill be right back."
She leaves me standing there, the delicate tissue dangling from my index finger. I realize it's a string and a slice of fabric that I'm supposed to wear in lieu of the robe. Thank god I showered. Except the smidge of material, roughly the texture of a fabric softener, does nothing to quell the Mormon Muff exploding around it in every direction.
Yikes! No, really. Yikes!
I flop onto the quaint little bed unit and attempt to cover my goodtimes with a towel. This brings us back to the beginning...

I am alone in a room. Candlelight flickers in the corner, casting pleasant shadows on the soothing mint green walls. Romantic music pulsates softly in the background. Did I mention I am naked? A woman enters and begins to rub hot oil on my breasts.
Oh my god, she's kneading my breasts harder than a bread baker on the morning shift! I want to giggle so badly my lips are twitching like Evis.. What does one do when a strange woman is vigorously rubbing her mams? In addition, we all know what happens to a gal's chest when she's laying on her back.. Well all of us except Pam Anderson and Tara Reid. But those leathered husks were like us once.. at one time they suffered the indignity of having bosoms slide sneakily into armpits!

The good woman continues to baste me like a Thanksgiving turkey, then, in keeping with the food theme, binds my arms to my sides with what seems to be Saran wrap. Finally, she throws what feels like an electric blanket around my body.
"It's called a "Herbie". She answers.
"A who? A what?"
"Herbie.. A Herbal Detoxification Wrap." She conveys in her quirky accent. Polish? Not quite. British? Nah. Swedish? Can't be sure. American with a contrived lilt. Bingo! "It's a heated blend of herbs and essential oils that detoxifies the body, boosts the immune system, stimulates the mind and relaxes muscles." She says this last bit with a twirl of her wrist, a flourish of the hand.
"Okay." I agree. And she leaves.

I lay there quietly. It's supposed to be nice, right? It seems nice, I guess. There I am, wrapped in plastic, my body juices partying with the oil the lady slathered all over my body. Sweat trickles down the crack of my bum. I want to scratch it. Need to scratch it. I try to focus on all the bad toxins sweating out of my body. Jagermeister, trapped in my body, traveling through my arteries to meet up with all the other old Jagermeister rampant in my juices, has combined to become as much a part of my system as my blood. Finally it's leaking out.

Another ball bearing of sweat races from the clutches of the Mormon Muff and pools with the rest of the sweat escapees near my bum. I try to focus on Enya.. she's singing something. But you know how it is with Enya.. what the fuck is she ever on about?
It's wet. My skin is braising in my sweat.
"Monica soup. I am Monica soup."
I have got to scratch my dripping ass. It must be done. No, no.. You're a grown-up, be patient.. sweat it out. But my eyes are covered with this towel I can't see AND MY ARMS ARE RESTRICTED AND I AM FREAKING OUT I NEED TO MOVE I NEED TO FREE MYSELF!
"Helloooo! How are we coming along in here?" My woman sing-songs whilst peering in the doorway.
"Fabulous." I chirp. "This feels very cleansing."

"Let's begin your facial!"
This statement heralds fifteen minutes of popping and wiping. My woman pops a blackhead then wipes the contents away with an expert flick of a cotton pad. POP-WIPE-POP-WIPE. I want to hide.. but that proves tough what with the kleig light and the giant mirror she has aimed at my pores. I'm trapped. Like a doe in headlights, all I can do is stare wide-eyed into the light and wait. "You are having a break-out, I see." She clucks.
"Yes." I say, even though I thought my skin looked fine this morning.
"I am saying I give you a Breakout Busting Task Mask."
"It has blueberry!" She chants like a cereal commercial Mom.
"Okay?" I give in.
"Good! Is $25 dollars extra." She says happily.
"No, no. I'm fine."
"But you are having a break-out."
I want to giggle at the term 'having a break-out'.. like I'm an upcoming starlet in my breakout role.. "Nah. Let's just stick with whatever my friends ordered."
"Oka-ay." She drags out the word, implying that my opting against the Breakout Busting Task Mask goes against the Spa Constitution, but she's given me fair warning so I'm on my own slippery spa slope now. "I leave you again to sweat it out."
"Fantastic." I say.

It's hot. But that's good. I'm sweating out the toxins. Focus on Sade.. This is a good song. You like Sade. Yeah. See? This is nice. You like this. It's relaxing. I need to move my arms. I NEED TO GET THIS STEAMY RAG OFF MY HEAD! I AM HAVING A FREAK-OUT!

I wiggle my arms up to my chest. Having them here, where my fingers can catch a slight breeze feels better. Then I think I hear my woman coming and I quickly slither my arms back to my sides. It's not her, so I shimmy my hands back up to my chest again. Wait! SHE'S COMING! I slink my greasy arms back to my sides.. then make the horrible realization that if she walks into the room when I'm quickly moving my hands back to my sides, she will certainly think she caught me masturbating. Which is worse? Being caught masturbating or defying the laws of The Herbie Detox Wrap?

Eventually my woman returns and I emerge from my herbal wrap like a dewy newborn bird. I'm all slippery and glistening. Speaking of masturbation, I can't stop touching myself. I am reborn! I am as soft as that creepy talking bear that sells fabric softener!
"Here, touch me!" I shout at startled co-workers upon arrival at work! "Feeeeel me!"
When I see Scary Ronnie headed my way, ready to take me up on my offer I sidestep to the Ladies... where I continue to admire my shiny clean pores and luscious skins.

Checks & Balances

It's important to note I'm not pregnant. I just look like I'm, oh say, 16 weeks along. It's not really my fault. It's all a matter of checks and balances, without the checks part. So it's mostly about balance, without me checking myself, see?

If I have a cold bowl of sugary cereal I need to balance it out with a hot bowl of something salty - like nacho cheese... which of course requires the crunch factor of tortilla chips to balance out the smooth cheesy goodness - very similar to cereal and milk.. You with me? And then I go brush my teeth and look at myself in the mirror in horror. Did you really just eat a gigantic bowl of cereal then a bowl of nachos?? That doesn't last long though.. I've got television to watch. My schedule is packed, people. If The Fresh Prince isn't monopolizing my time with his over-acting, that befuddled Mr. Belding requires my undivided attention. Monkey-faced Michelle from Full House and Uncle Jesse with that beautiful head of perfectly styled hair, I'm watching you next. "You Got It Dude!"

In related news - Roseanne reruns are on again. It's the one where Becky and Darlene fight, DJ acts weird and Roseanne makes wisecracks. That Roseanne.

On a side note, I've determined I've never thunk an original thought. They've already been thunk before. I had a boyfriend once, who used to go on treks in the Utah desert and whatnot. He liked to wonder if he was stepping on a spot of earth that had never, ever been trod upon before. Even by Injuns and Pioneers and such. I enjoyed fucking with him on the occasional camping trips on which I tagged along.
"Here?" I'd taunt.. "Y'think anyone's ever stepped here?"
I don't know how he figured it all out, but sometimes he'd say yep, I think that land's been stepped on.. and every now and again he'd rub his chin and say maybe not.

I think that same thing about my thoughts a lot. Sometimes I'll think a thought and wonder if anyone's ever thought that thought before. Generally I'm quite certain I'm one big fucking cliche.. full of unoriginal queries, concepts and ideas.

Elevators And Stalls

There are two places where I find complete and utter relief while at the news station. They are both small, rectangular areas surrounded by metal. The elevator. The restroom stall.

Schlepping to work, can't take another second, don't wanna be there, contemplated the sick call, turning the phone round and round in my hand, formulating my story. Pink eye! Yes! Perfect. I don't have to sound sick but it's so contagious I simply cannot come in. Sorry, really wanted to work today.. it's just this damn pink eye!.

But the poor girl that dwells inside me, terrified of not being able to pay the bills, forces me out the door and down the dank subway steps. Walking in the Upper West Side building nodding hellos with the doorman. Yes, it is nice weather we're having then the elevator doors slide close with a ding! and a whump! And for 20 blessed seconds I am alone. A guaranteed slice of peace. No chance of running into someone, no worries about eye contact, smiles, small talk. I breathe and slump into the elevator wall. And prepare my 'work face'.. Hello! Good morning everyone! How are you. Ha Ha, good one John.. Blah blah blah

When work is getting me down, when the 9-11 tapes become too much, when the senseless death is overwhelming, I take myself to the bathroom stall. The small one, farthest from the door. It's safe there. I perch on the toilet (pants up) and hold my head in my hands. And just breath. Nobody can bother me. I don't have to paste an amicable expression on the face of my tortured soul.

Why would someone shoot at a family driving to pick up Chinese food? Because they were driving too slow. But that doesn't make sense! Even the family dog was struck by a bullet. How could someone fly a plane loaded with people into a building bustling with life? Nearly five years later and I have not metabolized the events of that day and probably never will.

Every single story of every single person. Last declarations of love left on answering machines. Pleas for help from emergency operators. I can't listen to the recorded voices of ghosts screaming for rescuers that will also perish. "It's hot. It's hot. I'm going to die, aren't I? I have young children. I'm going to die. Please stay on the phone with me."

I can't listen again. I have to listen again. It's my job. Why would someone shoot in the window of a home where people are celebrating a birthday party? WHY? A 14 year old girl, shot in the neck. Died in her little sister's arms. It's all so senseless. The stall makes sense.

The metal walls are thin, but they are as effective as the Military Demarcation Line separating North and South Korea. You see feet under a stall, you don't go there. So I am safe. Safe from small talk, stressed out news managers, phony exchanges, bad news.. It may only be three minutes.. But in the news business, three minutes is a lifetime.

Wanking In The Rain

I tore myself from the couch, episodes of The Surreal Life and an overall successul attempt at redneck living long enough to let Max drag me around the park this weekend. Had I let him shit on the floor of my apartment, I may very well have reached full redneck status, but I caved and took him on a walk before the dog police brought me up on charges. There are dog police. I've seen 'em.. On television of course, but still - they're around, people.

Much to my chagrin, The Wanker was in the park, perched near his usual bench, cranking away at his goodtimes as if he were alone in the bathroom. The Wanker, he has a routine. Pleasant-faced man, strolls into the park and nonchalantly ambles toward his usual perch; he stands on the left side of a bench overlooking the park and props his right leg up on it, jaunty-like... lovely day everyone, I'm just going to stop here and enjoy the fresh air.

He's a left-handed wanker. I know because one time a garbage can had been placed in his spot. Instead of utilizing the other end of the bench, he spent the better part of five minutes wrestling the heavy, metal container out of the way so he could occupy his regular locale.

Throughout the months I've lived here, he's worked out the kinks, if you will, of public wanking. He stands next to the bench, props his right leg on it, pulls his business out of his zipper hole and gets his one man party started.

Mind you, I've never been close enough to see his business, can just make out his hand playing the ol' whorepipe from afar. At a distance, he looks like a nice enough fella, just taking a breather on the park bench, enjoying the outdoor atmosphere.

This time though, on a cold, rainy morning, what struck me was his dedication to his, erm..uh.. his craft. He had an umbrella! There he was, in the rain, umbrella in right hand his goodtimes in his left, wanking in the rain.

I suppose I could call the police.. Have considered it a time or two, but in the end, really I can't be bothered. My first month here, I decided to explore Brooklyn with Max and came upon my inaugural public wanker. Of course I ignored him.. but he followed me from a distrance, tugging away at his little member.

I would have called the authorities that time, but I'd left my phone at home. Also, I felt a bit proud, like I'd just been initiated into becoming a bona fide New Yorker. New Yorkers don't freak and call the police at a little public wanking do they? They ignore it and move on, right? Still, I felt dirty that day. Took extra care in the shower.

The Park Wanker, now that's a different story. I'm so accustomed to him, he's kind of like MY wanker. Part of the neighborhood and such. And unlike our man from before, he's not an agressive wanker, doesn't wank AT me. In fact, I'm generally on the other side of the park and if he's around, that's where I stay. Part of our unspoken agreement, I guess... Wank you very much, my good man.

But I had to laugh this time as I watched him dexterously holding the umbrella in one had, flopping his goodtimes with the other AND skillfully shoving them back in should anyone happen by... "I'm wankin' in the rain... I'm wankin' in the rain..."

Gene Kelly woulda been proud.