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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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Food For Thought

Have you ever tasted something you've spent half your life declaring you hate? Something you absolutely refuse to eat, and it turns out you love said something? Maybe a tragic incident involving the particular item in question spurred the dislike. Maybe dad made you sit sullenly at the dinner table until you 'finish those goddamn peas'! Now you hate peas. Well, it happened to me today. Not a tragic incident. A food awakening.

If you know anything about me, you know I hate peaches. I was raised on welfare and canned peaches. Nothing against grandman's canning capabilities, (she makes a mean jam), but it got to the point where I'd rather go hungry than slurp down another slimey, brownish, peach like blob afloat in that clear, sticky liquid of unknown origin.

The Surge loves him some peaches. He was in the kitchen this very morning, slicing and dicing to make for a tasty cereal topping.
"Here, try this." Before this unsuspecting victim knows it, she's got a mouthful of peach.
"What the..." I garble around the flavorsome fruit. The Surge is standing there, smiling, eyebrows raised in knowing anticipation of my reaction.

AND... It's good. No, it's grrrreat! as Tony the Tiger would say about his breakfast of choice. Sweet, succulent, juicy. Not too mushy, not too hard. What'dya know? Peaches are good. I wonder which other foods I allegedly hate I'm missing out on.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I trudge through torrential rain from the News Station Where I Work to the Lincoln Center subway stop this morning after yet another writing all nighter. It's a good thing I showed up at work today. Who else could have written the story about King Midas the sea turtle, finally returning to his New Orleans home post Katrina, with the same panache? Or the New Jersey millionaire who just splashed 20 million for a trip to space?

These are important stories that someone must tell! New Yorkers need to know that a buzzard was on the loose in a Miami news studio, so it's lucky for X NEWS that I'm on the job. No one writes that oh-so-clever anchor banter with more flair than I. Or the teases.. "If you can't take the heat, get outta the kitchen.. Coming up on X NEWS, the domestic diva tosses in the towel.. find out what's cookin with Martha Stewart when we come back!". Isn't that clever? Toss in a few gang bangs, hit & runs, and the usual 'body found' and that's my night kids!

After this futile exercise of my brain... no I meant fruitful exercise! I swear! Just got the letters mixed up. Really. Not really. I'm tired of the news. Most folks in the news business are over-achieving braggadocios who love to tell you what they do for a living.

I wish the fucking Food Network would answer my calls. Isn't that sooo the place for me? TV and food. Genius! The over-achieving, sharp suited exec who came up with this concept should be publicly lauded. Just kidding, I haven't called the Food Network. But I should, dammit! Unless they stick me with Rachael Ray and then I'd have to resign on general principle. No one is that chirpy all the time. Give me that silver-haired vixen Paula Dean and her high fat, home made stews, casseroles, pies and all manner of ooey gooey goodness any day. Paula's peppy, but in the right way. I'm certain she curses like a sailor the minute the cameras are off.

As I was saying, trudging to the subway... Rain pelts me from all angles. Waterworld. Wet hair, soggy shoes, sponges for socks. Umbrellas charge me. Owners unaware they are coming this close to impaling an eyeball, scraping a cheek. Herding onto the subway. Cattle call. The rustle of newspapers, squelch of wet shoes on tiled floor, winter coats awakened from hibernation, sniffling and coughing onto hands that grab for the nearest pole at the slightest bump.

I rest the back of my head against the wall of the wet train and scrutinize the early risers, packed sardine like around me.
"Next stop, 42nd street Times Square. Stand clear of the closing doors please."
I see The Sleepers. The Groggies. The Readers. The Stare into Spacers. The Homeless. The ipodders. I am a charter member of The Groggies. Eyelids drooping, snapping open each time the train screeches to a clamorous stop.

Is it worth it? We're all zombies. Staggering to and from work. Tired, circles under our eyes, smiles scarce. What is my point? I work, to pay the bills. Something needs to happen. I want something to happen. I will make something happen.

He Said, She Said

Being married is hard. Nope. That sentence just isn't enough. Doesn't impart the gut wrenching, tight rope walk that is unholy matrimony. The moments, check that, the hours... no... the days of outrageous, self-righteous indignation, coupled with spirals of self loathing in the aftermath of a fight during which, in a split second of uncontrollable rage, you spewed every hateful, hurtful sentence you could spit through clenched jaws. And when HE responds in a similar manner, you play victim. Of course you cry. Then, when he feels bad about your tears, the self satisfaction spreads through you like a shot of liquor on an empty stomach. After all, the argument was his fault because he said... Wait! What did he say? That's right, he said.. erm... it was something extremely offensive. Of that I am certain. If I could just remember. How did this fight start? Surely it was because of some insensitive bit he tossed out carelessly. The fighting renews, only this time you're arguing about what you're arguing about.
"You're the one that said..."
"But you said..."
"It's always me isn't it?"
"You said it, not me."

He said, she said. I say being married is hard. The topic has been done to death. Marriage is a cliche, a comic's stand-up routine, sitcom fodder, Hollywood's joke. It's a dying institution that people afraid to be single cling to. It's a traditional, romantic gesture for soul mates. All I know is I had to get married the way I did or I never would have gone through with it. Quick and dirty, my friends. No time for second thoughts. Hell, no time for first thoughts. Not a quiet moment to reflect on the sentence 'for time and all eternity' or 'til death do us part'.. No chance to really get to know him or I would have pulled out.

Get to know someone and a bit of the passion dies. Fuck off romantics (likely bleary eyed singletons still searching for their 'soul mate'). It's true. Get to know someone and you also become acquainted with their faults. 'Howdy! Not so pleased to meet you Mr. Loud Chewer! Not so glad to make your acquaintance Mr. Never, Ever, Under No Circumstances, Clean the Bathtub!'.

The catch 22 is, the deeper the waters of wedded bliss become, the nearer you come to drowning yet somehow manage to dog paddle through the high tide of tough times, the deeper in love you fall. In that way, I suppose, the passion meter jumps back up from it's dormant position.

Get to know faults = passion takes a header = love him anyway = fall more in love = passion meter jumps. Strange isn't it? Besides, how can I not be passionate about the man who bares witness to a sobbing, snotting girl who can't stomach the thought of another week on the graveyard shift writing about death, death, and more death and loves her anyway?

But Why?

"But why?" I ask, unshed tears already prickling my eyes. He looks down at the porch on which we're sitting. I can feel the cold leaking through my thin, cotton, workout pants. Yellow-white sunlight filters weakly through a neighbor's tree and dapples the side of his face with patches of light and dark.
"It doesn't matter. It's just... it's me." He casts his eyes askance, acknowledging the cop out of this sentence.
"Just tell me." I try to maintain control, keep my voice low, but a small tremor on the word 'me' gives me away.

I hadn't seen this coming. Yeah, we'd been fighting lately. A lot. Wasn't that par for the relationship course? Nobody hits holes-in-one all the time. Do they? I'd chosen to be myself, or what I thought was myself, in this relationship. Venting every little frustration under the guise of being real.
"I hate my job."
"I'm so fat."
"The stylist completely fucked up my hair, I am NOT going ANYWHERE looking like this!"

Isn't this what REAL relationships are made of? Full disclosure? Total honesty? Revealing the real me. No fake-fronting. Love me or leave me. This is girl power! Isn't it? And then. The sentence.
"You just aren't the girl for me." He says this while looking off into the distance. Away from me. From us. I try to power through the overwhelming urge to burst into girly tears. But you know how it is. The more you try, the more you cry.

I turn inward. Heeding Ani DiFranco's advice, I dilate. Fuck you and your untouchable face, I think. I grab this tough-girl thread in hopes it will lead me to my familiar tough-self. The self born of being a child of divorce, battling three brothers, growing up on food stamps, getting a job at fourteen, moving out at sixteen, pregnant at seventeen, abortion. The self that sharpened her edges by living alone and trusting no one for nearly ten years. But she is no match, because she is just 'not the girl'. He has confirmed what she always feared. Back when parents of friends wouldn't allow their daughters to play with her because she was part of 'That bad Butler family'.

Something breaks inside my chest and fat tears spill onto my cheeks. I actually see one plop onto the porch like a raindrop. He shifts uncomfortably. Not because he wants to wash his hands of the girl crying on his porch, but because he's made me cry. See? He's a good guy like that.

I thought I was living authentically. I thought he 'got me'.. And so I let my shadowy shallow self into the light, mistakenly assuming that was 'being real'. But being 'real' turned me into a whining, complaining weakling. I thought he'd see beyond the bad behavior to the real me. But the bad behavior was the real me. He realized that before I did. Then I made one of the biggest realizations of my life. I discovered my pattern with men. In my relationships, I'd let it all hang out. All of it. I'd spew everything that's ever happened to me. Some good, but mostly the bad and the ugly. Then I'd stand defiantly, arms crossed, waiting to see what each boyfriend would do. Could they handle me? Will they see through my bullshit to the real me? Never realizing that the bullshit was the real me.

I was shattered for two years after this conversation. Mangled self-esteem, slowly gluing the pieces back together. But I limped from that wreckage with an important lesson that I use every single second of my married life. Just because I am loved, just because I am understood, I do not have a hall pass to do and act as I please. Because I am loved, because I am understood, I must try harder to filter out as much of the bad behavior as I can.. Not wave it like a flag, daring someone to love me anyway, under the mistaken notion that if they put up with my shit, it's true love. Now, it's more important than ever that I put my best put forward, for my husband. That's true love.

His Heart is the Bums on the Street

I have an art collection hanging on the milk white walls of my tiny Brooklyn apartment. Bold, beautfiul, colorful, unlike anything I've ever seen. It's all original. One of a kind. The artist; Joseph, the homeless man who lives in the path tunnel that connects the L train to the Seventh Avenue subway platform.

The Surge and I literally stumbled across Joseph late one night as we giggled drunkenly, staggering toward the L, arms clasped around each other for support. There, camped along the side of the underground path was Joseph. His toothy smile, a beacon in his chocolate colored face. The Surge, always one with an eye for the unusual, the artistic, gently guided me toward the grinning stranger in the dirty overalls.
"How much?" The Surge was holding one of the brightly colored, crayon drawings. Initially annoyed at this disruption of my drunken revelry, I relented and squinted my vision to 20/20 and took a closer look.

Depicted in the drawing; the subway under attack. A crowded train, throttling through shadowy buildings, as invaders from space hovered above, taking aim. One flying saucer had unleashed beaming, orange fireballs at the train. A direct hit! The caboose was plummeting to earth from the elevated tracks. I was captivated. By the concept. By the man, with seemingly, not a care in the world but his art.
"Five dollars". Joseph answered The Surge.
"We'll take it," The Surge replied. "But on one condition. Will you sign it for us?" Jospeh's chest puffed with pride. His art, validated. He took the picture, scuttled to his briefcase of crayons and colored pencils, (such an adorable attempt at professionalism) considered his options then carefully selected a black Sharpie. He hunkered down as dozens of Manhattanites rushed past, barely glancing in his direction, and scratched 'Joseph 05' in the corner of the drawing.
"Sold!" The Surge rubbed his hands together. I stood apart from the transaction and watched my sweet husband peel off five dollars and proffer a hand for Joseph to shake. And that's how it started.

I am now the proud owner of six Joseph originals. They hang grandly on my living room wall, a splendid display of art, its' importance to its' creator and what it can teach the rest of us. Not only the art, but the lesson The Surge taught me about the kindness of strangers. My husband, The Surge. He's like that. Ever mindful of the beauty to be found in everyday objects, everyday people. He regards things I would have walked right by. And I had. I had passed Joseph every day for a month, not casting a glance his way. Now, he's a friend. He'll wait for me, a new creation in hand, a smile dawning on his face like morning sunshine when he sees me approaching.