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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Stegosaurus Heart.

Sometimes, I'll be driving the Honda down the highway and both the kids are crying back in their carseats about their own original seperate shit and something snaps behind my face. They have their own gripes/their own personal breakdown agendas, these kids do and there is no built-in warning system, no little light on the dash that glows red when they are about to unleash the wild winds of hell. I wish they did/ but they don't.

What happens is this, really: I'll be driving out there, looking at barns and mountain ridges and maybe some cloud animals; daydreaming about stuff; maybe glaring at the cars zipping by to see if there's anyone interesting over there: any college chicks who wanna have four second eyeball-sex or maybe a Where's-The-Beef old lady barely peeping out over her steering-wheel: someone I can snarl at and drill holes in her left temple with my glare as she chug-a-lugs down the road at the speed of kicked Jell-O.

I'm there in my own little world, just driving along/not bothering anybody, and then out of nowhere Violet is on fire, crying and blowing bubbles of aggravated snot, kicking her feet, chucking chipped Goldfish crackers and raising a ruckus and then that scares the sleeping Henry, of course, and sure enough he erupts with his own torturous aria and then, Shazam:  Monica will unsnap her belt and flip herself around so she can get a knee up on the vinyl arm rest and fling herself into the back, to try and referee the chaos, and in the midst of all of the noise, all of the screeches and gurgling sobs, I imagine a way out.

And within seconds, as my wife is back there in the middle of the ring trying to sedate the beasts with a soft song about a Peep Squirrel or some shit,  I am taking my fingertips and slipping them up under my upper lip. I push my fingers and then my whole palm and my wrist up in there, my knuckles slipping in  against my soft wet gums, my aluminum wedding band tapping off of the base of my nosebone, and with one swift yank, I go ahead and just pull my whole face off of my head while I casually lower the power window with my elbow point.

I throw my face out of the car as if it were a McDonald's bag.  A couple fallen fries hid under the dirty napkins, under the cheeseburger wrappers; the thing just catches seventy-mile-an-hour air and bursts away.

It's all I can do sometimes. Either that or just jump out of the car and do a shoulder roll off into the grey woods and pick myself up and scrape the gravel and glass out of my wide gashes and just start running, down through the woods, hopping creeks like a deer-man, never stopping, through the next seven dawns.

But still.

I mean: I'm driving and I still love everybody and all even though people are driving me bananas some days with the real intensity. But I know the deal. We have to get these groceries into the fridge as soon as we get home or else the fake butter will start to turn into something else, and so I just settle for ripping my own face off and releasing it out in the road-wind. And I feel a little better.

I do.


Lately, Violet will roll up to me as soon as I plop my ass down on the couch with my first glass of evening Rioja. She doesn't show her face when I'm standing there fucking with the remote, trying to decide either King of Queens or the last half of a Bizzare Foods in Malaysia.

She waits.

She waits until my ass in maybe three inches from the sweet soft leather, like some sort of NASA-controlled perfect little Moon Lander.

My ass lowers six inches from the couch.

(Crackling sound of Mission Control: "Violet prepare for momentum").

 Five inches

("Ooookay, Violet, lock in co-ordinates and prepare for momentum").


(" Ooooookay Violet, imminent momentum, co-ordinates locked. Annnnd  looks good, looks good. Violet, prepare for momentum and throttle up.")


(And we have a lift off. Full momentum. We are up.)

I hit the sofa/tap the remote/sip the first sip of electric wine and I hear the tap-tap-tapping of sock feet on the floorboards. Perfectly timed with razorish precision.

"Daddy Daddy Daddy, ook whot i found", she slams around the corner and across the floor and into my knees, a smile on her face, her curls flapping away from her nose on the air from her tiny voice.

It's a stegosarus.

Maybe six inches. Green. Some purple, I think.

This dinosaur gets around, people. He is omnipresent, everywhere. You don't just "find" him out of the blue. You basically take two steps anywhere in the damn house and he finds you. I see him in the morning on the kitchen counter when I'm scooping coffee into the maker. I see him on the edge of the tub looking at me when I fumble out a piss in the nighlight light. He's been in the fridge; I've seen him in there. On the floor of the car, under pillows on different beds. I've found him pressed up under Henry's stubby legs while the kid was strapped in his pink chair watching Third and Bird. I know he's probably seen me and Monica get busy. I can see it in his creepy lizardyeyes. He gets around.

But this is how this dance gets danced and I'm man enough to see that.

"Daddy Daddy Daddy! Ook whot I found!"

Her eyes are glimmering as she shoves the plastic fella at me.

I put the wine on the side table under the old Ikea lamp.

I pick it back up and take a sip. Then, I put it down again.

"Whoooooa! Looky there!, " I say. "You found the long lost dinosaur, huh??!!"

She's beaming, rotating the thing in her tiny fist a little, so that he seems to be dancing at the sight of me.

"Yeah! I foun him I foun him! Stegsawris!"

The way she says it/ the way she says Stegosarus/ I watch her lips in the seconds leading up to it, knowing she will say the word. Stegsawris. My baby girl. Oh man.

We put the Creature From the Dollar Bin down on my lap and she runs back into the playroom. Her foot patter changes tone when she hits the carpet out there beyond what I can see from here. I mute the Bizzare Foods guy and the thumps go softer, but I can still pick them out.  They fade to stop. And then they return, louder, louder.

"Daddy Daddy! Ook who et is!!"

It's the brontosaurus. The same one I find sticking out of one of my Timberlands sometimes. The same one that hangs out on the radiator cover by the fridge.

We smile at each other. I take a sip of the wine, my wine.

"You found him!" I holler. "You found Brontosaurus!"

She looks up in my eyes and grins so wide and grown-up.

"Yeaaaaah!" she says. "I found im!"

We smile at each other.

The dinosaur goes in my lap.

She turns and goes in search of others.

The beat goes on.


Four Spanish Nights/ Love Is Alive.

In a hotel room in Pamplona I hit the buttons that make the Skype work and shove another cookie in my mouth while the electricity does it's thing and rolls out to Pennsylvania somehow. I get lucky and after a couple rings Monica appears on the screen, Henry in her arms. He's smiling at the kitchen cabinets. That's just who he is.

We talk for a while. I tell her more stuff about Spain, about the show tonight. She tells me it's harder than hell being alone with the kids. As she speaks: I finger the cookies on the bed by my side, like an outlaw petting his itchy Colt. I tell her I saw a bullring. Her eyes tell me she could care less. She tells me she took the dogs to the lake and Violet fell in the mud. I rub a chocolate cookie with drunky-drunk fingers, trying to be gentle/not being gentle; the same as I'd rub a Spanish thigh if I were a different man, a different rocker in a different life. And hotter.

Henry gazes at the screen back in my kitchen and spots me in it and raspy grunts one of his laughs out.

"Hi Henry!", I say.

He darts his fist at the screen, trying to grab a handful of me.

Monica tells me she is taking the kids to some kinda craft show on Saturday.

I tell her I saw a bullring. She says I know/you said that already.

There can be romance in separation if you play your cards right. People can miss one another, cry down the Skype. Absence can make you realize what you have when you don't have it for a spell. Hearts can grow wiser given time to beat it out all alone.

Or, in our case, in my case: you can cut straight to the chase, man.

I look at Henry. He's smiling as a bead of drool rolls down his chin and grows into a Drool-manchu. My boy. My lad.

He doesn't understand English at all.

"Hey, can you make me a dirty video, maybe?" I ask my wife this with little fanfair. I say it matter-of-fact. Seven years of marriage has taught me nothing, I guess. I'm less smooth than ever. I'm smoothless. I'm lame.

"What?" she says.

"A video. With the camera. Make me a short video, a sexy one. Could ya?"

Henry reaches out to grab at the sound on the screen. His slobber leak is amazing. And he's smiling at my suggestion. Or through it.





Christ, now I need to spell it out? Why would I want a smutty home clip of my wife when I'm rolling across Spain drunk-eating fucking cookies by myself in hotel rooms?

I let the explanations/reasonings settle into her skull without a word.

"Can you make me one?", I say, buttering up my tone a little with the subtle mellow of a Peep Show door guy.

"Um, maybe, I dunno. We're going to the craft show on Saturday," she pauses. "We're busy. I'm busy. I hardly have time to do my work."

I switch gears. I try an approach with more pop. More zing.

"Yeah, I know, and you're doing awesome, but have a couple cold beers tonight and you know...just get loose. And you know, just like, relax. Put on that wifebeater I like," I say, all helpful and all. Then I add: "With no bra."

She blushes a little and I am startled that she isn't exactly blowing me off, though the idea of a nice private home video of Nasty Monica still seems like a pipe dream to me to be honest. But she's still on the screen, still Skyping, so I'm a little hopeful.

I stumble through a few more Director's tips but she cuts me off.

"I know how to make a video, Goddammit. OK?"

This brings me a little pause. I never got any videos before. So I guess someone must've. But not me. Fucking bastards. Fucking bitch-ass little bitch boys.

Whatever, I'm not nearly drunk enough to get sidetracked up a jealous tree. I want a video too. Now more than ever.

Henry buzzes his lips at the screen and from a hotel room in Norther Spain I watch his spittle land on the computer screen back in Centre County.

"You could maybe get wine, you know?", I offer. "Some nice candles. Make it a thing. It could be fun."

"Oh yeah, that's just the kind of thing I wanna look forward to when I finally get the kids down. Make a smut movie by myself."

To be frank: I am running out of ideas here. Our marriage isn't all that magical or sensual. Sometimes I count her laughing at my commentary jokes during MIKE & MOLLY as her having a Big O. So, I start doing what I do. I start giving up/letting out slack/ moving on to thinking about my Euro-cookies and the sandwich made with the lunchmeat I hoarded back at the dressing room of tonight's club.

Then she does it. Says it.

She opens 55 gallon drums of tie-dyed doves that whirl out into the room and start banging into the ceiling and the walls. She takes her hand and waves it and White Castle sliders shoot out of directly into my face, like a runaway firehose spewing greatness all over the sheets I'm on.

She takes a seven pound rainbow trout and rams my hook right through it's snout and I am liding down the creek like Brad Pitt in that fishing movie. I'm hooked into a whale here, people. A motherfucking whale.

Henry punches me in the eye throiugh the screen and cackles wildly.

"Alright, maybe," she says. Out of pity, I guess. Or curiosity perhaps. Whatever. It doesn't matter to me now. Because she's saying things. Big things. "I'll see if I can do something. And I gotta go. Violet's waking up from her nap and I have to feed Henry something. Say bye Henry!"

And before I can say my own bye: they're gone. Sucked back into the Skype pipe. There's just the jpeg I picked out for her number staring back at me.

The End.



Did she send me one?

You filthy little fucker! Ha! You wanna know dontcha?


Let me just say this.

It was the greatest email attachment in the history of this beautiful/nasty world.





The Trouble With Ghosts.


"Where there's a will, and there is a fucking will, there's a way, and there is a fucking way."

                                              -Teddy Bass, Sexy Beast


One winter night, long long ago, my mom put me and my brother in our early 80's snow shit. It was the hot K-Mart stuff made of burlap and painter's plastic and fake fur from a fake fur company down some industrial street in semi-urban China; the kind of stuff that doesn't breathe. At all. This was pre-breathable. Pre-Patagonia/Pre-Old Navy/Pre-whatever merciful winter stuff kids might get today. My jacket zipped up to my neck and if I was lucky: I didn't catch my waddle of throat skin in there and feel the mighty sting of a trillion pissy wasps trying to eat the core out of my Adam's Apple.

It was the hot stuff and it was all we knew and she put us in it/sealed us up in our own juices/opened the font door/ and took us down the front steps for the very last time.

We left him alone there, my dad. We left him alone there, probably asleep; probably nicely buzzed and passed out. I don't remember, really. I do remember that he didn't follow us out. He didn't call up after us as we waded through the snow, towards the corner where the bars were. He didn't holler anything like "Come back," or "I'm sorry," or whatever.

He didn't say stuff like: "You're not taking my boys away fom me!"

We just walked out/shut the door behind us/and went away. In my big winter boots lined with mildewy drywall insulation, I felt my toes get cold. It felt really weird, the walk, because Mom didn't have time to throw socks on our feet. One second were in the pajamas, getting ready for bed, the next: we were being zipped up and dropped into the boots without socks.

It felt cold and strange on my feet. Strangely liberating too. As if I'd discovered some new way of walking around out in the frozen world, some new naked way of kicking down the winter streets, my one glove tucked up in my mom's glove. My brother's glove tucked up in her other one.

I remember staring up at the street light as Mom dragged us around the corner. In the super quiet: I remember looking up at the billion tiny flakes falling slowly through the ball of light. I remember actually pretending they were vast galaxies of burning stars that we were flying up through.

The three of us soaring out in space.


We got to my Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop's around the corner in like three minutes, I guess. My mom-mom was at the door waiting/peering out/ plowing the snow with her evening eyes. Pop-Pop was still up too, which was weird. But there he was, in his chair by the eagle lamp, a can of cream ale on the table.

He smiled at us as we peeled off our coats and kicked off our boots.

I put my little nude foot down in a melting wad of slush on the carpet.

"Hi man!", he said. "Want some ice cream?"

I did. And I had a bowl. And it lasted for a lot of years, too.


There is a story behind every story, I suppose. Your take. My take. We live the same shit slightly differently, coming in fast to the same bullseye from slightly different angles, like two or three darts launched by two or three different guys in the same bar, listening to the same jukebox. That's just how it goes when it comes to perspective, to the paradigm. The ladies at the bar sip their cocktails and watch three darts tap into the cork; some of them see where they land exactly. Some of them don't. But who really cares in the end.

We moved out here to Pennsylvania this year, me and Monica. We moved back to where my family is, with new kids that they could pick up and swing around and spoil with kisses and little cheap gifts they found at Target or at Rite-Aid. Mom-Mom is gone though. And my Pop-Pop too. They woulda loved the hell out of these kids and if they could somehow find a way to just show up for an hour on our big porch, dammit I know they would. Just to run their fingers through Violet's curls for a minute or two. Just to smooch Henry on his sour milk mouth and taste his hot living breath. Even a ghost would be delighted. And who knows: maybe that shit goes down all the time. How the hell would I know?

Anyways, months go by now where some of the grandparents love these kids and some of them simply don't. And I wanna fucking get in my car and drive to other states and kick down some fucking doors with the soles of my Timberlands and burst into bedrooms of sleep at three AM and grab people by the back of their hair to turn their faces around toward mine, a half inch from the tip of my beak, and tell them how sad I am that they keep fucking it up, not just for them, but for little kids too.

For little beautiful kids with eyes that shine and souls that glow and small hands made out of God Clay and Magic Blood and Celestial Bone: they keep fucking it all up.

The other grandparents show so much love. They screech with joy at the sight of the little ones. They send Halloween candy through the US Mail and their fingerprints are all over the wrappers and their hearts are all up in the melting chocolate. And they make me so happy/so proud.

But it's the other ones that get me.

I wanna haunt them all the live-long night.



And in all the worlds yet to come.

And I intend to somehow.



The Walkin' Talkin' Pink Mountain Coffee Boy Blues.

Down through the morning, I cut a path to the coffee pot in the dark, a dog at my heel in case I might just happen to drop a steak or a rack of ribs or something. They never lose hope, the dogs. I cut a path into the kitchen and flip on the stove light and make the brew in the quiet of a sleeping house.

I drink a cup as soon as there's barely enough dripped out. I don't wait for the whole thing. Fuck that. I don't care if it tastes better if it's all in there or not. I know what I want and sometimes I know how to get it.

The shit hits my veins and rollercoasters down into my heart with hard morning speed. I hear the jangle of the dog's tags as he realizes I am useless to him, that there is no bratwurst gonna slip from my grip. Same as yesterday/same as tomorrow probably.

Over the sink, I stand there with my reindeer mug and my baby monitors and glare at my puffy reflection in the black window. There's an old mountain out there in the freeze, with whitetails moving cautiously out of the dried cornfields and up onto it's rocky trails/ coyotes shitting in the cornflake leaves/ bears staring up at constellations/ turkeys dreaming turkey dreams high up in the pines, their crazy-ass turkey feet all wrapped around the rough bark of boughs where nothing ever happens but bird sleep.

I stand there looking at my fat face in the dark glass and I know there's a city I can't see out there on the invisible mountain. An animal city, with heavy heavy traffic moving away from the light of some human kitchen. A Manhattan of beasts oozing it's way up moss-rock streets away from my pin prick glow.

"Aaaaargh." I hear Henry in his monitor. He talks his gibberish and I wait for it.

Small thump. That's him popping his forehead off the slats of his crib. He's standing up then, I know. Pulled himself up the wood, into the nightlight haze where he can see a little bit of his room. I clock all this through the tiny speaker and I suck down some more coffee and I forget all about the mountain and the deer and all that and I smile like a motherfucker.

"Waaaaaaahhhhh." Crackles of something real and definite.

Here I come, bro.

Thump/thump/thump. He headbutts the cage.

Here I come.


Henry rides a pink chair because that's what his sister rode and I easily spend thirty bucks on half-decent bottles Rioja but have never even once actually thought about forking out for an unpink seat for my man. That's how it goes, I guess.

Before I had kids, right before Violet was born, I remember having a shitload of one-sided conversations withy my maker, me telling him all this stuff about how gracious I was to be getting a daughter and how I was gonna live my life for her and take all my petty bullshit and toss it to the four winds. Listen, I told him, you don't know me as well as you might think, man. But you watch. I am going to live my life for this kid. Whatever she needs, I'ma get it. Somehow or another.

And we got her the pink chair with plastic buckle straps so she couldn't fling herself out of there. And I would sit there in the mornings and in the afternoons, in the nights, and I would spoon her out little clumps of peach moosh, little clumps of green pea moosh.

God, how I loved her. And I still do too.

And with Henry it's the same thing all over again, you know? So much love. Overwhelming Crazy Love. Exploding hearts while I wipe the crap off his nuts with half a dozen Wal-Mart unscented wipes at once. I fill landfills with dirty wipes all on my own and I don't think twice about it because it's all so massive and I would ruin a hundred Earths just to clean the #2 off my boy's wee.

But, sometimes I wonder if it's enough though.

Or is it ever gonna be enough.

I wake up and suck down half-brewed coffee and listen for their cackles coming across the two Sony Monitors I drag around and then I go fetch the boy when he wakes up and starts fussing and I bring him down in my arms and set him down. And man, he smiles up at me like I'm the only face in the world he ever wanted to see this morning.

Guy Smiley.

Guy Smiley sitting there in a used pink-ass baby chair while I pop the BUY IT NOW button with my fat finger and order another dumbass record off Ebay and drink my coffee by a wild mountain.

All before the sun, yo.

All before the sun.



Tooth Marks In The Wood.

I just got done shoving some more joint compound into a hole in the bathroom wall when Monica called up the steps that Amy Winehouse was dead. Some stuff fell off my blade, but I kept pushing what was left into the old plaster. Finish the job, I told myself. Hide the hole, motherfucker.


My daughter is half a year from three now and she talks a lot. We'll be in the Honda, cruising down the road towards the Home Depot or the beer distributor and she'll be back there in her seat all strapped in, the summer gushing through the window/making her curls medusa, and out of nowhere she'll holler,"AIRPWANE! AIRPWANE! OVER DARE! IT"S AN AIRPWANEOVERDAREOVERDAREAIRPWANELOOKANAIRPWANE!"

And sure enough me and her mom will lean out over the dash and look up in the sky and see some jet high out over the world, dangling from a cloud.

"There it is!," we'll say.


Airplane: full of people; full of businessmen with tilted necks gazing down into reflectionless laptops; airplane full of LAX-bound Sikhs; full of peanuts and Diet Pepsi. It ain't our airplane. We ain't riding on her and probably never will. We don't know anyone up there probably either. Probably won't ever meet anyone who was taking that particular flight. And, even if we did, how would we ever know they were way up that afternoon, soaring above our little car/little ant down between the cornfields?

Still, the plane becomes a wonderful little part of us, and of our proverbial ride. This little girl who melts my chest open and dumps my molten heart out all over ten differnt floors a day: she called it out with such lovely gusto.



So, in some ways, that thing is ours now. Forever. We rode on underneath her, living our life as she passed us by. Then, one of us tore through the wind in her eyes and saw that bird cutting across the bluebird sky and pointed her little right index finger/marzapan stub and announced it like it was something she'd lost long ago and just re-found.

And so: shit. That makes it as much our airplane as anyone elses, I guess.

Maybe even more.


Violet in the morning. Six-ish. Seven-ish if I'm lucky. Standing at the peak of these carpeted stairs in a house we barely even know yet, Violet grins a little: like a bashful grin, something shy coming over her. She nudges a pillow-matted curl out of her eye and giggles a little, nervously.

I know what's up.

I know what's up down here on my perch on the fourth step down.

My sweetheart is scared.

We touch eyeballs for a sec, but it doesn't last: and almost instantly she throws her look back down the long stairwell.

She doesn't want me to know. That she might be scared of these deep old stairs.

I act smooth. Or I try to.

"Remember to use your butt, girl," I tell her. "Slide down like we practiced. One Cheek. Two Cheek."

She rolls around on the upper landing and pretends to be getting in to a conversation with a plastic Wal-mart cow.

I let them have a couple private words before I come back in.

"Hey Violet, you can do it!", I tell her, a little pep in my tone. A fat bald little coach standing there on the tip of my tongue, his whistle dangling down a red lanyard, his clipboard curled up in his one arm like a sleeping baby.

"C'mon Violet, you can do it!"

She grins/her eyes give her away/she looks for a way out.

"A COW!" she screams.

She holds up the plastic heifer and looks him in the face. "A COW A COW RIGHT HERE A COW!!!"

Whadya do, you know?

"Oh yeah," I say. I know I sound dejected too, but this is before coffee and I'm bursting with old piss and I just wanna get down these steps and walk out into the kitchen, into the new day. But, I sound like a douche.

I pump some DaddyNeon up from my guts, up into my face. I get more interested.


She digs that and I can see that right away.

I lay on some thick butter.

"Why don't you give Daddy that cool cow and I will help him down the steps while you come down on your own because you are a big girl and you can do it, Violet!"

"BE CAILFUL BOOTS!", she hollers as she slides her tiny ass down a step. And then another.

Boots is Dora's monkey friend. Duh.

"I got the cow!", I assure her after she gives him up to me to sherpa down the morning slope.

"CAILFULBOOTS!", she says.

We slip our asses down from one carpeted step to the next. Same as we did yesterday. Same as we'll do later this afternoon.

At the last step, I turn around and watch her descending just behind me, concentration smeared all over her face like her jelly gets.

I love her so much. So fucking much. I hand her the cow as her feet hit the floorboards.

She brushes him aside with a wave of her hand.

As if to say: what cow, daddy?

As if to say: that never happened, Holmes.


Fear wells up in me all the time and I try not to let it show, but I know I suck at that and my wife would confirm that. You can't keep your kids from falling down off shit or splitting their lips open on the very tables we set up to hoist their small dinners toward the heavens. Bees are gonna find that soft skin and they are gonna be fucking excited as hell when they hold their asses in the air and wave 'em around and then send the stinger home some early evening when you're all relaxing out in the yard, putting flowers in the dirt and feeling all good about yourselves because you're such a quality time family and look at us out here digging in Mother Earth together but not in some dirty hippie kinda way but more in a Beekman Boys vibe and aren't we just so....BAM.

The kid gets stung. Hell comes calling.

I can't stop it. I can't stop anything, really.


I would give anything to have all the dope in the world out in my garage. And all the fast cars and all the bees. I wouldn't care if taking the bees away fucked up the planet. I wouldn't give two shits if their missing honey started making it rain hot glue balls.

I would give all my limbs and my eyes and my teeth if that was the deal, if I could stave off all the goddamn possible bee stings. 

Not being able to makes me crazy. And super sad.


If you YouTube Amy Winehouse you can see what you wanna see. You can watch her in Serbia, all messed up. Her eyes seem like some lighthouse miles away over rough rough seas. You see a moment, a flash of glow. And then it's gone/out/blocked by raging whitecaps. People boo her/a new song kicks in/the people sing the words/it falls apart/people boo her/

You can check her out just a few hours before she died too. Dancing her kooky dance onstage over in London, a few blocks from her house, cheering on her teenage friend as that young girl sings a good song. Maybe Amy was loaded that night. I can't tell. She seemed happy though.

Or you can watch her sing back before she got stung bad.


Goddamn, that little girl could sing.


They will have burned her body and her bones by now. And now, no matter how much you maybe wanna stop it, there will be nothing left but the songs and some dust and whatever she left there on her nightstand, on her kitchen counter.

It won't be a half-written song or anything like that, either. It'll be something way more sad and way more heart-breaking.

A half-eaten bag of salt'n'vinegar chips. A novel with a bookmark in it.

A pencil with tooth marks in the wood.