Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:

The Night I Became A Statistic

Before you think anything about anything let me just say this: I know. I know it's not the best thing in the world to be dating a guy twice your age. Especially when he's married and you work for his wife. I KNOW. Cut me a little slack though wouldja? I was nineteen, lonely and he did everything within his million dollar power to charm the pants right off my perky young frame.

I was brand new to Salt Lake City. I'd finally escaped the Mormon bubble sealing Orem away from the rest of the world and was puffed with pride over my bona fide college student status.

With a solid two years as an aid at a retirement home during high school under my very stylish leather belt, I'd wrangled a gig as a home health aid. The job entailed rousing four elderly people at five in the morning. My responsibilities were to to shower, medicate and ultimately feed the unruly brood that was spending their twilight years hunkered in the pee stained easy chairs in the lobby of a retirement home. Feeding four finnicky elders is more difficult than caring for a table full of two year olds, believe you, me.

"But I don't like butter on my toast!" Afton spits through her dentures, nearly losing them in the process. She sucks them back in with a bone chilling SSSSHHLLMMMP. "It's soggy."
"C'mere you. And cut my pancakes." Ol' Joe rubs a gnarled hand over my backside as I cut his pancakes that incidentally, he does not need help cutting.

"Pretty lady! Woo hoo! Pretty lady!" Helen garbles through her own yellowed set of choppers, waving her stained hankerchief at me, hoping her standard sentence opener of 'pretty lady' will woo me swiftly to her side so I can help her lift her cup of juice.

Geneva, who is as blind and nearly has deaf as Helen Keller, begins molesting her plate with twisted fingers in order to locate her food.
"One o'clock?!" Joe sputters in alarm. "It's one o'clock? Criminy! What in hells bells are we doing eating breakfast?"
"No Joe. It's seven o'clock." I sigh, swallowing impatience. "I was telling Geneva where she can find her juice glass."
"How can her juice glass be AT one o'clock? That makes about as much sense as one legged man trying to kick my ass."
"She's blind Joe, if we pretend her plate is the face of a clock, I can designate where her food is with the time."
"Why is she eating off of a clock?"

I exhale loudly in exasperation. This conversation, or some form of it, takes place every single morning. If we're lucky, Afton will wait until she gets back to her bedroom to pop her dentures out and lick breakfast remnants from them. If we're really lucky, Joe won't need his diaper changed until after I leave. It's no fun changing an old man who endeavors to "accidentally" tweak your nipples, I assure you.

Overall, despite the crotchety gang of old folks, the job was much nicer than those my contemporaries were toiling in. Their employment during college usually involved selling drugs, fast food, serving coffee or attempting to take surveys over the telephone..

Get a few old folks up and feed 'em. Easy enough. Unfortunately I had slept through the important part of training during which nasal toned company officials demonstrated, with an ambitious lack of enthusiasm, the proper way to take blood pressure.

Subsequently, every single morning I'd slap the velcro cuff around bird bones encased in tissue thin skin, pump up the pumpy thing, nod with authority, then scratch the same number on the chart as the aid who put said elderly person to bed.

I reasoned the old folks blood pressure couldn't fluxuate THAT much between bedtime and morning. My head was already swimming with the CPR I was required to learn and the Algebra equations my terrifyingly serious math teacher had unleashed on a classroom full of drunk students sweating last night's alcohol . I justifiably concluded I simply could not learn anything else. Consequently, as I faked orgasms by night with my college boyfriend, I faked taking blood pressure every single morning.

Once the facade seemed to work, why actually bother learning how to take blood pressure? It's not as if I'll be using that skill as a famous reporter, I assured myself. When I answered an ad in the classifieds and nabbed employment as the nanny (rich folks term for babysitter) of a cherubic faced two year old, I quit the home health gig faster than it took for Afton to spit out the abomination that is buttered toast.

Older Married Guy was definitely older. 40 to my 19. He was definitely married. With children. It began innocently enough. After babysitting for the family for a few months Ryan approached me with an offer. He owned a company and was in need of a "file girl". Said file girl would be required to hang around the office for a couple hours every afternoon and file clients folders back into the massive filing cabinets.

Ryan agreed to pay me under the table and I accepted the job. I could babysit my beloved two year old in the morning, attend college classes until afternoon, then head to the office. The perfect gig with which to come up with the cash to pay for expensive college books and the rent, with just enough left over for my monthly case of Ramen Noodles.

My boyfriend Cody was in the thick of pledging a fraternity. I found the whole Greek fraternity/sorority scene distasteful, at best. When you've lived on your own since 16, a bunch of 18 year old hooligans drunkenly jumping off balconies and throwing Jungle Juice parties as a cover for wet tee-shirt competitions, in celebration of the fact they no longer live at home is not exciting, it's annoying.

On the flip side, the dashing, handsome millionaire who drove a Jaguar, dined at all the top restaurants in Salt Lake City and entertained the notion of a career in politics appeared to me a king among men.

Ryan was an excellent father. He appeared to have it all. Slowly, like rolling a snowball into the base of a snowman, my crush on him grew. I created excuses to chat with him in his office, I began to look forward to evening babysitting hours because he was there and I'd get to see the good dad in action. Something I'd never witnessed before.

But I was young, I never thought a man as old as my dad would be interested in me. My crush on him was similar to the feelings I have for Brad Pitt. Super hot and I like to watch his movies, but I didn't expect him to develop feelings for me. So the night Ryan let his hand linger on my arm after walking me to my car left me reeling.

I drove home with a pack of rabid butterflies banging around my stomach. I debated what Ryan meant with the lingering hand. Was it intentional? Maybe he didn't realize he'd done it. He was a friendly guy, enjoyed the glad-handing aspects of life, as most good businessmen do. After a restless night of sleep I wrote off the lengthy squeeze as the imaginations of a goofy teenager with a crush.

Life continued in its usual doddering fashion until the night a group of co-workers invited me out for drinks at the bar next door.
"But I'm only 20. I'm not old enough."
"You'll be fine, your with us." Ryan, sporting a pin stripe suit and tomato soup red tie leaned against the door frame of his office studying me with those piercing eyes of his.

So I went. Pool was played, darts were thrown and unfortunately, Jagermeister was ingested. One by one my co-workers began filtering out the door. Before I could gather my things to leave, Ryan and I were left sitting there alone, together.

Suddenly I knew. It knifed through me in a revelation as agonizing as if it were actually a jagged blade. He wanted me. I could smell it on him more strongly than the expensive cologne he was wearing. I could see it in his eyes, feel it in his gestures, hear it in the slight waver of his usually confident voice. He was nervous! I was shocked and terrified. This wasn't supposed to happen. I didn't know what to do.

We stared at each other across a thick wooden table scarred with initials and obscenities. I traced 'Matt loves Jenny' over and over again with the tip of my finger.

After several minutes that ticked by slower than the mini eternities I spent in my algebra class, Ryan reached across the table, took my face in his delicately masculine hands, pulled me gently toward him, sighed "I think I'm falling in love with you" and kissed me.
"Our marriage has been over for a long time" he told me.
"My wife is still in love with her high school boyfriend and she thinks I don't know" he pointed out.
"I'm getting a divorce but I've got to do it right. And that takes time" he cautioned. In his more desperate times, when I told him I was leaving because I refused to date a married man, he'd shout "but I'm 40, I've been married twice and I've never been in love until now. You CAN'T leave me!"

So I stayed. I stayed through painful months of having to babysit his children as he went to ritzy soirees with his wife. I stayed through a year of meeting in the darkened parking lots of movie theaters two towns away from ours. I stayed home alone while all my friends were out doing what college kids do best; partying.

Two years later, I was pushing 23 and still pushing for my 'boyfriend' to get a divorce. Ryan had moved out of his family home and he and his wife were officially separated. But there was no divorce on the horizon. I couldn't see it even if I shaded my eyes from the sun and squinted really hard. Oh, I'd given up plenty of times, believe me.
"If you want to be married just tell me!"
"I don't! It just takes time. I don't want my children to get hurt."

A year into the relationship I made a startling discovery, I was THAT girl. The girl that dates a married man and thinks he's going to divorce his wife for her. I could feel the scorn of friends who were privy to the situation. While they giggled about dates, cute boys and bar make-outs, I remained conspicuously quiet. I knew my family was aware of the scandalous situation so I shunned holiday gatherings out of shame. I felt like a dirty home-wrecker even though Ryan continually assured me his marriage was over long before I came along.

Nearly three years into the relationship I was hanging by a thread. I wanted out and was ready to blow out the door faster than a bank robber on the run. I no longer trusted this man.

It was a blustery evening in early December when my cell phone rang. The flashing green screen indicated it was Ryan.
"Hey there!" He ignored my sullen tone and continued in his usual jovial banter. "I'm downtown, I just have one last meeting with a man and then I'm headed home. I'll give you a call when I get home."
"Okay." I hung up and continued watching Seinfeld. I wasn't that interested in meeting up. I was in a sulk over the matrimony that continued despite his protestations otherwise.

Ten minutes later my cell chirped like a baby bird. Once again, it was Ryan, except this time when I bleated my monotone hello I got no response.
"Hello?" I said, trying to inject a little enthusiasm into my greeting. Still, no response.
"HELLO!" I shouted impatiently. I was ready to slap the phone closed when I heard Ryan's voice, only he wasn't talking to me.
"When Jenna arrives tell her I'm in the restroom" his voice buzzed down the line and stung me.

All the blood in my body rushed to my head and I nearly dropped the phone. Then I grasped it between clenched fingers and gripped it tighter than I've ever held anything in my life.

Jenna was Ryan's wife. Facts began to pelt my brain like hail on a windowpane. He said he was heading into a meeting for work. No he didn't, he said he had one last meeting, that doesn't necessarily mean work. But he said with A MAN. He's lying. Either way, it's Friday night and he was meeting his wife at a restaurant. HIS WIFE. STILL! WHAT THE FUCK HAVE I BEEN THINKING FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS OF MY LIFE? OH. MY. GOD.

I shushed the avalanche of thoughts and tried to focus on the strange noises humming down the line and out of my cell phone. I harnessed all my energy on the tiny technical gadget that was my only connection to the truth.

I could hear Ryan's footsteps echo down a stairway of some sort. I could tell it was stairs by the way his shoe scraped the different tiles more rapidly than when he was walking. In the background I could make out the clatter and clink of silverware against dishes and the dull roar of conversation. I was certain he was at a restaurant. He must have told the waiter to let Jenna know that he was there, then left the table.

Sure enough, I heard the squeaky shriek of a door and the unmistakeable acoustics of expensive loafers on a tiled bathroom floor. The next sound that assaulted my ears was the distinct splash of Ryan urinating into a toilet. His cell phone must be in his pocket and had accidentally dialed the last number he had called, which was mine.

I momentarily forgot my hysteria to marvel at modern technology. Ryan's incessant cell phoning during inopportune moments had often annoyed me, and now it would be his downfall.

As I listened to Ryan pee, my marveling transformed into anger. I wondered now, if I'd truly been a sucker, naively carrying on a relationship with a man who had no intention of leaving his wife. Maybe I was just the most recent in a long string of women who had supplied Ryan with whatever it was he got out of these extra marital activities. My rage exploded out of my mouth like bullets from a machine gun.
"Ryyyannn!" I screamed into the phone. "Ryan! Ryan!" I was out of control, sobbing his name into the phone until I became aware of him answering.
"Monica? Did you just call me?"
"What do you mean?" He replied shakily.
"I heard you. I HEARD YOU. You're there with Jenna. Where are you?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Bullshit! I heard you. You can't talk yourself out of this one. Your stupid cell phone called me. I heard you tell someone to tell Jenna you'd be right back"
"I don't know what you're talking about!" He snapped defensively. "I'm meeting her dad to discuss our taxes."
"What? Her dad? What are you meeting him for? You are such a liar!" Despite the close proximity of the neighbors in my small apartment building, I was screaming so loud it felt like my throat was tearing.
"You are being ridiculous. I'm meeting her dad to talk about our taxes and she's coming with him." Something in his guarded tone set off warning bells.
"If that were really the case, you'd be horrified that I accidentally overheard and you'd be apologizing right now. Instead you're acting defensive. That tells me you're guilty you fucker."
"You are overreacting. I will speak to you later."
"If the meeting is all you say it is, then you leave your cell phone on when you go back to the table, then I'll hear you "discuss taxes" with Jenna's dad."
"This is just silly."
"It's not silly. It's three years of my fucking life listening to your empty promises. Where are you? I'm coming down there right now. Where are you?"
He paused. It was only for a split second, but it was long enough to let me know the restaurant where he claimed to be was not where he really was.
"I'm at the Steak Pit."
I whipped open the phone book and looked it up, finger scrolling maniacally down the list of addresses and numbers. "345 Broadway? I'll be there in ten minutes."

Now I knew I wasn't showing up anywhere. I was only interested in his response to my threat. If he told me to 'go ahead, come on down' I might consider the possibility that he was telling the truth. Instead, he hung up on me.

I stared at the phone, horrified at what has just transpired. In the span of five minutes, everything I thought I knew had exploded. It was as if someone had torn up an important letter and tossed the pieces into the wind. I was scrambling in every direction, grabbing at scraps, trying to put them back together into some semblance of coherence.

I just knew Ryan was not at The Steak Pit. There was only one restaurant he frequented in Salt Lake City. I dialed my friend Melissa.
"I need you. Come now."
"What's going on?"
"I think Ryan has been lying to me all these years and never had any intention of getting a divorce."
"Just come now, I need your help. I'll explain on the way, but we have to hurry if we're going to catch him."
"I'll be there in ten minutes."

Less than ten minutes later Melissa squealed into the curb in front of my apartment and kept her hand on the horn until she saw me sprinting across the lawn toward the car.
"That was fast."
"Damn straight. We're going to nail this bastard to the wall!" Her vehemence startled me. I'd always felt a distinct lack of interest from my friends whenever Ryan's name surfaced in our pool of conversation. Now I realized it wasn't disinterest, it was anger at him for leaving me languishing in a frustrating situation.
"I SO love you." I told Melissa. She glanced at me, smiled, turned her eyes back to the road and gripped the wheel tighter than a stock car racer.
"What happened?" she asked.
"He called me about an hour ago and told me he was at a meeting with a man and he'd call me when he got home. Ten minutes later his cell phone must have accidentally dialed me from his overcoat pocket. I could hear him tell a waiter, or someone, to let Jenna know he'd be right back. That means he's having dinner with his wife. HIS WIFE!" I shouted again to remind myself what a naive idiot I'd been for nearly three years.
Melissa shook her head. "So what's the plan?" She asked.
"Here's the deal. If he really wants to stay married, I don't want to wreck that. Sure, I got played, but I don't want to bust up his family. He has kids. That's where you come in. If Jenna sees me, she'll know something is up. I want you to go into the restaurant, let him see you. Make sure he knows you've seen him, with his wife. That way he won't be able to weasel out of his lies to me. Let him go find another stupid side squeeze, I'm done."
"How do you know where he is."
"There is only one restaurant Ryan and Jenna would frequent. THE restaurant." I adopt a snooty tone. Melissa rolls her eyes.
"THE NEW YORKER" we shouted in unison.

The New Yorker is the premiere dining establishment in Salt Lake City. A who's who of Salt Lakers routinely descend upon the restaurant's cool elegance to hob nob before Utah Jazz NBA games a few blocks away at the Delta Center.

"Oh my god, I just thought of something!" I pressed my hands to my mouth and stared at Melissa.
"What?" She took a corner, nearly careening onto the sidewalk and narrowly avoided hitting an elderly gentleman who shook his fist at us as we roared past.
"There's a Jazz game tonight. The Jazz play the Chicago Bulls. What if they're going to a Jazz game? Oh my god. What if my boyfriend is really still dating his wife!"
"Well, we're about to find out." Melissa bumped into a parking lot across the street from the New Yorker and slammed the gear shift into park with an expert shove.
"Okay. Let's do this." She turned to face me.

"Listen, there are three floors to the restaurant. Upstairs is a cocktail bar, that's the floor you walk into from the street. Downstairs is the main restaurant and below that is a cigar bar. I'm betting he's on the main floor. Check there first. When you see him, make sure he see's you, give him a dirty look, whatever. But don't make a scene and don't let Jenna catch you glaring at him. If they ARE happily married, I don't want to rock their happy family boat, I just want to know what's really going on."
"I'll be right back."
The car door slammed behind Melissa and I was left to my own nervous devices. The adrenaline rocketing throughout my body caused my right leg to jitter up and down. I stamped my heel to the floor of the car to try and quell the tremors. It didn't help.

I anxiously watched Melissa cross the street and disappear behind the smoky glass of the New Yorker. In an effort to occupy the endless moments until she returned, I checked my cell phone to see if Ryan has tried to call me. Every time I peeped at the display, the digital time taunted me menacingly. No calls.

I considered calling Ryan just to see if he'd answer, maybe try to make him think I was still home. All the easier to catch him in the web of lies I suspected he'd been spinning for years.

But Melissa was already hustling across the street, exploding into the car.
"He's not there." She panted.
"But he's got to be. Did you check the cigar room?"
"I checked everywhere. I would love to bust him, I checked everywhere, I promise. I paused, carefully considering my next move.
"Maybe he had dinner with Jenna and her dad and then went on to the Jazz basketball game."
"You really think he'd do that? Even after he knows you caught him?"
"Anything's possible at this point." I unbuckled my seat belt.
"Where are you going?" concern played across Melissa's graceful features.
"I'm just going to peek at the New Yorker's valet parking. If his Jaguar is there, he's taken the shuttle to the game. I'll be right back."

I bolted across the street to the New Yorker valet parking. I waited until both valet boys were occupied with Salt Lake's elite and edged into the lot. It was a very small lot, which made it easy to eyeball all the parking stalls. I ran, a woman possessed and obsessed, up one row and down the other. A cream colored Jaguar is hard to miss.

Within seconds I located it. I cupped my hands around my eyes and peered into the tinted glass. Yup. It was his car all right. I could see his briefcase nestled on the buttery leather passenger seat. If he was doing "business" like he said, that briefcase would be with him. Maybe he took out the papers he needed, the voice inside me that still wanted to believe in love whispered hopefully.

I turned to run back to Melissa's car when another thought thundered into my head. I scampered back to the Jag and peeped in the windows once again, this time in search of feminine items. Lip gloss, a purse, a jacket, something a wife would leave behind. But there was nothing. My heart swelled with hope once again.

Maybe he had a quick business meeting with Jenna and her dad, then went to the Jazz game on his own. He's gone to Jazz games alone before. Dozens of his friends had season tickets and he could have met up with one of them there. Maybe this whole thing is typical Monica In Overreaction Mode.

I scuttled back to Melissa and broke the news.
"His car is there. Maybe he just popped over to the Jazz game."
"With Jenna?"
"No, no. Maybe he met her for business and then went on to the Jazz game."
"What if it's like you said earlier? What if he's still with her?" We sat in silence, as night descended around us, looking at each other.
"Drive to the Delta Center" My voice sounded harsh, like the manual pencil sharpeners from elementary school that chewed the ends of yellow number twos

Melissa pressed the gear shift into action, leaving a substantial amount of her tire on the pavement before she barreled onto Market Street toward the Delta Center, the Madison Square Garden of Salt Lake City.

"We're not going to get in there, we need tickets." Twilight had wrapped the city in her violet cloak as Melissa slowly circled the Delta Center.
"I have a plan. Just park here!" I yelped as she passed an empty spot.
"I can't! It's a no parking zone."
"Just flip on your hazard lights. We won't be gone long. Parking enforcement will just think we're having car trouble. If anyone bothers us that's what we'll tell 'em. That we went to use a pay phone to call for help." Melissa was skeptical but shrugged her shoulders and climbed out of the car after me.

My legs were shaking so badly I could barely climb the steps leading to the imposing structure. I'd only been to the Delta Center once, years before, for a Pearl Jam concert. The gigantic building loomed imposingly above me, a solid marriage of concrete and steel. Sufficed to say, locating someone within the 22,000 seat arena is akin to finding an eye contact in a swimming pool. Except I remembered something Ryan told me months ago.

He was taking his son to a basketball game that was going to be televised.
"Tell me where you sit and I'll look for you on T.V." I'd joked.
"You really might be able to see us, we sit exactly 14 rows behind the Jazz players." He had replied.
"You're 14 rows from the floor?"

Tonight, as I pressed onward, Melissa in tow, those words kept replaying in my head. 14 rows behind the basketball players. 14 rows back. 14 rows.
"Just stay quiet and agree with whatever I say, "I whispered to Melissa as we approached one of the entries guarded by a ticket taker clad in a green blazer similar to those professional golfers get for winning the Masters Golf Tournament.
"Good evening Miss, can I see your ticket please?" A smiling man with a tuft of steel wool dolloped on the top of his shining pate politely held his hand out for our nonexistent tickets. I quickly realized his steel wool was a bad toupee, proffered my best smile and began my subterfuge.

"Hi. My roommate and I live just down the street. We've locked ourselves out of our apartment. The only people with the spare key are my parents, they're in here at the Jazz game. I wonder if I leave my ID card here with you, if we could run in, grab the spare keys and run out? It should only take five minutes. I know right where their seats are?" I beam my best I'm a god-fearing-Mormon-gal-who-still-attends church -regularly-and-you-and-I-both-know-I-would-NEVER-EVER-lie-because-that's-just-not-something-Mormons-like-us-do look.
"Sure thing, sweetheart. Don't bother about leaving you ID." He gave me a leering wink and Melissa and I sailed inside the building.

"Nice one. Now what?" Melissa asked nervously.
"He sits 14 rows behind the Jazz players. All we have to do is peek into the arena, figure out where the team is sitting and go there."
"Let's go then!" Melissa grabbed my hand and pulled me into the beckoning darkness of the nearest portal.

Inside the tunnel leading to the arena I could hear the thunderous pounding of the basketball on the hardwood.
"SCRREEEEECH! SCRETCH! RRRRCCHHH! The rubber sneakers battling the glossy floor were the soundtrack to the beat of the ball and the chants from the crowd. Sweat prickled in my armpits and my inner thighs were as greasy as the aftermath of an hour of cardio on the treadmill.

After the dimly lit tunnel the bright light of the arena was an assault to my eyesight. The flashy vista that lay before me was an immediate contradiction to the black thundercloud cloud threatening my heart and mind. I was overwhelmed by the thousands upon thousands of people cheerily jostling about. He won't be here, I comforted myself, and if he is, he'll be with friends.

We scanned the cavernous structure, inspecting the layout until we located the Jazz players who, in all their seven and eight feet glory, were rather hard to miss. All knees and elbows, they were sitting at the far end of the basketball court. Too far away to see much of anything but the glimmer of their snazzy purple uniforms and the lengthy limbs snaking from them. The spectators behind them were impossible to make out at this distance.

"Okay. The team sits in front of portal K." Melissa wisely pointed out. "So we need to go out and walk around to portal K."
"Except I don't want to walk right down the aisle he sits near." I exclaimed. Anxiety was crawling all over my skin, like the sweat it left in it's dizzying wake.
"I want to walk down an aisle a couple rows away from K. That way we can get a good gander at him without him spotting us."
"So like, you wanna go in over there?" Melissa indicated with her hand. "Portal M?"
"Yeah, that's perfect."

We exited back through the tunnel we entered, to where the concessions and merchandise stands were located. Once at the perimeter of the arena we began to work our way around the humungous circle toward portal M.
The going was similar to navigating a high school hallway at lunchtime. A glance at one of the many monitors mounted to walls around the building confirmed it was almost half-time. Since the Jazz were losing by a significant margin, hundreds of fans were pouring from the arena, I assumed to get snacks or a head start on using the restroom facilities.

What seemed like hours later, we arrived, sweaty and nervous, at portal M. The trip through the tunnel leading back to the arena felt like a walk to the electric chair. In minutes, I would know whether the man I envisioned having children with had wasted years of my life.

"You ready?" Melissa grabbed my hand and held it tightly. I could only nod, my throat clamped shut, refusing to escort words from my diaphragm. I was breathing shallowly. Harsh rasping breaths. Bright pinpoints of light were dancing in front of my eyes.

Once again we stepped into the antiseptic lighting of the arena and walked to the edge of the concrete platform. I quickly located the row of Jazz Players rimming the court. Once I found the team, I began to count the rows behind them. One, two, three, four... The countdown to discovery. Five, six, seven, eight, nine... Oh God. I skip the last three rows, my eyes swooping over nameless, faceless basketball fans.

"There he is!" Out of sheer habit, I was momentarily elated when I picked his face out of the crowd. Then his seatmate turned toward me. And I died a little. I was frozen. My blood solidified to ice and I simply could not move.

Three of the most difficult years of my life. Years spent telling friends "no" so I could wait around at home on the off chance Ryan would be able to sneak away. Years of agonizing nights alone while he went to "family obligations" with his wife. Years of painfully hiding a relationship. These wasted years had culminated in this single, horrifying moment in time. There he sat, happily watching a Jazz game with the woman he claimed disgusted him. The woman he was supposedly divorcing.

My knees buckled like someone kicked me from behind and I gripped the banana colored metal railing for support. Melissa was, uncharacteristically speechless. For about ten seconds.
"That fucker." Her tone was menacingly quiet.
"Oh my god." I rasped
"I will kill him." Melissa continued.
"I can't believe this is happening."
"I will slash the tires on his car." Melissa threatened and we both fell silent.

The half-time buzzer shrilled through my soul, body slamming me back to reality.
"Meet me at the top of his row."
"Holy shit! What are you going to do?" Melissa was ringing her hands anxiously.
"I'm going to let him know I see him.. I see him here with his wife and I see him for the lying, no good, worthless asshole that he really is." Before she could stop me I was stumbling down the stairs.

As I made my way down the stairs toward the basketball court, I kept my eye on Ryan and his wife, two sections to my left. The plan taking shape haphazardly in my head was to walk to the floor, sidle through the seats and over to his row. Once there I wanted to walk back up the aisle stairs, right past his seats. I wanted him to see me. I needed him to see me seeing him for the liar he was.

The cacophonic chaos of halftime made it easy to slip past the green jacketed usher guarding the gate to the lower seats near the floor. I was still a fair distance from Ryan and Jenna. I was hoping Jenna would take advantage of half-time and use the restroom. I didn't want her to see me, I had enough drama dirtying my hands.

Like a late arrival to the movie theater, I squeezed between knees and seats, until I arrived at the bottom of Ryan's portal. Now I was standing directly next to the basketball teams' seats. Ryan was above me, chatting amiably to the man and woman seated next to him.

As I was looking at Ryan from fourteen rows down, Jenna stood up, walked toward a group of women chatting a couple seats away from her and Ryan and joined their conversation. Now was my chance.

I glanced back the way I came, up and over at the portal Melissa and I had entered. I could see her rooted to the spot where I once stood with her. She was gripping the bright, yellow railing, awe and fear mingling on her face. She gave me a barely perceptible nod of encouragement and, heart thumping wildly in my throat, I shakily began to climb the stairs toward Ryan's seat.

His seat was the third one in from the aisle. As I got closer I could hear him discussing the game with the couple in the two seats between his and the stairway. A quick look in Jenna's direction confirmed she was chattering away obliviously with the group of women. I was four rows away when Ryan happened to glance up and see me approaching him.

My lips felt loose and rubbery. They stretched into the most pretend smile I've ever smiled and I trilled "Ryyyyyannn! Fancy running into you here!"

He was horrified. Bewildered. My appearance at the Jazz games he had shared with his wife for nearly fifteen years was so out of context he could only grimace uncertainly. The couple he was conversing with smiled politely my way and continued chatting to each other, allowing Ryan to catch up with a woman they assumed, I'm certain, was an old acquaintance or coworker.
"Ryyyann..." I chirped in the strange falsetto that was bursting from my throat. "How arrrre you? Watching the Jazz huh?" Still he sat. Words had left him. That stupid smile still pasted across his handsome features.
"Is that YOUR WIFE Jenna I see over there? Tell her I said hello! Bye now." With that I continue up the stairs.

When I got to the top of the stairs, I looked back. Jenna, unaware of my presence, was still absorbed in a conversation with her friends. Ryan was staring straight ahead. I turned around, stumbled through the tunnel and fell into Melissa, who was waiting at the other end of the portal.
"Let's get out of here." I sobbed.
She wisely said nothing, and held my arm as we scuttled outside to her car.

I expected to see a tow truck operator hooking up to Melissa's illegally parked car, but there was nothing. The white Mustang was where we left it, hazards flashing like happy Christmas lights in the starry night.

Wordlessly we climbed into the car, Melissa started the engine and we made our escape.
"Can we stop at the liquor store?" I asked quietly. My voice sounded strange to me. Raw and scratchy, like brittle leaves scraping along a barren winter sidewalk.
"Absolutely." Like any good friend should, Melissa encouraged me to take a few shots of Jagermeister to calm my frazzled nerves, then she drove me home.

"I'm putting you to bed." She said authoritatively when my drunk fingers failed to unlatch my seat belt.
"Okay." I plopped woozily onto my bed, like a child's rag doll. My limbs goggled limply as she pulled off my shoes and socks. I allowed her to push me back and tuck the covers up around me.
"I'm putting your cell phone next to your bed. But I'm leaving it turned off." She instructed. "He's going to call you when the game is over and I don't want you answering. But if you need to call me, it's right here. Call any time, all night long. But just try and sleep until morning. It won't be as bad then. Just hold on until morning."
"I love you Melissa."
"I love you too." She stood silently in my doorway for a moment before flipping off the light with a gentle snap. Moments later I heard the front door of my apartment softly clicking shut. I waited a few seconds before I allowed the ocean inside of me to come flooding out in gushing torrents.

Excruciatingly painful sobs tore out of my chest and ripped upward through my throat. I curled into a fetal position, clutched my stomach and buried my face into my pillow to drown the howling. I cried so hard and for so long I began to retch.

I skittered drunkenly for the bathroom and spewed the contents of my stomach, about four shots of Jagermeister, into the toilet. I flushed, draped my arms across the toilet seat and dropped my feverish head across them. I hiccuped, gasping for air like a small child who's just finished throwing a convulsive tantrum.

Nearly an hour later, I gripped the edge of the sink and pulled myself up. I was splashing water across my mottled face when I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. Rage coursed through my veins and I hated myself. I hated the stupid, stupid girl who had tolerated this relationship. I hated her being too weak to move on.

Then I did something I'd never, ever done before. I slapped myself. Hard. It felt good and I did it again.

"You deserve that you stupid bitch." I slurred at myself. I dragged my fingernails down my cheek, inspiring puffy, red welts.

Not able to face myself any longer, I floundered back to my bed and fell heavily onto the mattress. Moaning, I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock on my nightstand. Nine o'clock. I flipped on the television to see if the Jazz game was over yet. The FOX news at nine was just starting. Famed local sports reporter Mike Runge was in the midst of detailing the Jazz's "amazing comeback victory".

So the game was over. Ryan might already be home. Hating myself so much I wanted to die, I pressed the power button on my cell phone. It vibrated to life but there were no messages. No one had called.

I heaved the phone against the wall. It exploded onto the floor, black plastic pieces raining down onto the floor. How could he NOT call? That's it then. That's all I was. Some private trophy girlfriend. A stupid, blonde boost to his already inflated ego.

I was enraged. Something fissured deep inside. Like an elastic band stretched too far, I snapped. There would be no bouncing back into what I used to be. I was forever altered.

Before I knew what I was doing I was slamming out of my apartment. As if in a dream, I could hear my bare feet slapping the cement. I was running. Running as fast as I could.

While he was building his new home, Ryan was living in a condominium less than a mile from my apartment. "So I can see you all the time" he had said when he paid cash for it.

Within minutes I was barreling up his front steps. The door was locked. I scrambled wildly down the steps and rocketed through the side gate, into his backyard. Inside, the house was dark. The only light was the ghostly pall the digital microwave clock cast on the kitchen that lay just beyond the sliding glass door.

I tried the door. It was unlocked and slid smoothly open. I stumbled onto Ryan's lush merlot colored carpet, noiselessly stalking into his den.

His back was to me as he sat motionlessly in his over-sized leather armchair. I could see that he was holding his requisite three fingers of scotch in his right hand.

"You." I growled. "You!"

He said nothing. Didn't even turn around. Not a muscle twitched. Two large steps brought me directly in front of him, my body quivering with rage. The expression on his face was something I didn't expect and I allowed it to distract me. Lines of despair etched his skin like tree bark. His eyes followed me, but still, he said nothing.

Frustrated, I slapped the glass of amber colored Glenlivet from his grasp. Unexpectedly, the glass launched from his loose grasp and shattered against the wall.
"I hate you!" I screamed and begin to cry.
Ryan sprang from his seat on the armchair and grabbed my hand. I instinctively jumped backward until I realized he was clutching my arm protectively. Blood was spurting from the center of my hand where my palm had connected with the glass, leaving behind a torn flap of skin.

"Oh Monica." Ryan was crying now. Silent tears streaked down his bleak expression.
"Don't touch me you liar! LIAR!" I hissed. Still, he clung to my hand, pulling me to the kitchen where he wrapped a dish towel around the bloody mess, pressing the damp cloth into my palm.

We stood there in the dark silence, listening to each others ragged breathing.
"It's not what you think." He finally chanced.
"That is such BULLSHIT!" I yanked my bleeding hand from his grasp and retreated to the other side of the room.
"You lied to me. And I saw you with her!"
"Just listen to me!" I fell silent when, uncharacteristically, he raised his voice.
"I WAS meeting Jenna and her dad about our taxes. He is still very much involved with her finances. She's a little daddy's girl. Once he left, she and I were walking out of the restaurant together when we ran into our old group of friends who go to the Jazz games. What could we do? Nobody knows we're divorcing!"
"After nearly three fucking years everyone should damn well know!" I spat.
He hung his head dejectedly. "They asked us to go to the game. So I went. I didn't even talk to her the entire night. We HATE being together. You saw us. She wasn't even sitting by me. She went to socialize with her uppity girlfriends."
"You are SO worried about keeping up appearances!" I shrieked accusingly.
"It's for my kids. If she's happy, they're happy. If I can keep her happy throughout this whole divorce ordeal, it will end faster. If there are problems, like me dating our old babysitter, for chrissakes, she will make my life, AND YOURS a living hell!"

I leaned against the refrigerator and slumped slowly to the floor.
"I just can't take it anymore. I can't. This is all your game. I'm just a helpless spectator, yet the fate of my life hangs in the balance too! You withhold information to keep me from getting upset, but discovering the truth is worse. I just can't do this. I am THAT girl. The stupid girl that dates a married guy who claims he is divorcing. And he never does. He never will."

I stood up, cradling my bloody, dish toweled hand to my chest and walked out of his condominium for the last time.