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

Reader Comments (15)

The news is depressing. I compulsively read it, I want to know what's going on out there... but then I do, and I feel like shit everytime. Yet, I keep reading.

You're new picture is HOT!
April 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterToryssa
If this entry came with a soundtrack, it would have to include "The News" by Jack Johnson (why don't newscasters cry when they talk about people that die...), and "Jesus, Etc." by Wilco (tall buildings shake--voices escape--singing sad sad songs). They're both depressing but yet so damn beautiful.

Yikes...can you tell I've been spending too much time lately creating iPhoto slideshows?
April 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChicagoDave
ChicagoDave.. That is so strange that you made that comment today.. BOTH of those songs are my 9-11 songs. The night of 9-11-01, after producing a three hour newscast sans commercials, I sat in my car and sobbed and played "The News" by Jack Johnson.. Then, when Wilco released "Jesus, Etc." it blew my mind. The very line you quoted always makes me think of the people in the WTC towers.. and this verse too:

Voices whine
Skyscrapers are scraping together
Your voice is smoking
Last cigarettes are all you can get
Turning your orbit around
April 11, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
Actually, I'll just post the whole song:

"Jesus, Etc."

Jesus, don't cry
You can rely on me, honey
You can combine anything you want
I'll be around
You were right about the stars
Each one is a setting sun

Tall buildings shake
Voices escape singing sad sad songs
tuned to chords
Strung down your cheeks
Bitter melodies turning your orbit around

Don't cry
You can rely on me honey
You can come by any time you want
I'll be around
You were right about the stars
Each one is a setting sun

Tall buildings shake
Voices escape singing sad sad songs
tuned to chords
Strung down your cheeks
Bitter melodies turning your orbit around

Voices whine
Skyscrapers are scraping together
Your voice is smoking
Last cigarettes are all you can get
Turning your orbit around
April 11, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
Thank you so much for commenting on my site about Tony xx
I have had to bookmark yours because it's so compulsive !!!
April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSharon (unstablelady)
Hey Monica,

Tried to send you an email but it keeps returing it to me unsent...

I'm really glad you like - Have just been checking out your site - think it's great....

Apart from this bit...

124. Generally I find British men to be snobbish and effeminate unless they are thrashy roustabouts like Clive Owen... Guy Ritchie ain't so bad either.

I wouldn't say I was quite a thrashy roustabout, but I'm not snobbish or effeminate either (unless people just aren't telling me, which would be upsetting).

It's okay, I won't take offence especially since you were so nice about six line reviews. Would love you to write one if you would like to.

Thanks again,

April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCooper
i sometimes go for days without reading a single piece of news cause it can do that to me.
ill stare into my computer screen and dive in between the lines.
people think i am working - really i am escaping.
April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAndreainJapan
Reality bites. I wish life made sense.
April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStFarmer
Beautiful writing. I think a lot of us are trying to assimilate all the senseless violence into some kind of working world view but it's great to read someone who expresses those emotions with clarity and skill.
April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoel Bryan
My September 11th songs are from the soundtrack to "New York," the Ric Burns documentary that ran on PBS for the first time in 99. It is beautiful, haunting, rapturous, and hollow all at the same time. It was produced before that awful day, but is more poignant now. In 2002, they made an episode about the twin towers as an epilogue. My sister gave me the DVD set last year.

This is not a Channel 13 pledge break, but if you really want to learn about New York, this is a must-have.
April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWry Bri
Springsteen's The Rising - amazing.

If the bathroom stall walls at my job could talk, oh the stories they could tell. Sadness, gossip, tears oh my.
April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
Monica - this post is so poignant - I can't imagine listening to those tapes day after day. It's heartbreaking.
You captured it beautifully.
April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
Isn't it an irony we're living in? The facades, the smiles to hide the cries. Strangely, when you're returned a smile, that just might have been as much a facade as yours. And both of you walk on.

The news. Aah! A profession which is more of a business without emotion. Emotion, that just makes it more difficult to carry on with the profession.

I'm at that terrible stage of deciding what I wanna do in life, and journalism is one of the options I'm looking at. This is one of the things that contributes to my indecisiveness.

The lyrics of both the songs are beautiful. Sad, yes, but ever thought how sometimes the sadder things get the more beautiful they are. I'm trying to download the mp3s as I haven’t heard them.

On lighter note, (as I have the habit of contrasting serious matters with lame ones), I thought I was the only one who cracked those silly “Yes, it is nice weather we're having” jokes. Well, my poor jokes are lame but I am feel funny. Are you having to do friendship with me?? If case is so then you could very well be emailing the two of the songs to my mailbox.

Ha ha!!
April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCrisscrossing Sanity
Aimee wrote ->Springsteen's The Rising - amazing.

Amazing is right on, Aimee..

Can't see nothin' in front of me
Can't see nothin' coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can't feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I've gone
How far I've gone, how high I've climbed
On my back's a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line


There's spirits above and behind me
Faces gone black, eyes burnin' bright
May their precious blood bind me
Lord, as I stand before your fiery light
April 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTabatha
The lyrics Monica put up were so perfect they made me jealous of the songwriter. I've never heard the song but I will, now.

In high school I went to the bathroom for escape sometimes. I would reapply my lipstick and look at myself in the mirror because I am a vain fool. And then I would just lean against the wall or sit in a stall and feel whatever it was that weighed me down. Once I ran into a girl so I left to go hide from the world in another bathroom, but then she was there too and I realized she was probablly doung the same thing I was. It's dumb. but sometimes when I have friends over (just because they invited themselves and I am not really in the mood) I pretend that I am going to the bathroom just so I can look in the mirror and stare myself back to normal. It should be a commonplace thing for people to just leave for air. You should be able to have five minute escape breaks at work or anywhere with no questions asked. No lame bathroom pretendings. I am sure most people need their space. We are not just freaks, right? We acknowledge our fucking emotions.
June 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdesiree

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