Monica Bielanko
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In Which I Find Church (But Not God)

The Surge and I got into a bit of a disagreement. Okay so it was a fight that ended with him telling me to "shut the fuck up" smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Times Square. Actually, that wasn't what ended the fight. The end was me storming away. I simply turned on the heel of my size seven Chuck Taylors and stomped down 42nd Street leaving my husband alone with thousands of others.
"Let that bastard go home on his own." I grumbled to myself.

A few minutes later:
"Tell me to 'shut the fuck up'. I'll show you 'shut the fuck up'."

A few minutes after that:
"Bastard! I just won't come home tonight" I continued ranting to myself.

I began to formulate an elaborate plan which involved me getting drunk on red wine in some strange Upper East Side bar and not returning home until very, very late. AND I will shut off my cell phone. Maybe he will think I was mugged. Or maybe kidnapped. That'll teach him to tell me to shut the fuck up. Hopefully he is in tears, ripping his hair out by the time I stagger home pretending to be blissfully unaware of the time.

Speaking of time, I checked my watch. Seven PM. Shit. I've got hours to kill before I can even start drinking. Can't get so drunk I forget which subway to take home. Just drunk enough to anesthetize the agony that is being married... Tell me to 'shut the fuck up'.... By my calculations, I should start drinking at around 11PM. That way I probably won't make it home until 1AM or maybe even 2! Perfect. Kind of. That leaves four hours before I can start drinking. Good Lord what will I do?

My exhausted feet began to beg for a rest. A Barnes & Noble up ahead beckoned like a McDonalds on a desolate freeway. I could pass a good hour in there perusing the bookshelves. Turns out, Barnes & Noble was more crowded than a Nebraska Wal-Mart on a Saturday. Not an empty chair in sight. I stepped back onto a Fifth Avenue ablaze with headlights. As I continued uptown I passed two Starbucks fuller than a Venti Mocha with whip spilling over the sizes. Not an available chair in either place.

St. Patrick's Cathedral loomed up ahead. What the fuck... I'll just go in there for a bit. I entered the elegantly lit Cathedral and was immediately cheered. Candles flickered mysteriously along the walls and there were no annoying loud talkers on cell phones a la Starbucks. No troublesome technology assaulting my senses. Ipods, bluish computer screens, chirping cell phone rings... And there was tons of available seating. Rows and rows of unoccupied benches! Sweet. A reverent hush reigned within the towering marble walls. Finally. Peace, quiet and a place to sit. Plus, I don't have to buy anything except perhaps the idea of God. But fuck it, my dogs are barking.. I need to sit down.

I walked slowly down the center aisle behind a shuffling homeless woman and a man in a snazzy business suit. I watched carefully as the sharp suited man knelt and made the sign of the cross before entering the row of pews. I passed him by, and stopped at a row a couple yards in front of him. Feeling very conspicuous, not sure if genuflecting is a requirement, I went to do the sign of the cross but wasn't quite sure of the proper order. I fumbled and went to kneel like the man did, felt silly and ended up bowing in a distinctly Asian fashion. Bowing at nothing in particular. The kind of bowing a karate student engages in with an opponent before kicking his or her ass.

I sat down and leaned forward, resting my forehead on the back of the bench in front of me. Fuck The Surge. I concentrated on breathing slowly. The murmers of tourists and the comforting smell of smoke from the candles they were lighting soon lulled me into a calm, reflective state. Since I was in God's house and all I figured I might as well have a go at trying to chat with the host.

I used to pray all the time and as I sat there I realized my spirituality is all but dead. It died a painful death along with my Mormon faith. It's tough to carve a new God from that hulking mass of mangled Mormon beliefs. The wreckage is still smoldering and every time I try to touch it I get burned. Like when you burn your tongue on a hot drink and you feel the sore spot for the rest of the day. It's kind of numb and kind of painful. That's how it feels to contemplate God these days.

After a good ten minutes trying to commune with whoever it is I'm supposed to talk to while resting my dogs in a Catholic church I came to the conclusion that I'm more likely to find God in the mountains or next to the ocean than some herculean church with creepy, nearly pornographic statues clinging seductively to the walls and so I quickly gave up the prayer. But the environment was so conducive to meditation that I ended up sitting there for nearly an hour.

People came and went and still I sat. Assuming my head was bowed in prayer instead of the anger and exhaustion that caused me to sit there, nobody bothered me. Ironic. All this time I've been running away from the chaos church created in my life and here I was missing out on the place nobody can bother me with their annoying people-y peopleness. I just need to bring a flask next time and I'm set. Or like, figure out where the priests keep the wine.

Reader Comments (51)

yes, I can say I prefer speaking with God during a walk somethere in the wood or field or as you in the mountains or next to the ocean...I think, there is more God and beliefs for me, speaking of this, there is a great and so funny scene in "the big Lebowski" movie where he was suposed to spill the ashes of his friend into the Ocean (I love this movie so much), that was so spiritual...I love this idea after death, anyway Catholic church doesn't practise it;)

How was the end of your night anyway? did you go for a drink with Surge? :)
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterana
I can count the number of times I've been to church in my life. And when you subtract weddings, funerals, christenings, those agonising Sundays mornings of my boarding school years and those visits for purely tourist type reasons, it comes to exactly One.


I was in Florence, halfway through the mandatory tour of duty, i.e. visiting the family, as required whenever one of Our Lot dared leave Australia.

I was cold, it was my first trip overseas alone, the realisation that I wasn't going home for over a year and resultant homesickness had just kicked in. I remember trying to get excited...the Uffizzi! Ponte Vecchio! Il Duomo! The Boboli! I was in Florence! but all I wanted to do was go somewhere alone and cry. And so I did. I wandered into some little obscure non descript little church in a city of churches, found a dark quiet corner and I cried and I cried and I cried.

September 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersfh
I've always found churches to be so calming and peaceful until a priest steps forth and starts talking about all the evils in the world, approximately 60% of which I engage in on a regular basis. (Seriously, unmarried co-habitation is one of the biggest travesties currently taking place in the world?). If they could just let me be I'd totally drop by more often.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCover Your Mouth
I think there is a law mandating fighting with one's husband in Times Square. I've done it. Went into a frothy-mouthed rage over God knows what. Unleashed the dogs of marital war right in front of a group of nicely-dressed older ladies who had just come from seeing "The Color Purple." Oops.

I grew up Southern Baptist and in my church, Mormons were only spoken about in furtive whispers. Hell, we weren't even to supposed fraternize with the parishioners of the Church of Christ down the street. The havoc it wreaked on my spiritual life isn't all that different from some of the post-Mormon experiences you've described. It's funny... our religious leaders, churches, whatever, they try so hard to lead us to this us vs. them type of spirituality ("I'm going to heaven and you're not ha-ha-ha-ha-HA-ha"), but those of us who get to look at it from the outside end up feeling burned in all the same ways.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDeanne
Religious beliefs aside, churches are so peaceful. Having spent plenty of time traipsing from church to church in Europe, I always found that 'touristy' churches are a fantastic place to wander around and/or sit and just be.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
You didn't finish the story Monica.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBob
Ahhh,finish the story!!!
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren h
So what happened!!???? You HAVE to finishe the story!
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersimplechaos
Wow is that the church that they filmed the first Highlander movie in? That church is awsome. That was such a cool movie/series "Its better to burn out than to fade away!!".I can see that bad guy from Highlander right now.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
That annoying people-y peopleness is what has been plaguing me for a long time now (my whole life maybe?). Thank you for finally giving it such a wonderfully accurate name.

That church is beautiful by the way, and that is one of the things I love about Manhattan, the ability to walk around and stumble upon all sorts of things, the ability to stay out for hours even when you have no real plan for what you will do, the ability to find that strange bar in the Upper East Side, and being able to be left alone in a mob of thousands. Your blog always makes me miss it so much. If not your writing, then your photos, or both.

Ths is one of my favorite of your posts so far. Actually, lately, there are fewer and fewer days between my favorite posts. The metaphors, the humor, the tone...your writing is getting better and better (not that it wasn't good before). Sorry about the fight. Hope it got resolved for the best.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermm
You both should head uptown and check out St. John The Divine. Still unfinished, but hard to beat as far as a liturgical site in NYC.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterereiberg
Women tend to be emotional creatures drawn to extreme behaviors. This is a typical example. You would never find a man running into a church after arguing with his wife unless he was on the verge of divorce or seriously contemplating the future of his relationship.

She never revealed what the argument was about. However what spouse wants to come home from a long day of work (or a band tour) to find his depressed wife laying around the house whining and complaining? Certainly not me.

September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
I miss fighting... now, all I have is waiting.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa
Michael - I find that you must be putting us on. You are the most sexist, ridiculous extreme that I simply can't believe you are for real. I seriously want to slap you silly although I think that's the very reaction you're looking for to confirm you masochistic views of women. Either way, I am certain you are single.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
Michael, how many mother's want to come home after a long day at the Bingo parlor to find their porn obsessed son wanking in the basement? Not me.

You still haven't told me why there is charge on my Visa to "Elegant Escorts"? We don't own any lately model Fords young man so don't give me that line about a down payment on a used car.

And my orange juice was clearly labeled "mother" so hands off mister.
September 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael's Mom
Um... that was hilARious. I'm voting for you for student council president Michael's Mom.

Update: It's been three days and I haven't been home. I'm typing this from a dirty internet cafe on the Lower East Side. My teeth are purple from red wine, my skin is nearly the same color from the wine and the elements but I'll be goddamned if I give that fucker the satisfaction of returning home.. that'll teach 'im to tell ME to 'shut the fuck up'... Now, where is the crack pipe that my new homeless friend gave me?
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
I think you're all missing the point by going on and on about churches. Your huband can't tell you to STFU! This is serious!
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCheerio
I sense a hint of sarcasm in your update, Monica. I'll take that to mean you're home safe and snug and all is well in your world. Everyone needs to blow off a little steam now and again. I can so relate to that not being able to find a quiet alone spot in NYC feeling.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Oh come on Cheerio every great marriage has passion and with passion comes a little, 'Shut the Fuck Up!'...Serge and Monica will be just fine.

My husband and I *before we were married* were screaming at each other in the middle of a major intersection, he pushed me in a bush and ran away....seriously, like a five year old girl...every great thing has irrational passion that sometimes leads to SHUT THE FUCK UP.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
Cheerio, please don't make The Surge angry again. I much prefer "STFU" to when he slaps me around for not doing the dishes and ties me up in our building's basement when he goes on tour.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
When I was dating my husband some 26 years ago, we got into a huge fight (can't even remember what it was about). I got so fucking pissed at him, I jumped out of his car in one of the worst neighborhoods in Chicago. I left my purse and keys in the car, thinking that he'd go around the block and pick me up. Mother fucker never did! I had to walk home, some 4 miles. Boy did we ever have it out! Things will pass, words will be said and most of the time everything will be OK.
I hope everything works out with the two of you.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah
Oh my, how I love this site! This post was fantastic, Monica. I've been there. Sat in my car at a local park till 2 AM with all the perverts and sickos just to make the boyfriend at home wonder where the hell I was. Not my proudest moment, but at least I'm not the only one. The asian bow made me laugh, and this might be the best line ever written:
It's tough to carve a new God from that hulking mass of mangled Mormon beliefs.

And I cannot thank the dear commenters enough. Michael, who loves Highlander movies and clearly hates women, Michael's mom, who could use a night out on the town and good babysitter, and dear Richelle, whose comment made me spit Diet Coke while picturing her husband pushing her into a bush and running away like a little girl... Thank you all.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramanda b
I'm annoyed by most of you guys.

Do you think it makes your husband sound cooler and less of an asshole by refering to him as 'The Surge' instead of plain old 'Serge'? If so, then maybe you should listen to his advice and shut the fuck up for real.

THE SURGE??? Hahahaha!
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTheAnnoyedGayDutchGuy
I used to be friends with the wife of the former bass player for fog hat and currently (to the best of my knowledge) the bass player for some band called “Molly Hatchet”. We went to the same college

I see parallels between her and Monica. This could be just a series of tremors before “the big one”. However Monica is at her apartment right now. She is making it up about being gone. She felt like being gone. But there is a big difference between wanting to something and actually doing it. Besides; the streets are not safe at night. Especially for an attractive Caucasian girl.

They probably need to come up with a plan and stick with it. Think about where they want to be in 5 years. From what I can ascertain from this website Monica is unemployed and living in “Brooklyn” and the “Surge” is 35. Apparently he has hit a glass ceiling in his aspiring rock and roll career. Monica will be thirty soon. Thirty is a pretty big checkpoint. Also before women hit this age their biological clock is already ticking pretty loud. Kids cost money and you don’t have any. A dilemma for any young marriage. Also you and the surge are still renting. That means you are throwing money away every month and have no real estate equity.

You should stop playing around. Take that argument as a warning sign and have a talk. Come up with a plan.

Other people are succeeding in their lives and careers and have nice houses in Orem Utah. And you don’t. How frustrating.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Amanda b.

You have got my attention. Where to you get off saying that I "clearly hate women"? I dont "hate women".Please explain yourself (tapping fingers).
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
To "TheAnnoyedGayDutchGuy": Does the phrase tongue-in-cheek mean anything to you?

To Michael: Your comments annoyed me. Where do you live? "Orem"?
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Wait. "TheAnnoyedGayDutchGuy" is a better name than "The Surge" and living in the suburbs of Orem, Utah is something to be envied? I am totally sucking at life then.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
My real name is Kees Kaasbol, but I thought it would be better to use a pseudonym.

I'm sorry if I offended people by telling the truth.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTheAnnoyedGayDutchGuy
This...little town.... blues
Are...melting away,
I gotta make a brand new start of it
In old new york

Cheer up! Even losers get a break sooner or later!
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterOl' Blue Eyez
Los Angeles.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Living in Orem, UT is better than living in New York, NY. NY is dirty, crowded, noisy and expensive.

Orem, Utah is clean. You can own a house (aka real estate equity) if you are married. The air clean and crisp. You can snowboard. It’s much better than NY, especially Brooklyn Yo.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
The air IS clean and crisp.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
"Cheer up! Even losers get a break sooner or later!"

Well here's hoping something works out for you then AnnoyingGayDutchGuy. What is with people? Two guys have nothing better to do than hate on a girl they've never met. You are sad.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
can't michael speak (write) his mind?
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercb
Michael can speak his mind and give his opinion just as we also can too.

I've never been to Utah myself. I prefer cities. Even the smog and bit of dirtiness myself personally.

Talk about off topic.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
My son is apparently under the misapprehension that you can't own a house in Los Angeles if you aren't married. That can be the only reason he hasn't gotten out of my house. I love my boy, but how many times does a mother have to leave the classified open to the "Houses for Rent" section until he takes a hint?

Things are looking good on the career hunt for Michael, though. He has apparently rented several civil engineering instructional videos this week, "Down the Manhole" episodes 1,2 and 3.

Let's just hope Michael's search for a special lady friend bears some fruit soon. He and his friend Lance go to singles nights all over town, I think MJ's in Silverlake is their favorite. Those boys are so cute, It's a wonder neither of them are married yet.
September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael's Mom
Michael, don't you mean "Los Angeles"?
October 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Har Har. Ok I'll play along with this.

Ok "Mom". I never said you "couldnt" own a house in Los Angeles if you wernt married. I just said you have to be rich to own a house here, especially if you are not married, thats all. Its all you and Dads fault anyways. You are too conservative with your money.How are you supposesd to get rich (and buy me a house) if you dont take some risks? Its all your fault.

Mom are you going though my room again? I'm not taking any civil engin--- oh wait! Yes. Yes I am. Please leave those on the TV so I can review tonight. I'm still not sure if I want to be a man hole explorer though. Seems a little too dirty.

Dont worry Mom me and Lance will get luckey one of these days and I'll be able to move out of the house. In the meantime please stop looking me up on the internetwith my internet bloging and stuff thanks..

October 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
hahahaha Michael is a fun guy unlike most of you sticks in the mud around here. Oh Monica, I thought you said that you were going to delete comments of readers being rude to other readers? We're still waiting. As for your husband talking to you like that, well, anyone can lose their temper. If it was a one time thing, then cut him some slack. He's just a part time jerk! If it occurs often, then I'd evaluate it quite seriously.
October 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeg2Defer
I haven't seen anything too terrible here. When I do see something rude it's deleted before most of you read it - as was the case with your comment from a few weeks ago. I would have been upset if the person you wrote about had read your snide little rant. If someone finds any of the above offensive then clearly, this is not the blog they should spend time reading.
October 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Just getting back here now. Sorry, Michael - I was joking about you hating women. Just like I was joking about your mom needing a night out and being, well, real. Your first comment had a tinge of female stereotyping, though, so I ran with it. Wasn't trying to be mean, though. I seriously was thanking you guys.
October 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramanda b
This is great writing. You should write a novel- if you don't you're missing your true calling.
October 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKC
Cool. So what’s wrong with female stereotyping? After all; its just an observation. Women do tend to be more emotional in relationships than men do. Thats what I've always noticed anyways...
October 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Have at it Michael. Your posts are entertaining and you seem to spark debate.
October 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
Hmmmm, I don't recall writing any snide little rant but anyway, it's your blog....
October 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeg2Defer
Maybe it was Marisa, or was it Salisha? I can't keep track of all your internet personas.. Crazy like Sybil, you are...
October 2, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
Down pat, have you the speech pattern, my young Padowan learner.
October 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterYoda
You wear Chuck Taylors. That's so cool! The Surge may have told you to shut the fuck up, but hey! At least he didn't call you a piece of shit.
October 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
Like you said Yoda, "A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. No more training you require. It is finished"
October 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
and she quotes from Star Wars. I am in love.
October 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJib

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