Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
« Stop Trying And Just Be The Person You Want To Be | Main | From Our Dysfunctional Family To Yours: Happy Thanksgiving! »

Life Is A Predicament Which Precedes Death 

That up there. Henry James said that shit. I wear Max's dog tag on a delicate, silver chain around my neck. Sometimes it clinks against my other necklaces and jangles the same tune it did when attached to his red collar. Red was his color. There was one hiatus in 11 years; we tried a black number with white bones that I used in lieu of a garter when I married Serge - but we eventually went back to red because it looked stupendous up against his black fur and he knew it, boy did he know it. Magnificent bastard. Always red and always that jangle of collar buckles kissing dog tags. The tinkle of metal on metal that announced his arrival, his signature sound, a happy melody indicating his presence. The jingle is no longer a happy one. It's bittersweet. And startling, because every time it happens I think he's there behind me, watching me make dinner, readjusting himself as we watch TV or burrowing deeper into the bedding we're tangled in together. Within seconds I realize it's just me. Alone. He's gone. Faint jingling, as if his ghost was here and gone and I instinctively reach for the tag nestled in the creamy valley just below my collar bones. It's a tough thing to fathom, never seeing him again, and it's fucking killing me. He really was my best friend.

Sometimes, when I contemplate the rest of my life, I feel like I do when I'm in my car and realize I'm not wearing my seatbelt; all loosey-goosey-like with a hint of danger. Nothing is settled or safe anymore. Being married felt like wearing a seatbelt in life. No matter what happened, there would be Us. There is safety and comfort in the knowledge of a lifemate, you know? Even if you don't get along, even if you hate each other most of the time, the safety is still there. Like the seatbelt. It's confining, sometimes uncomfortable, but the safety and peace of mind that accompanies its snug presence around your body is undeniable. Without the seatbelt I feel unsettled. What's going to happen if I crash? When I crash.

Henry talks a blue streak. Always. A narration of his thoughts, made up stories about his stuffed animal families, 3-year-old speculation about people and cars and animals and the sky and the sun and the stars and and and... He's so lyrical and his wonderment often makes perfect sense in deep and abiding ways. He cuts right to the heart of things, plucking an arrow from his quiver and sending it straight into my damaged heart: Mom, are you still Dad's girl? I'll always be Dad's girl because I'm your mama, muffin.

Up at 4AM again today to tend to a fussy baby. Fumbling in the dark kitchen to mix a bottle, banging my shoulder on a door frame in my rush to quiet him with the liquid gold that is formula. We sat together as the blackness slowly gave way to a steely winter morning, nighttime seemingly erasing all color while we slept, transforming the world into shades of gray; sky, clouds, snow, even the air seems as gray as my mood today. Charlie is teething. Two pearly nubbins peeping innocently through shiny pink gums which I wager are causing me a hell of a lot more pain than him. I would like to go somewhere. Alone. Just me. That thing again, the scene of the movie in my mind I star in where the world is scrambling past me. City street: chaotic, cabs honking, people hurrying, voices shouting, brakes screeching and I'm walking through the chaos in slow motion, feeling like I see all the things and feel all the things everyone else is too busy to notice. The Carolinas have been calling my name for about a year now. Hailing from the west I've not explored the east coast much. Not at all, really. Never been below the Jersey Shore. A solo road trip, maybe? South Carolina? I need to start doing stuff like that. Visiting NYC once a month and hitting up other places I've never been. I'd like that. A lot. Any ideas? Where should I go? Up for anything within driving reason.

Reader Comments (17)

New England is cool, up along the coast of Maine. I spent the summer in Biddeford, Maine the summer before me and Elaine got married. Your Uncle Brad lived up there for about a year and I went up in the summer of '73. It was a glorious summer! My youth was fading fast, marriage and baby Brandon were right around the corner for me!

November 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCraig Butler

I know you said driving, but might I suggest a 3 day trip to Mexico/islands/anywhere sunny? Once I went by MYSELF to Cancun, I picked the absolute cheapest all-inclusive resort on the list, (I eat/drink anything, not picky) and it was great, quiet, and warm. I didn't open my wallet at all, I didn't even leave the resort. But yes, your dad is right, I did a road trip to New England at the end of the summer. First place? Ben and Jerry's headquarters in Vermont - they actually have a cemetery for the ice creams flavors that didn't survive:) and ended up in Bar Harbor in Maine. Amazing. Then, since I'm a Kennedy-stalker I had to stop in Hyannis Port. New England is awesome, all those tiny states on top of each other? So cool.

November 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

The Islander Inn in North Carolina on Ocean Isle is extremely affordable. The beach is 20 feet away and you can see it off of your balcony. It's about 30 north of Myrtle beach, but quiet and beautiful. You can also hit Sunset Beach and Calabash all around there. Happy exploring!

November 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

@Kelly - THAT'S what I'm talkin' bout. Thank you.

November 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

Northern Michigan should be on your's beautiful in the summer - endless beaches, ice cream, biking and hiking trails, picturesque small towns, great shopping. Oh, and Mackinac Island, where every person should visit at least once. The people are pretty nice, too...

November 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

Aw, pup. He looks just like my girl. I'm so sorry about your best friend. I live a few hours from you but went to school out there, and boy is there a lot of nothing nearby. But tons of places to drive. Philly (reading terminal market and the new Barnes Foundation museum are make for a pretty perfect day. I actually just did this trip alone last Monday, I felt slightly guilty but so relaxed), the finger lakes region is gorgeous and great for biking I'm sure (uh, when it's warmer obv), and Pittsburgh has grrrrreat food and gets a lot of great bands coming through. I drove out to Pittsburgh twice for shows this year, it's an easy drive. Lititz and Lancaster are neat, but I'm biased bc it's my current home base. Or you know, the Nittany Mall. It's the best mall since... No, I can't even make that joke. It's pathetic. Road trips are a great idea!

November 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I lived in Florida most of my life but now live in beautiful NC. You should do a trip to the NC coast and then the NC mountains, like Boone or Blowing Rock. But if you are sick of mountains and cold try Charleston, SC. So beautiful, entertaining, and historic. On another note, you have no idea how many times I check your blog in hopes you have a new post. You often write what I want to say or how I feel sometimes. The post I return to many times and read over and over is "I don't want to be the me you see." Thank you for writing your true raw feelings. I probably laugh and cry right along with you while I read. You are an awesome mom and seem like an even awesomer (totally made that word up) person. Hope you find a great vacation spot to relax, unwind, and reload!

November 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJill F

Asheville is a beautiful, artsy town. Drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, though now that I think about it that might be better done in the summer. Ha! But seriously, Asheville is a lovely place and I have fond memories of my visit there.

December 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKim Q

Hi Monica! I just found your blog and am so excited to continue reading through the archives.

I currently live in Atlanta, GA but I'm from Charleston, SC. If you're up for a long drive it's totally worth your while to see Charleston! I love that city with all my heart and I haven't met anyone yet who would disagree. While you're there, if you're there, be sure to have a beer at Recovery Room, get some chocolate bacon pie at the Tattooed Moose and have a fancy drink on the roof at Vendue Inn. Gah, I could go on and on! Let me know if you need recommendations!

December 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah D

No words or travel advice... just heart-felt sympathy for youse who loved Max so!

December 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Thanks everyone, for the kind words about my Max. I really appreciate it.

@Sarah D - Charleston is definitely on my must-visit list along with Savannah, Georgia!

December 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterMonica

I honestly believe there is nothing better you can do for yourself during a time like this than solo road trips. Walking around a new city alone, taking everything in and only feeling your experience. There is nothing better. Traveling alone is like hanging out with the best version of you. There is no one for you to snap at, no one to disagree with on what to do or where to go...its almost as if the ugliness inside you disappears for a while. When there is nothing and no one to react to, coupled with new landscapes and roads and towns, the anger melts away and the pain is pushed aside for new experiences.

At least that's how I feel about it. I don't have much advice because the south is one area I've never had the pleasure of driving through, but enjoy the ride!

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKerri

heard boone, north carolina is a good place. can't vouch though.

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

if you head over to greenville, south carolina i cannot offer you a couch- but i can show you around and buy you a beer!

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

Go to Charelston. I LOVE it there. We have people there that you will probably meet while sitting at a bar by yourself....that's how we met them. Go. There. Now. xoxo

December 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle

I know this is weird, commenting on something Serge wrote here on this blog---- BUT the story he told of how you explained to Violet and Henry about Max's death and how Max wanted to tell them something before he left... that is one of the sweetest, most motherly, loving things I've ever heard of. You are a great writer as we can see, but what we can't see through the computer screen is what a great mom you are! aloha--

December 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Come to Asheville. We have a laid back vibe and killer beer. Tons of folks renting rooms on Airbnb too so you could find a cheap place to stay.

December 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>