Not Punching You In the Face is the New Punching You In the Face

by Serge Bielanko


 

I guess I am either, like, super highly-effective at creating life when even the most towering odds are stacked against me, OR this kid we're about to have is gonna look like this one tattooed burrito slinger down at the Chipotle who my wife thought was kind of hot for a few weeks this past summer before she just dumped the idea of him for a brief fling with my ex-girlfriend in a foreign land who she has never met before settling, somewhat seriously, I might add, for a pile of half-burnt (we had a fire/it doesn't matter) photographs of a bunch of her old high school friends, a few of which seem to have lit some kind of an old-fashioned flame in her that is humongous.

Jesus.

You know how these things go (right?...right?!) Even when in doubt you still love the bundle of joy with all of your heart and soul. You just do. Otherwise you're an asshole. I'm not worried though, I love him more than anything I can string together, as does his mom and his little bro and sister. So, we're good there.

The thing is though right, 2013 was pretty much another year when I slept on my consciousness in the same way that you hear about certain unlucky junkies or drunks sleeping on one of their arms. They wake up 19 hours later, groggy, with camel mouth, and Tah-Dah: the limb is dead. Gone. Not gone gone, but dangling there in the final stages of one final pins-and-needles session.

Lateral moves and the lazy soul that pumps them out will destroy you in the end, I guess. Or at the very least they certainly will mess up your love life like nothing you ever dreamed, I can tell you that much. And this past year I guess I finally just allowed myself to settle into that modern American pattern of lateral moves, one after the other: just making ends meet, just getting by, just creating enough and saying enough and looking into other people's eyes enough to let them all know that, yeah, you're still alive, but not really going overboard to prove it.

I was born with a fucked-up heart.

Its no excuse and I know it, but it's all I've got to go on, really, and I need it now more than ever. Realizing that you and your ways are the source of your own pain and suffering isn't much when you come down to it. But it's a start.

No matter how much you have fought against it, slamming its skull into the cinder block wall of your days, cursing it and trying to make it bleed from its ears, no matter how much you have tried to wrestle it to the parking lot stones while the people in your life stand around and watch you with gaping eyes and raised eyebrows, it's always just a lateral move, man.

Because, see, what I'm picking up on as the year fades away is that you cannot beat your blues with force or power or the kind of strength that lands perfect proverbial punches on the chins of the ones you have so desperately wanted to love, full stop, for so long. Oh no. You can only ever make things worse doing all that.

The only path up the hill to true love, to peace and harmony, is by holding all that confusion and anger and disappointment in yourself, in your arms like a tiny baby, gently/softly/tenderly, all the while whispering quietly into its ear, "I love you so very, very much you little son of a bitch."

Day in. Day out. Until it finally falls asleep in your arms.

Forever.

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I never say I love you except to my kids and I know someone else who lives like that, and I suspect that it's a source of fire down in the guts, if you know what I mean. There is tremendous lift in telling certain people that on a fairly regular basis, but even then, it's not enough. You have to mean it and show it.

Me, I have just run from it and by doing that I have made myself angrier and sadder than I ever dreamed I was doing. I know I'm not alone either. The divorce rates are through the roof and these days no one is all that surprised when you finally announce in your own little way.

"Hey folks. Well, we're calling it quits. We still love each other a lot and this is all hard for us and these years together have been a real learning experience for each of us and blahddy-blah blah."

People gasp, but not really. They kind of expected this to happen, if not with you than with another couple of friends or relatives or whatever. They know what you're going to say before you even fucking say it because it's the way the game is played now.

"We are still committed to our kids."

There it is they mumble in hushed voices.

"We will always remain friends."

'Sure you will', they say. "Sure you will."

And just like that, the pain and the suffering that you held on to for so long gets a call from the governor, is given a reprieve from death, while the world seems to open and up and swallow you whole, a whirling tornado of limitless possibility and freedom and happiness and temporary apartment digs and maybe, ultimately, new electric sex with a fresh face/a fresh body/a whole new package of heart-shaped hooks for you to hang your old pain on.

For now.

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Merry died a couple months ago and her death was a nasty one, the kind you don't ever want or need.

She was legally my step-mom, although to call her that was a hell of a stretch for me since she was the woman who ended up moving in with my dad when I was just 9 or so. She moved into the house where I'd been born while my mom and my brother and me moved around the corner into my pop-pop's little  house.

I don't know too much about what went on in my house after I was dragged away from it. I know that they drank enough booze to create an alternative universe for them to love in for a while. I know that it was a universe where they never heard me ringing the doorbell at 7am on Saturday mornings, standing there with my fishing gear looking at my dad's pick-up parked ten feet away. Even then I understood that I was suffering, that I couldn't believe my dad would promise me he'd be up this time for real and that we would be on the river while the smallmouths were still active, before the sun in the sky turned them off, but that once again, he was letting me down. Sleeping through my arrival at his door until way too much time passed and the neighbors were coming out to grab their papers and seeing me.

There's little Serge, waiting again.

What a fucking idiot I was.

Anyway, Merry died in a wild drawn-out fit of super-charged cancer running through her breasts and her liver and her lungs and her brain and I don't even know what else. She came back into my life maybe 15 years ago when I reconnected with my dad after he got word that I was in a band and that I was going to be on the Conan O'Brien show - after they had simply vanished into thin air over 20 years ago. I didn't have any love for her. I didn't have any love for either of them at first. It was all I could do, I guess.

I'd been hurt by them every day for decades even though I had blocked it out enough to get on with shit. But their return to the stage and hearing their long lost voices and then seeing their vague faces, so much older now, but still them, it had thrown me.

I never did figure it out either. We became estranged again over something I cannot even recall and for the past two years I never heard from them at all. It went from a card and a gift for every one of my kids' birthdays to nothing at all one more time.

Then she got sick and I got word and so I called them because my wife Monica said that I ought to. I'm glad I did, too, but it wasn't enough. My dad is still there, broken hearted, unable to talk about what he witnessed, how cruel and random death can be in the end.

The few times I spoke with Merry she sounded tired but optimistic. She laughed her old lady cigarette laugh once or twice and then handed the phone off to my dad. I think she knew that she was dying. I think she knew that she was going to die soon.

Now, man, it breaks my fucking heart and makes me so goddamn furious inside that I really think she knew that our chance to love each other, even in some tough bruised way, had slipped through our fingers and was gone.

And no, I don't think that's what killed her or anything.

But just like everything else I did in 2013, just like every stupid roadblock I have erected and every cheek I have turned in the name of pain and fear and resentment and revenge and misguided/damaged love this past year, someone else is gone, forever.

Which is killing me, I do believe.

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I like blogging and I could care less if you don't. If it makes you uncomfortable or weirded out when someone you barely know, or even worse: someone you do know is writing personal shit on the internet where anyone in the world can see it if they stumble around a particular corner...that's on you, not me. I love the immediacy of writing. I love seeing what comes out of me. It's been, pathetically, the only honest part of me for a long long time and without it I think I may have just laid down in a field one cold afternoon years ago and closed my eyes and waited for something to come along and eat me or run me over or whatever.

I've been wanting to write a book; I have started it, actually, a while ago. There are lots of pieces, lots of bits and all, but I let it go for a spell because it wasn't fast enough for me. I recognize that among my very fuckedupness is this insatiable need to thrust my writing out into the world as rapidly as possible. I don't sit on stuff. I suck at that. I did it for years with music and making records and I detested it.  Always, waiting around, months/even years, until a song you recorded was sailed out into the world. By then, the songs often felt odd to me, like reconnecting with someone on Facebook who you last saw in  Middle School.

Ummm, hey. Please go away.

I'm not a very good blogger though. Don't write enough interesting shit, I guess.

Mostly I get in here and try and write about love and how much I love it and how much I suck at it except with my children who kind of started saving me from myself five years ago in one important way. Violet, my daughter, looked up at me in the first moments of her birth and I understood that my pain was all meltable, in an instant.

So, I put all of my eggs in her basket. And then my son Henry's. And I tried to write about it all, as raw as I could get it. But at the same time, I neglected everything else, everyone else. I didn't man up, I fathered up.

I'm so furious with myself about that now.

I'm reading a book by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. He's brilliant. But I need to get him on the horn, and that ain't happening.

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Fuck you, 2013.

Except Charlie and Violet and Henry and Monica and Max and Milo and everyone else.

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Are you good at love?

Have you ever lost someone you loved so much because they just stopped loving you at some point?

It's all so strange and confusing; love, I mean; and yet, if you can stop punching yourself in the face for a while, maybe it isn't. I've never been any good at giving up on it and that has led me to some sad places, I'll tell you that much.

A phone booth in London, on Kensington High Street. Surprise, I'm here. Please love me. I will be better. I can do better.

A bakery in suburban Philly. I'm sorry. I'm such an idiot. I can do better.

Emails in Philly. She tells me I put a sledgehammer into her chest. I cry like a baby bitch. I don't write back. I move on.

Blood. Romance. Friendship. I have never done any better yet. I have simply wrapped myself up in my cloak of pain and wandered down the road.

And yet, I know it's in me. Magnificence. Magnificence at love is in me as sure as hot thrusting blood runs through my veins and I want it now more than ever. I want to saddle up the hurt I have known, the suffering and the sadness and the pain and the words that echo through my mind, and I want to ride them off of a mile high cliff, down into a canyon.

Then, I want to watch the thing quivering and dying underneath my boot as I lightly press down on the throat of yesterday until it's stupid fucking eyeballs go all grey/glazed.

Then I want to piss hot streams of piss down on it with real honest-to-God love in my heart.

And then, I want to blog about it and maybe even write a book about it, living the rest of my life in a dazzling sunset of some kind of warmth and radiance I created all by my goddamn beautiful self.

Oh yeah. And I want to lose 30 lbs.

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Wish me luck.


My Beating Heart Was Just A Theory

by Serge Bielanko


When I was growing up in the 1970's, the Kingdom of Adults seemed so enchanted and wonderful.

Standing down around my parents knees I watched as my dad blew carefree cigarette smoke into the sky while my mom twirled around in the back yard, spinning and smiling to the Doobie Brothers' 'Listen To the Music' on the Kmart radio laying beside the still hot burger fat bbq.

Life was beautiful back then, for a couple of minutes anyway. My dad snapped the pull-away tab off of another warm can of Pabst and I sighed at a butterfly dancing on a thermal.  My mom smiled down at me and my heart was lifted up by chains tied directly to the sun and the moon and the stars.

I was 7 or 8, a little kid standing on the half-dead summer grass of some suburban backyard not much bigger than two station wagons, and I think I remember beautiful waves of safety rolling through my young body. They were talking breezes, hushed Stevie Nicks sexy witch voices whispering to me that our family had so much love that we would probably never even be able to use it all up; not in this lifetime and probably not in the next one either.

You know how these things go though. Ever since the goddamn Cotton Gin and the locomotive changed everything, especially love/from farm love to factory love, there is always some catch, some loophole; there is constantly something terrible and swift swishing around in the kiddie piss just a football field away from the fat sausage pillars of this crowded happy beach.

Divorce came along and my world exploded and I saw my dad a few times after that and then I never saw him again for like 25 years. There wasn't a damn thing I could do about it either. All I could do was stand in the dugout at Little League practice and watch the other dads who had showed up to coach or holler at the umps.

Looking back now, what a fool I was. I was just a dumb kid, still sniffing around the dried-up shit turds of a once powerful, awesome creature that was long gone by then. Love, the love I had been born into, the kind of unshakable forever family love that I thought I had been born into, the kind we all deserve to be born into, that kind of love was so far from me by the time I was ten that I'd stand there chewing on some gnawed-up strand of rawhide lace dangling off of my mitt, breathing in the soft menthol smoke that had just been dilly-dallying around down in the mines of some other daddy's lungs, and for whatever reason it would remind me of my own dad, right there in the middle of the stupid idiotic game.

I was ten and someone else's cigs were tugging at my heartstrings.

I didn't ask for any of that.

I hated my mom so much then: for letting my dad go, for letting him run away from her, from us.

And I hated my dad for picking the booze, for letting it run over him like a steamroller that just appeared at our back gate that summer afternoon three decades ago and plowed us all down into nothing but ghosts of who we'd been.

And this whole mess sliding down out of the bright blue innocent sky before that dumbass Doobie Brothers song was even over.

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That same song came on the satellite radio the other day while I was out driving around, trying to fight the urge to buy a pack of cigarettes. I haven't smoked in almost a year which might not mean much to you, but to me it's pretty big deal. I've felt better. I always laughed when people would say that, but it's kind of true I guess. Maybe that's why they say it to begin with. Anyway, the song reminds me of something I can't put my finger on, something old and good but lost to me now that I'm older.

Pink sun slithering, I was heading due west down the country road not far from where I live and the moment that the tune came on I felt something hot shoot up through me like dope in my blood.

I wanted to smoke really bad in the moments right before it came on, but then as soon as it started playing, I didn't care anymore about any of that. I lost the urge, just like that. Weird, huh?

That's how we get through life, I guess. One second you are sure you are done for and then boom: you pull yourself together somehow.

Or you don't.

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I have a son on the way.

He's my third child and I love him so much already that I get straight-up belly sick thinking certain things and overpowered by thinking others. He's not even born yet and still there's so much stuff I just don't know,so much stuff that me and his mom don't know together.

I don't know if he will be born into a family whose love is strong and forever, and by 'forever' I mean it in the old school way: breathing tubes and artificial gasps and squeezing a still warm, age-speckled ham fist under the hospital halogen lights, fighting back the tears that only can only ever come and hurt so righteously when two people have been inseparable all along, through all the awful shit water you have to wade through to get out to where it's all just one last peaceful winding-down firefly evening.

I know, I know, at least three or four people out there in the world would probably whisper that that's  fool's talk coming from someone like me, a guy who has always pretended that he knew how to do things, how to live right, when really certain people are starting to doubt if I ever did.

But what can I do, right?

What can I say now, to slip old words back into their sheaths and let them rust away to nothingness. If I could go back in time, I'd have ripped my tongue out with a hunk of  Pepsi can long ago. Back when I was like 20. But I missed that chance and I kept my tongue and I swung it around like a boss. Looking back, I think I thought that I could treat new love just like I treated old love. I think I thought that I could look it straight in the eyes and challenge it to not stick with me for ever and ever and ever.

I think I tasted salt on my lips and was fucking sure that it was there to add a little flavor to all the love I was gorging myself on. But I got that one all wrong, too. Because, hey/look, I'd been body slammed by love way back in the 70's and I'm still bleeding out of my earholes.

Turns out that the salt was just old scuzzy blood I've been too preoccupied to feel and too lazy to wipe away.

After everything that has happened, after all of the empires and kingdoms, after all of the battles and the wars, after each and every little rinky-dink story up until now has been told over and over and over again, has been thumped into our marshmallow skulls so that we might learn at least a little bit about how to make things better along the way, after all of that history and living has come down, it turns out that it's me. Me. I'm 42 next week, waiting on a brand new heart and trying to stop a wounded one from gushing itself silly and it's actually me: I'm the lucky son-of-a-bitch in charge of love and marriage and whatever it all is morphing into these days outside, all sprawled across these December streets.

Oh my God.

Who knew.

I want to blame the whole fucking world/I need to blame myself/And to be perfectly honest, I don't think I was ready for any of this at all.

And no, dude. I didn't buy the stupid smokes if that was all you've been sticking around to find out.


The Importance of Being Sully

by Serge Bielanko


Any minute now the brown box truck should be here, rolling up in a burst of acceleration and short-shifted gears, the driver jamming on the brakes, slamming her in park.

Oh, the thrill of it all.

Oh, the slamming beats from the basement of my deep-fried heart.

I’m not going to sit here and act all cool and stuff. I can’t. If I told you some cover-up tale about how I’m not paying close attention to the road outside my house, sneaking around the curtains and peeking down the lane to see if I can see or hear any sign of the thing heading my way, you’d just snicker at me and stare a laser hole in my forehead, huh? I know that you know better, especially when it comes to this sort of thing.

Anyway, today is the day I become Sully, the big blue guy from Monsters Inc.

Today is the day that my Halloween costume arrives from somewhere far away out in America and I can slip it on in the privacy of the upstairs bathroom and then slowly slide myself in front of the mirror and blow my own mind into sweet, beautiful smithereens.

It’s not a cheapo job either, you know. I splurged a little on this get-up. I had to, you see.

The stars all aligned and I did my homework early and I searched and scoured the land and eventually, just when I had begun to try and convince myself that maybe I could be something else this year, maybe just another dumb zombie or the 88th Duck Dynasty dude on my block; just when I was going to give up my latest/greatest whimsical notion to appear on some random early October Tuesday afternoon, down in the kitchen, while Violet, 4, and Henry, 2, were sitting there sucking down their 3 o’clock chocolate milk and graham crackers, me popping out in a burst of blue and purple Sully shag, their little eyeballs shooting out of their heads, their wee minds blown by the sight of their own Dad transformed into the most legendary monster of their lives so far, just when all of that seemed to be sliding from my greasy palms: I found it.

Where?  On line, of course, where grown men can and do become monsters with the flick of a click.

Anyway, it’s coming today because I have been ‘tracking’ the SOB and it finally says ‘OUT FOR DELIVERY’ and I cannot even explain to you how tickled my guts were  when I woke up this morning and saw that simple phrase in the email I got (the latest in a long series of short, soulless messages I have gotten because I signed up for emails that tell me where my Sully is out there on the road, out there on his long, strange journey from some shelf in some warehouse or stockroom somewhere to ride upon the shoulders of a 41-year-old Man-Child in Bumtruck, Pennsylvania).

With any luck my kids are going to crap their Granimals.

At least they better.

If they don’t my heart will probably just burst and I’ll just collapse on the linoleum there in the kitchen, a big dead Sully, which is, like, probably the worst thing you could ever really throw down in front of your own kids, huh?

Whatever. So there’s a lot riding on all of this. Fine, I planted this little garden of strange all by myself, so I’ll harvest the brief magic or die trying.

But isn’t it crazy though? One minute you’re this young guy wandering the Earth in search of enlightenment and money and sex and pizza and beer and then, BOOM!...out of nowhere you are staring into the bright, mild eyes of a baby and everything is different forever.

Here I am: a grown-ass man standing in his front window, hiding behind the curtain, peeping out at the porch like some neighborhood freak, waiting for a costume as if I’m waiting for a brand new liver or a fresh kidney on ice.

It is what it is, though. Anything for a smile, you know?

Anything for their smile.