How We Earned Our Wings.

by Serge Bielanko

Days away from forty, that's what I am.

You could leave tonight on some two week package tour and when you got back home, tired and all bloated from wine and pressurized cabins, me: I'd be forty years old. Go ahead. Go ahead and dip your crusty bread in the shallows of olive oil under the rustic beams of Tuscan's better joints. Go over and walk along the streets of gay Paris with your lover or your partner or your grandmom, I don't care. I'll still be here when you get back.

Fly out tonight if you want; if you can. Seize the goddamn day already and get out there in the German squares. They'll be decked out in all their Christmas glory by now. Hell, they probably have been for a week or so already. Sip some beer from a mega-stein in a cathederal's shadow. Have a bit of mulled wine with your piping hot brown sack of Euro-chestnuts. Buy some shit, some hand-painted Kringle Klause ornaments for your tree back in the states. Let loose for once. Enjoy yourself.

And when you get back: I'll be forty.

I don't know why but age never really occurs to me all that much. I mean, I just don't find myself thinking about it often. Most years go by and for the most part, at any given moment, I'm thinking about, like one of three or four things. You could swish down out of the heavens on a bluebird May afternoon, or some wintery gray morning, and circle my skull three times and then just slip into my earhole and fly back into my Department of Thoughts and the first thing you would see, I guarantee you, would be either a fat trout jumping out of the water/ my kids playing in a field of fresh clover where I have never ever been and neither have they/ various stupid things for sale on Ebay that I am probably going to buy/ or my wife in a tight, white wife-beater, black Chucks, striped knee-socks and these baby blue short shorts she got from American Apparel like six years ago.

That's it, really. I mean, c'mon, that's obviously not everything that ever registers in my brain, but it's pretty fucking close, I'll tell you that.

And so sometimes I get to wondering where exactly my mind should be at 40. What should I be thinking about? Should I be thinking about my health? Because, to tell you the truth: I really don't that much. I go the gym sometimes when I can, but probably not as much as I should. And I know the reality is that if I really had the willpower/the gusto, I could be getting up at 4am and jogging down the country lanes in the dark, like a lost deer with a wafer full of iTunes clipped to my bicep. But I don't do that. And I don't even think about that.

What about money, like finances and stuff? I should be considering those things I know. I should be planning my investment strategy and watching my shares in this and that rise and fall, huh? I ought to be squirreling away some Benjamins too; for the kids' college. Or their bail. But, somehow I avoid thinking about that and instead, when I could be micro-managing my 401K I'm pretty much holding Henry in one arm and motorboating on his ear while I use the other hand to work on stupid shit, like my Amazon Wishlist. If Amazon Wishlists ultimately paid off some kind of weird dividends, man, I'd be set. I update that thing daily, sometimes hourly; the very tides of my immediate existence reflected in the perpetual adding and deleting of swarms of fishing poles and miter saws and paperback Thomas Hardy novels.

There are days when you could be monitoring me from your secret spy cam tucked into the bonsai plant on the living room table, watching my ass with your friends all gathered around your computer screen/drinking beer and laughing, and you'd be mortified as you witnessed me put my baby son down onto the floor to play with the electrical cords from the tv and put big tumbleweeds of dog hair in his little mouth just so I could delete the first two seasons of Mad Men on Blu-Ray from my Wishlist because I don't know if I even really wanna waste a wish on that shit or not. And, then, a half-hour later, you and your buddies would be screaming out loud: OH NO HE DITTINT! as you watched me put a spoonful of Gerber goo on my baby's nose, aiming for his lips but missing big because I'm not looking at him right that minute; I'm adding Mad Men back to the list.

I spend a lot of time outside my skin. I get out a step ladder I keep out behind my heart and my lungs and I climb up on it and crawl out the window of my face and I walk over there, maybe ten yards away and just watch. I watch me and try and clock exactly where I'm headed, who I'm becoming. Maybe there's a name for that sort of thing, but if there is I don't know it. What I know is that I stand there in the corner watching me do my thing and it's hilarious and sweet and trivial and monumental and maybe even tragic too, but it's way too early to say, I hope. 

But I stand there and I watch closely. There I am: fucking wading in the chest-high waves right off the coast of forty years old. Look at you, you husky squat bastard: walking around the house, in the early morning, pushing Violet in her high chair, across the floorboards real fast, making NASCAR engine sounds as she raises her hands in the air and lets out a high-pitched shrill thing that could kill a coyote dead; parking her there in front of the tube, way up high over her little brother who I got sitting down beside the coffee table in his pink chair, sucking on a bottle of his expensive powdered hooch; her taking her first bite of toast and honey as I pull up one of the episodes of Mickey Mouse I recorded on the DVR/ pulling it up in the nano-millisecond before she's about to look at me with a mouthful of food and ask me for just that. Reading her like a book.

Reading them like some super badass book that you can't find on any wishlists because there's only one copy in the history of the world since it was a drop of syrup plunging down through cold dark space a zillion years ago and you already own it.

You already own it like a motherfucker.

So, yeah. I'm not worried. I think about the wrong stuff, I guess. And I waste time sometimes/ a lot of times.

But in all seriousnes: my toast and honey?

It's like swallowing forty years worth of God's personal pecan pie.