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Things We Told Ourselves
“Conflict is the beginning of consciousness.”
-M. Esther Harding
What remains are the remnants of a bird. It is evaporated more or less. There are a few downy feathers that weigh nothing and there are the bones. The skin, the blood, all the guts and stuff, it’s all gone. I am in the attic staring at three dead birds, but mostly just the one. The rottenest one, I’ll call it. The deadest one if you go by rate of decay, which I guess I do in this case.
There are the three dead birds up here plus a live one that keeps buzzing my head. It is panicked. It is is freaking me out. Beneath the window are the starlings that found themselves in here but could not find a way out.
This, I ponder momentarily.
Imagine that kind of terror. That kind of lost. Alive yet, but quickly running out of ideas. Short on food. No water. There’s room to fly a bit, still in the end it’s useless. They smack into the window over and over again. I watch the live one doing it. He flutters against the glass and the soft flutter of his wings close to my head- and then the sudden PAP! on the glass- it’s unlike any other sound I have known. It is a sharp crystalized death rattle. It pings with hollow desperation/ like the first chunks of Alabama rain heaved at the house right before the winds/ right before the sirens go off and the world rises all around us.
Three dead birds under the window, broken necks, laying in the sunshine coming in from the west. I guess they couldn’t spot the beams of daytime coming in through the very same holes that allowed them entrance. Holes that must have whispered some kind of witchy promise at them as they sat there on the high gutters and watched the street below. Watched my kids riding their bikes, maybe. Or watched my dogs taking shits out in the yard.
I don’t get it. It seems so easy to me now. They could have followed the light/ reversed the seduction/ walked back the lie/ and hopped and popped their tiny bird body back the way they came in. Out into the open afternoon. Back to the world.
Fly, you fuckers.
But no. Instead they went in the hole into my house only to never leave again. Trapped. Scared. Uncertain. Forlorn and then ultimately resigned to the unimaginable.
All hope is lost.
Into the glass harder than before. Balls to the wall. Sink or swim, bitches.
Then that’s it. Dead bird.
I open the window so that maybe this live idiot will find himself out but I doubt it. I suspect I will come back in a few days and he will be laying there by the other three. They are my dead birds. I’m leaving them to decay so that just the skeletons are left. Maybe the wasps eat them, I don’t know. Maybe the living birds come down and poke at the carcasses when every other option seems to fade.
Later on I will present the complete and perfect bird skeletons to my wife as a gift. She loves dead animal bones and so do I. They will become art. They will hang on our walls. Or maybe on yours. They will be available on Etsy, their bones will. Fragile bird skeletons carefully mounted in gothic frames. They’re worth more dead than they ever were alive.
Poor little bastards.
How many lies do I tell myself in the course of a single day? One? Five? Hundreds?
The answer is impossible to come by, but I wonder anyway. The passing of time, for me, has led to a reckoning of sorts. It’s pulled me in a direction in which I am starving to see myself from outside myself. In order, of course, to understand myself better within myself.
Ahh, but that is the old riddle, isn’t it? That sweet familiar crisis of age. Man passing through the selfish years of youth and adulthood has to exit the fresh forest at some point. You can’t just bum around in there forever all hopped up on hormones and lust and hunger. At some point, if you are to survive with any kind of poise or grace, then you have to exit the hot attic where everyone is fucking and making deals and swindling themselves into job promotions and doomed relationships and record contracts and mortgages and new cars and fucking kids they’re not even remotely sure they are ‘ready’ for. You have to go back the way you came from/ back to the small lit hole/ back up your mama’s poon maybe if you are a real loser/ or else back out into the world with a changed perspective.
Older, more banged-up, your rocker panels splattered with the mud of a zillion ditches, you roll down out of that humid electrified sky room and the first half of your life is over: just like that.
Any return to the room will lead to nothing. Just boxes of old photos from when people still printed them out, old mementos you have hung onto that no one will ever give much of a damn about. Wrinkled concert tickets. Bent Christmas cards from your dead grandmother. Loose baseball gloves you don’t remember ever even using but there they are and maybe they have your kid skin in there somewhere and so you better keep it.
Chuck it and a part of you might die.
Toss the old yearbooks you never ever open and then what?
You throw away your young firm body? You take all that teenage melancholy longing and you smash it on the edge of the trash can like some shitty ancient Avon decanter? You crack the head off a 70’s pheasant and you just walk away from the symbolism? From the heavy, heavy past hanging round your neck?
I don’t know. Don’t look at me. But also: yeah. The answer is yeah. Yes. The answer is yes.
I come down out of the whorehouse loft of my yesterday and I stand on the street with a dead starling in my fist and I am squeezing it like a fidget toy, dog, and I look up and down my road and where are you? Where is anyone? The whole goddamn town seems empty. Dust Bowl. Tumbleweed weird and dog shadow scary.
Everything I ever told myself about myself?
I don’t know if I was lying to myself or what.
I throw some emails at my own mom here and there but the tones are all strange. Mine are steeped in trauma and the short-tempered fire of a human being desperate to be seen/ heard/ and believed. Hers, they pull up to the curb of accountability and then speed away again like a getaway car. I try to tell her what I have been through. She only wants to remind me that I screamed at her a few times. Now she is fully immersed in the web of a cult leader and she will never break free. And me? I’m left feeling like I lost my own mom to the same person who has done so much other damage to me and my wife and our world.
Our thing- me and my mom’s- is so broken now. The outsider entered the perimeter long ago and it has taken me a long time to realize that there’s nothing worse than outside people when it comes to your nuclear family. I regret so much. I regret so very fucking much. I wish I could have stomped it out when I first smelled the smoke, but these very unique and particular sorts of lost souls are strange. No one could have predicted what and who this person truly was. Love especially, or the inflated idea of it, as it turns out, it can blind a person. You end up feeling confused and unsure/ so many little things not adding up/ time and time again/ so very many incidents of wildly mad behavior and they make you think it’s all YOU. I ended up- for years- trusting a person who only wanted me around in order to outsmart me/outfox me/ trick me/ fool me/ trip me up/ and most of all: hurt me in so many ways on such a regular basis that the end result is that I believed that this was what I deserved.
That Serge Bielanko deserved to be told that he is weak, insecure, without purpose, and poor like a child who needs to be taught by a master
I cannot even begin to describe in words the extent of the mental damage that all of that has had on me. Or on my family, my flesh and blood family who also have been charmed into believing that they are truly loved and understood by a person who cannot love or understand anyone. It is all a game for these types. And it is a game they have been playing for so long that it is reality for them. Every single day is a new hand of cards that they simply must manipulate into a win. By any means necessary. That is why they seem so jovial and sharp and complimentary to you. That is why they appear so successful and together and worldly wise. It is because they are fantastically talented at creating a world for them to operate in that is merely a storefront, my man.
In the back of the shop though/ behind all of the bright and shiny awesome things they appear to be dealing in/ there is the real proprietor, sitting alone with their thoughts/ focused on one (maybe more) particular person(s)/ one very specific source/ one human being with a name and a social security number and probably a bank account and whatever/ one clueless man or woman (or child) who more than likely feels the ever-tightening noose that the proprietor holds in their hands.
Jesus fucking Christ, you would not understand unless you have been through it. It’s like surviving war. Or sexual abuse. Or parental ridicule. Or all of those things and more. And yes, you’re goddamn right I just actually said those things. Yes: you are goddamn right I just compared it to those things… to WAR. To surviving WAR. Because I mean it. I am sure of it now. And I will die standing up in protest of what has happened to me if I need to.
Not even the best psychologists can wrap their head around the absolute true narcissist.
So, you know, me and my mom sure as hell couldn’t either.
I was a low budget rock/roll apple custom picked by a narc. And my mom was just dying to be loved by a daughter she never had. It’s just, well, she never saw it coming.
Even the people that think they’re so wise, so hip to the ways of the human mind, they have no fucking idea when it comes to this. They never see it coming. And apparently, they mostly never get out either.
And so it goes and so it went.
People break themselves open in the name of love but sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes the adages and platitudes lose their meaning. The passing days bring ugly moments, scarred memories. Starlings congregate in the trees along the park, singing loudly, flicking their heads this way and then that way, and all the while you are texting back and forth with your flesh and blood/ arguing your point/ trying so hard to explain your pain even when you don’t have the words. Not even one of the words. Because, as it turns out, they don’t make words for that level of hurt.
They just need you to not mention it.
So you don’t.
You move around truth and you move around reality and you lose sight of who you were once, as a kid, on your bike, wind in your hair, crescent moon rising up in the light purple evening as you slow-peddled your way back home/ dried summer sweat cool on your brow.
Ice cream boy/ free beautiful child, I do suspect that they have stole your heart.
But in all of that, what crimes have you committed, my man? What injustices have I brought down upon the heads of the ones that I called my family?
What injustices have you brought down upon the heads of the one that you call yours?
What good does it do to let so much go, walk down a rough river trail into a period of reflection? Is it possible to discover your own accountability in this life where perhaps there was none before? At what age is all hope lost?
How old do you figure most people are when they lose their ability to achieve higher consciousness? Or to even give a fuck about holding their one true history in their own two hands and peering into it so deeply that they begin to recognize their own flaws instead of merely blaming everything on everyone else?
Is being perpetually defensive a survival mechanism cover-up? Or is it the carefully honed skill of a certain type of person? A type of person who is so damaged by their own experiences in life that they have become experts in the art of gas lighting and deflection?
Again: I have no clue.
But I am out of the attic, I know that much.
I have sensed the air on my skin again. I have tasted invigorating dusk once more. I barely speak with my own mother, my own brother, and I blame it almost all on them. On someone else. On the ways of idiots drowning in their own self-pity.
Have I lied to myself about my role in all of this?
Have they lied to themselves about theirs?
And does anyone even give a fuck?
Like/ at all?
Is anyone out there?
Does anyone else ever deal with questions like this?
I feel so alone. Just me and Arle adrift on a sea without anyone else to believe us. To understand that the destruction that rained down on us was intentional. By design.
Without Arle I would have killed myself by now. I know this. And it was probably the plan from the other side. Either I would kill myself or I would self-destruct in other ways from the madness of never understanding what was going on.
Except that Arle saw the light. She recognized what I had never ever recognized. And she saved me from certain demise, even when it meant she had to be exposed to the toxicity full-on, with all the rage and craze of a pissed-off narc.
Which is kind of beautiful if you think about it.
I went from true darkness to true love.
It hasn’t been easy, but I’m still here. Arle is still here. And knowledge is power.
Oh my starz, is it ever.
“Dead black bird symbolism is just like the black color in association with the unconscious, of the unaware. Seeing this type of bird means you have some unresolved tension that you need to take care of. It could be that you keep holding on to something that is hurting you.”
- from “Dead Bird Symbolism and Meaning: It’s Time For Change and Transformation”
I smile and laugh a lot. If you know me or have ever known me, you have probably heard me laughing. If you don’t know me, you might not get it. You might read something like this and think to yourself that this guy is dark. Or depressed. Or up his own ass about the importance of his own particular existential bullshit adding up to some kind of something that others can relate to in a real and valid and true, true way.
If you know me, you probably have a certain image of me and it probably isn’t the image of a wannabe emotional demagogue. But if you don’t know me, if we only know one anther through this one-sided selfish conversation where I say the most and you say almost nothing- or even absolutely nothing- and that’s just fine with me (and you?), then you could, I guess, come away from some of this thinking that I am exploiting my emotional wellness/ or lack thereof/ for personal gain in the blogging department.
I want to deny that here to your face! I am eager to tell you that I am the real thing! I am the writer who writes from the heart! I am the tender man with a lens I pull back and zoom in, incessantly, forever now out of that fetid attic of my ambitious sex-crazed rock/roll days, present now in my midlife crisis/ a willing participant in the very thing that ought to be ushering in my own self-destruction: an in-depth emotional study of my 51-year-old American white dude existence in all of it’s average greatness! And all of this in the humble, giving attempt to show you my human depth. Me throwing myself at you selflessly, bathing in the warm waters of my own willingness to mine the darkest veins in my fading body in order to help you illuminate the quixotic squatters huddling down in your own.
I am standing on the Tempest! Bashed in by the storm! SEE ME! HEAR ME! NOTICE ME TEMPTING THE VERY FATES OF MY NATURE BY WANDERING, ALONE, ACROSS THIS HELLSCAPE JUST FOR YOU!
Also: I am also pretty sure that, in this life, we are all telling ourselves stories about our lives that are partially based on fact and partially based on absolute bullshit. The facts represent truths that occurred, are recalled, and are utilized in the name of understanding what we did/ who we were/ how we got through/ and the price we paid.
The bullshit represents exactly the same thing even though it’s really just bullshit. You see, we believe it, I think, because without it we could never look at ourselves in the mirror again.
Everyone slitting their own throats in the shower after breakfast. The whole world drinking rat poison from travel mugs in the car on the way to work. A smile at the mailroom boy/ a nod at Wendy from accounting/ over to the copy machine/ open the window/ leap/ jump/ climb out/ silent/ down to the street/ you’re dead.
Our true natures, these neglected dominant tides slashing around within each and every one of us, they might just be the secret to life.
Because look at us.
Unable to even begin to go there.
Saturday nights I let it all hang out. I put on my fat pants and I open a bottle of red wine and the kids come round for their stay here and I welcome them back with pizza and soda and maybe some used books I got them at Goodwill.
Me and Arle stand in the kitchen as my three come through the door and then quickly drift upwards out of our view. Like ghosts. Up to their bedrooms/ into their little chambers/ I tell myself that they need time to adjust. Time to settle back into their other house. Two houses. Two homes. It’s all routine now. It’s all par for the course at this point.
But I think telling myself that so often is probably me lying to myself as much as telling myself the truth.
I mean, yeah, these kids are divorce kids and divorce kids ROLL with shit, dude. They move in and out of whole set changes, whole scene changes, with natural finesse. They congregate at the tables of more characters than a lot of other kids, and they are savvier because of it.
They are strong.
They are survivors.
They are learning that love is enough, no matter where it comes from.
Jesus. I almost puke in my own mouth sometimes when I listen to myself.
I scare myself.
Are the kids okay for real? Isn’t going back and forth between two houses for half a week every week of the year a lot to deal with? Is this damaging them?/ smashing their wellness?/ causing them unseen stress that will ultimately explode in ways that can only be described as tragic and horrible and so sad?
I don’t know. If it is that way, I don’t really see it. And no one says much about that ever except maybe this one person I would never ever believe at this point about any of this. But once you come down out of the Hot Attic of Modern American Fucking & Career-Driven Ambition and spill yourself back into the real world where you start down the long forested path towards some kind of soul redemption, some kind of bettering yourself before it’s too goddamn late, then you start to notice the ones that you need to care about and the ones that you don’t.
So, I dismiss the hot smoke of exploiting the kids in favor of just sitting with them once a week, after they’ve done their bedroom thing, tried to escape my old man plans. I blow away the thick vapors of their supposed ‘suffering’ and instead, I holler for them to get their asses down to the kitchen. Then me and Arle, we ply them with hot pepperoni slices, Dr Pepper, Hires Root Beer, and ice cream for later.
We watch movies. Some stay the whole time. Some battle intensely short attention spans and disappear after ten minutes.
I drink wine and gobble pizza and I see my socks above my work boots because my weird Chinese peasant communist Dickies are rolled up so high. I smile at myself. I tell myself that I am a fucking great dad. I look over at Arle and sneak a secret squeeze of her tight ass next to me on the couch. She smiles. I might get lucky later. I’m a wild animal in the sack. I sip the wine and put a lock of Charlie’s dirty hair into my mouth and I bite it and he pulls it away as if that happens all the time. Because it does.
I mansplain Falling Down.
I piss myself laughing at Joe Dirt.
Down the years, down all the Saturday nights for almost a decade now, we watch all the movies with The Rock. I have come to love that guy. You know what? After just the right amount of wine sips I tell myself that he would probably like me a lot too.
Serge & The Rock.
Me and my homie fishing for mammoth California largemouths at his huge private lake on his mad private estate. Buzz baits and IPAs. Spinnerbaits and cigars. The two of us laughing like little boys at all the monster fish we are catching. Scooting around the pond in those fancy camo golf carts. Fat sandwiches with fresh over-browned turkey and watercress and sharp cheese from a boutique grocery. Flip flops on Rock’s massive veiny feet. Tall overblown rattlesnake boots on mine. Later: it’s some steaks on the grill/ Mrs. Rock telling me how happy she is that The Rock finally has a real friend: someone he can trust: someone who can appreciate him for him, not the big superstar celebrity or whatever.
Down out of the attic, a necklace of fresh dead starlings around my neck, I stand there on that massive stone patio overlooking the ranch and I smile at The Rock and his wife. And their kids: Rocky, Rockette, and Ricky Schroder. And as I watch that blazing orange sun go down over the endless horizon of a wealthy man’s land I feel connected to this life in a way that I have never ever felt before.
Yes, I am lying to myself. Yes, I am a little drunk on the couch in my old house with dog slobber on the TV and frozen pizza on paper plates. Yes, I am madly in love with one woman. Yes, there are other women who don’t get me at all. Yes, the kids are alright. Yes, my dad was a dick and now he’s dead. Yes, I sometimes struggle with the true heart of the jungle. The peering lit eyes coming out of the interstellar black. The cacophony of screaming birds and wailing monkeys and bugs the size of drones buzzing themselves into black holes of nothingness.
I finger my dead starlings and burp good steak with my back to The Rock, my one true friend.
I stare at the setting sun.
The music starts.
The first inimitable notes of Baba O’Riley as the camera catches my sunkissed face, a tear rolling down my cheek, the blurry images of my friends on their chairs behind me.
The camera stays on my face.
The tear drop slides out of view.
What a beautiful ending to a magnificent film.
What a wonderful character.
What a magic, magic story.
Then the thundering first piano chords begin and everything feels like birthing a legend as the camera moves back swiftly/ hard/ on a drone/ pulled back into the forever as my still standing figure falls away/ the three of us on the deck/ the massive house being swallowed up by distance/ by time/ by movement/ the lakes below/ the clean forests and the thin dirt trails.
That first guitar chord punches a hole in your face.
The twilight evening kingdom spreading out beneath you as you are drawn up into this vacuum sky as I disappear from view and its just California mountains now and forever.
And the credits roll.
Hello. Thanks so much for reading my Thunder Pie. It really matters to me.
Hope you have a great week.
Edited by Arle Bielanko
Feel free: (Venmo) @Serge-Bielanko
“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.”