Author of Drunk Mom and the forthcoming GUY
Jowita Bydlowska published the story “Helen is Not My Friend Anymore” in Fall 2014’s Puritan Issue 27. She was also a featured reader at The Puritan’s annual Black Friday bash. In the following post, Jowita answers our question about the making of “Helen is Not My Friend Anymore.”
About a year ago, I went to a magazine launch party. At this party, there was a leering kind of man with very bad breath. He spat a little as he talked, too. So he leered, breathed, and spat at me, and I kept thinking about this lovely woman I knew who used to be married to him. She stayed married to him for a while. I wondered what it would be like to be married to him, to kiss him and wake up next to him every morning. I’m sure that despite occasional leering, he was a lovable human being—he is well-respected in his field and has a lot of friends—but (because I’m a jerk?) I imagined that being married to him would be very unpleasant. I couldn’t stop imagining it. When this happens—when I can’t stop imaging something, I end up writing about it. So I wrote about being married to a man I hated. I don’t hate the man I’m with so I had to become someone else while writing it, too, and eventually that character took over and I just wrote down her thoughts.
In my writing I always try to explore that kind of imagining. Every situation is a “what-if.” This started with my being a child and having to go to church. The mass would last an hour or so. My boredom was immeasurable. Everything moved so slowly. It was the same thing week after week. Same readings. Same whiny old ladies singing. Uncomfortable, upset Jesus on a cross in every corner. I was dying to do something to stir things up. I would sit in my pew and picture myself running toward the altar and throwing myself at the priest, shouting and ripping the funny hat off of his head. This obsessive thought was terrifying. I was convinced I was possessed; it was Satan who was putting the thought in my mind, and one day I would have to do it. It was around that time that I started channelling those kinds of what-if thoughts into writing. It was that or I’d become a lunatic. I became a lunatic anyway, and an agnostic, but also a writer.
“Helen is Not My Friend Anymore” is going to be included in a trilogy of three novellas that I’m writing. The trilogy explores male-female relationships, the concept of belonging to a specific place (a city), and also poetry. The working title for the trilogy is Wolves Evolve. The title comes from the poem by Christian Bök called “Vowels”:
love solve loss
else we see
love sow woe
selves we woo
losses we levee
so we love
Jowita Bydlowska is the author of the bestselling memoir Drunk Mom (Doubleday Canada, 2013, HarperCollins Australia 2013, Penguin USA 2014). She’s been published in a number of magazines—from The Times (UK) Magazine to Elle to Salon. Her next book, GUY, is coming out in 2016 with Buckrider Books in Canada. She’s currently working on two novels. Or three. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.