Restraining Order

By Marian Brooks

Greg blamed his mother for his lack of success with women. In fact, he’d already written her eulogy. The therapist encouraged this exercise as an opportunity to ventilate his deep-seeded rage.
       “My mother was a pointy woman, tall, all elbows and knees. Even her lips appeared to be crisp at the edges. Caroline Benton’s tongue was a skewer you’d want to avoid.”
       Greg frequently pictured himself reciting these words at her funeral. He smiled. It was his truth after all. But his mother had relocated to a posh region of Cleveland Heights, stubbornly alive and breathing fire.
       For the most part, Greg stayed away from girls when he was a teen. As an adult, he had a few brief encounters but nothing too close for comfort. His longest relationship had been a three month affair with Sarah Mendelsohn. It felt like a prison sentence. Barbara was married; all the better. She ran away with her hairdresser, Lloyd, thank God. Pony Girl, a small, well-muscled woman, threw her head back and issued a high-pitched whinny whenever she laughed even when there was nothing to laugh about. She had to go. And now there is Donna to deal with.
       Greg usually started the day off with an expletive or two. Today was no exception. He knew he was not going to make the 9 AM meeting; unfortunate since he was responsible for presenting the interim report. He looked out of his window to see the first snow of the season, unexpected in late September. Where were his boots? He needed to retrieve his snow blower from Mrs. Stedman down the street and shovel his car out of the drift in front of the house. He remembered vaguely that the handle of the shovel had rusted out and was about to come apart. Greg ground the beans and got Mr. Coffee perking. He pulled on his boots and called Jill at the office to say he’d be late, very late. He opened the front door, breathed in the cold, fresh air and looked down to see a single set of footprints in the snow leading away from the front porch toward the street. As a forty-seven year-old forensic accountant at Stiles and Westfall, he was reasonably sure that the Boogie Man hadn’t wriggled down the chimney somehow and walked out of the front door. Besides, the footprints were small. He followed them to the curb where they drowned in a whirlpool of sludge.
       Greg released his car from its captivity with the broken shovel leaving an ugly scratch on the driver-side door. He cleared the walkway and finished his coffee. He dressed in a white, cotton shirt, his grey, pin-striped suit and topped the outfit off with a dicey red tie. He smiled at himself in the mirror. He was a world champion flosser and it showed. The package was nearly perfect except for his socks which were too short. They were always too short. Greg was unaware of this and no one ever mentioned it, not even his mother who’d made plenty of disparaging comments about his appearance and food preferences. He slipped into his black Honda Accord and drove to the office avoiding icy spots. All the while, he was thinking about those footprints.
He wondered if Donna had made it in to work. He hoped not. Her office was at the end of the hall. They had a semi-summer romance which did not end well. She was passionate but possessive and pissed off when Greg started humming the familiar “I need space” refrain. She’d followed him more than a few times, called often and emailed daily suggesting they try again and again. She even managed to filch some of his passwords. Her face blew up like a puffer fish when she was angry. Donna was livid when Greg arrived. He asked politely how she was, a strategic error.
       “How am I? How should I be? I’m frozen stiff. I could have died of exposure! You’ve ruined everything, even my four hundred dollar shoes,” she screamed, not caring who overheard. “You must have been raised by a she-wolf. Do you know that I sat outside your house last night? I watched you eat your dinner in front of the TV, in your shorts, sipping some brandy and talking to someone on your cell, probably my replacement. Then you read the Times and picked your nose. It was all so boring, I dozed off on the lounge chair on the front porch. When I woke up, it was snowing hard. I suppose the next thing you’ll do is to enforce that restraining order.” Donna’s hands remained on her hips during the entire outburst. Her fingernails were long, hazardous-looking and painted an exotic shade of purple.
       “You can go to hell! You’ll find it much warmer there,” he shouted. Greg turned on his heel muttering a string of expletives longer than his mother’s opera pearls.
       Greg would describe himself as a “tidy” man except for his bedroom. The blue shirts were mixed in with the whites and yellows. Some of them were slipping off the hangers. Greg’s socks and underwear lived under the huge sleigh bed for as long as a week. His therapist asked how the situation under the bed and in the closet reflected some part of Greg’s psyche. Greg cancelled his remaining sessions.
       “Relationships are messy though, like an unmade bed or spaghetti,” Greg admitted. Nevertheless, he liked to picture himself naked, tangled in those sheets with someone, also naked, who promised not to talk, who promised not to love him. He ruled out a blow up doll some time ago, wondering how he ever could have considered it. He must have been stoned.
       He would just have to wait until his mother died. It couldn’t be long now. The Dragon Lady was eighty-five and a smoker. All would be different then. At last, as if by magic, he would be able to tolerate the affection he wanted so desperately.
       On the way home, Greg’s Honda skidded on a patch of black ice, smack into the grill of an oncoming eighteen wheeler.
       At his funeral, Caroline Benton, impeccably coiffed, said, “It’s a tragedy to lose a son even a viper like Greg.”
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