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***** “Comfortably Numb”, written by Roger Waters and David Gilmore. Performed by Pink Floyd, ‘The Wall”, 1979.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was a restless night. More because I’d slept so much the day before after Paula had left the room than anything else. When you sleep from morning until the afternoon, it makes it hard to go back to sleep when you’re supposed to. What Ann had said about having to fend off Nancy at work just before hanging up didn’t help, but I eventually drifted off to sleep.

I stood in the shower, trying to wash myself awake, and my mind was racing. In just one week, I’d gone from a miserable man who was recently divorced, to a happy go lucky man who seemed to have a sexual conquest available at every turn. But at the end, I turned into a man about to be married a second time; to a woman I loved more than anything else on the planet. But even though I was deeply in love with Ann, I hadn’t quite figured her out yet.

As the water rained over my skin, I had an image of Dawn enter my mind. She was the girl who rescued me, and without her, none of what happened afterward would have happened at all. I still likely would have seen Ann at Matt’s house. But I would have still had the dark cloud of my failed marriage hanging above my head, ready to pour over me like the shower I was standing in. Dawn came to mind, mainly because I was thinking about sex. I seemed to always think about sex. Not just because I’m a man and that’s the way men think all the time. Well, that was part of it, but with the number of sexual encounters I’d had in the previous week, it seemed to be in the forefront of my brain even more than usual.

The shower brought the images of Dawn to my mind; one after another a mental picture would flash in my head. Her tits getting sprayed, or her long legs with water flowing down them, or even her wet hair would flood my mind. We’d spent a lot of time showering together, and as that thought hit me it slammed into another one that sprang up almost simultaneously. I hadn’t showered with Ann. It was a stray thought, and it didn’t bother me that Ann and I hadn’t. We came close, and it actually turned out better that we didn’t.

But it made me think of Ann, doing all the things Dawn and I shared in the shower. And that made me miss Ann all the more. It was going to be a very long day, starting a very long week, leading into a very long couple of months. And it was only day one. The first task was to go to work and avoid Nancy. Dragging myself out of the shower, I sighed and trudged methodically into my Monday. I was about to go not so bravely forward, into my first day without Ann.

~*~*~*~*~*~

I was in a pretty good mood when I drove home from work on Tuesday. First of all, I’d gotten a lot accomplished at work, which always made me feel better. I’d been able to keep my mind off of Ann during both of the days while I was at work, because I had a lot of things on my pile. The most important of which was a lead on a new customer that would be a huge boon to the department. And, I’d spent Monday evening catching up on some much needed sleep. As much as I slept on Sunday, I was still going through a serious bout of sleep deprivation. By Tuesday morning, I felt almost back to normal.

However…the best part of my Tuesday, not to mention my Monday, was that I had successfully dodged any encounters with Nancy, including any phone conversations. That surprised me, but not enough to want to figure out why. I was going with the ‘let a sleeping slut lie’ theory, and didn’t push it.

It was a picture perfect afternoon, and I celebrated my release from the prison that was the plant by driving home with the windows down and the cassette deck blaring. What happened next became one of those personal soundtrack moments, where the song that was being played at the time, or near the time in this case, earmarked the event for the rest of my life.

Like how every time I would hear, ‘Jungle Love’ by the Steve Miller Band, I would immediately be taken to a deserted parking lot of a church in Northern Virginia on a sultry July weeknight, where I felt up Jeannie Foster’s bare breasts…my first time getting that far. Or how anytime I heard “Get Down Tonight” by KC and the Sunshine Band, my mind would take me to the back seat of my Mother’s pale yellow Chevy Caprice in the parking lot of the golf course in that same town, losing my virginity to Donna Talbot during a wedding reception we were supposed to be attending inside the banquet room of the club house.

This wasn’t quite that momentous, but I can still recall it like it was yesterday. I pulled into my parents’ driveway as David Gilmore was in the middle of his guitar solo on a live version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, when I saw my Mom’s car in the open garage. It was very unusual for her to be home before me any day, but particularly in the middle of the week.

She was waiting for me in the living room, with a very distinct look on her face; one that I’d poker oyna seen many times. I knew she was either really mad at me, or extremely disappointed. Either way, my good mood was about to vanish right before my eyes, and my mind raced to think of what it was she could be so upset about.

Getting straight to the point, Mom stared into my eyes, her brow lowered, making her look more menacing. “Is there something you want to tell me?” she demanded more than she asked.

My blank expression hit a nerve, but I was relieved when Mom’s expression tilted to the disappointed side. I’d rather have her disappointed than mad, because I could usually talk my way out of that. When she was mad, there was absolutely no reasoning with her.

I quickly did a mental inventory, going over all the things I was supposed to do around the house. My room was clean, my laundry was done, and I’d even put away the dishes out of the dishwasher the night before. All of the mundane tasks I was supposed to do were done. That meant it was something else.

I broke into a panic when Paula crossed my mind. Did Mom find out about Paula? Or was it Nancy? Or, God forbid, did she know about both of them? I could feel my blood pressure rising, and wondered if my face was becoming flushed, giving me away. I tried to remain calm, but I was going to start sweating any second.

“I…I don’t think so,” I said, trying to look confident, but not really pulling if off.

Mom was tapping her foot; her arms crossed across her chest as she waited me out. I was stubbornly standing my ground. If I was going down, I was going down in flames. She was going to have to bust me and tell me what she knew…I wasn’t about to confess to anything.

“You don’t think so?” she said, trying to pressure me into some kind of trap.

“I’m sorry, Mom…I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, shrugging my shoulders as I tried hard to sell my lack of a story.

Finally, Mom broke down and started to cry a little. That normally would have mortified me, but she cracked a wry smile and she threw herself at me, hugging me so hard I thought I was going to pass out.

“Oh, Neil!” Mom cried into my ear.

“What?” I said, really unsure of what was going on. Surely she couldn’t have been happy about me having sex with one of her best friends, and doing it in her very own house.

Letting go, Mom grabbed my shoulders as she looked at me. Her tears were streaming down her cheeks, but her smile was one I’ll never forget.

“I can’t believe you aren’t going to tell me you’re getting married!”

I let out a little smile and said, “Oh…that.”

“Damn right…oh that! How do you think I feel finding out my baby is getting married from somebody else?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Elaine told me congratulations at lunch today, and I had to ask her why. Imagine my surprise when she told me!”

I was going to ask her how she found out, but as soon as she said Elaine, I knew. The math really wasn’t that hard. Elaine was one of my Mom’s dearest friends in town, and they had lunch together at least once a week. And Elaine also lived three doors down from Matt’s house, and one house away from the apartment I’d taken Ann to our last night together. Not that all that mattered…she hadn’t seen us. She had been told about us; well, she’d been told about the engagement.

It was gossip. And given the fact that Matt’s mom, Karen, was the biggest gossip in town, and that Ann’s mom Jean, and Karen went past Elaine’s house every night on their daily walk, I was surprised it had taken two days for the news to travel to my mother…it could have been a lot faster.

I was relieved my adventures with Paula and Nancy weren’t the cause for my Mom’s agitation, but that didn’t excuse my not saying anything about being engaged. I had two days to tell my parents, and I was so focused on avoiding Nancy that I totally forgot to come up with a plan on how to tell them. They deserved better than the way they found out, especially my Mom.

“I’m sorry, Mom. I just didn’t know how to tell you. I figured I was going to get a lot of crap about it being too soon after the divorce, and about Ann and me dating less than a week, and how the whole thing seems rushed. I wasn’t ready for that kind of negative reaction. But I know I should have said something before now…there’s no excuse for you having to find out the way you did.”

“Neil, what makes you think your Dad and I wouldn’t approve of you marrying Ann?”

“Like I said, it’s all so soon, and I just thought…”

“No. You didn’t think. I understand what you said, but you’re not giving us much credit. First of all, there’s a big difference between Ann and…HER!”

My mother refused to call my ex-wife by name, always choosing to call her ‘her’ or something particularly derogatory when she thought I wasn’t listening.

“We should have told you what we thought of HER before you made that mistake. Your Dad and I’ve talked about canlı poker oyna that. We should have said what was on our minds back then. But I think we’ve let you know we really love Ann. She’s totally different. And, I might add, she’s just what you need.”

“Really?” I said, not believing my ears.

My mother hugged me again, and then turned and walked toward the living room. But as she did, she said, “We’ve seen how you two look at each other, Neil. There’s no doubt you two are in love. And I have a good feeling about Ann. She’s a real, down to earth woman. I think she brings out the best in you. I do have one question though.” She sat on the couch and looked back at me. I was standing like a dope near the kitchen, and finally followed her, knowing she wanted me to sit and talk.

“What would you like to know?” I asked as I sat across the room from her. I was a little nervous, but I knew I had an obligation to at try and make things right.

“Where are you two going to live? Are you moving to California, or is Ann moving here?”

“We have a lot of things to sort out Mom. After all, I just asked her to marry me Saturday night when I dropped her off. We didn’t have a lot of time to plan every little detail.”

“So, you don’t know?”

“I think I know. We talked about it, and Ann said she’ll move here. But she doesn’t want to live in town. She wants to live someplace a little less…invasive.”

“Really…why would she say that?”

“I’m guessing what just happened would fall into that category. Everybody knows everybody’s business here. There are no secrets in this town. You know what I went through with the divorce, and how everyone talked about me before they knew the truth. Well, Ann grew up here too, and there are a lot of unpleasant memories for her as well.”

“Where would you go?”

“Not sure. We talked about Fort Wayne.”

“That’s a pretty long commute, isn’t it?”

“Well, she’s going to have to find a job, and she’d be better off there with her background if she wants to stay in retail…like I said, we have a lot of decisions to make. Starting with when; we haven’t set a date yet. She’s going to give a couple of months notice at her job, so we have a lot of time to talk over the details.”

“Well, I won’t keep pestering you for information if you don’t have any. But, I expect you’ll let us know what’s going on from time to time, right?”

“Yes, Mother!”

“Good. I know a lot of what goes on, and I don’t need to know everything. I just don’t like surprises. Although this was a nice one…I’m so happy for you and Ann.”

“Thanks Mom.”

She stood up and walked towards the back of the house. When she got to the foyer, she stopped at the entrance of the hallway back to the bedrooms and turned around.

“I know this marriage is going to work Neil. Ann is an amazing woman. I was beginning to think I’d never see you happy again. Whatever happened last weekend on your trip, and during this week with Ann, has brought you back to the young man your Dad and I both knew was still in there somewhere. There are some things I’d rather you had done differently, but that’s just a Mom being a Mom. I’ll just overlook them as part of you finding yourself again, and be happy that you not only found yourself, you found a great woman to share your life with.”

I gave her a puzzled look and said, “What are you talking about? Did I do something to embarrass you?”

“I wouldn’t say that. You’re an adult, and I’m sure you did what you thought was right under the circumstances. And hopefully, you’ve gotten all that out of your system and you’re ready to settle down with Ann…although I’m pretty sure she had a lot to do with it. And that’s okay. I’m not judging. Like I said, I’m happy for the both of you, and I know this one is going to work out.”

I was so twisted in my brain that I didn’t see what my Mother was talking about. She was trying to be subtle and let me off easy. But being thick headed, I didn’t see that. And I forgot to heed my brother’s advice and remember the warning he had given me as I was about to head off to college: ‘Don’t try and keep secrets from Mom, because it will just come back to haunt you.’

I knew he had learned that lesson the hard way, and was trying to spare me the same agony. He never told me what it was that happened; the secret he tried to keep that somehow she’d found out. And I didn’t really want to know. I just knew he meant what he said, and I kept my nose pretty clean. At least, I thought I did.

But I’d literally opened my fly in the past week, and often. My Mom could have been talking about just about anything, and I was too blind to see it for what it really was. Being stupid, I couldn’t let it lie, and proceeded to stick my size 12 foot in my mouth.

“Mom, what are you talking about?”

The look she gave me was the one that comes to my mind every time I’ve heard ‘Comfortably Numb’ from that moment on. It was the ‘I know something you don’t know’ internet casino smile, and she gave me a little wink as she turned to walk away. But she didn’t leave me hanging like she could have. She just didn’t want to embarrass me by looking at me when she said it, and yet, she wanted to let me know that she had me. She took her time, her turn long and deliberate so she could time her statement perfectly.

“Honey, like I said, I don’t blame you. But don’t think I’m a fool or naïve either. I’ve been around the block more than a few times in my life. I know I’m your mother, and you’ve probably only looked at me that way. But I’m also a woman, and I’ve done some things in my past that would make you think I was anything but a mother. So have my friends. And it appears one of them is still up to her old tricks.”

I tried to bluff, and with her basically looking in my direction, but down at the marble tile in the foyer, I gave it my best shot, saying, “Mom, I’m not sure what you think happened…”

“Neil, I know everything that happened. Everything. I told you at the cookout, both Paula and Carrie have a lot of secrets, but I’m the only one they confide in and have it stay a secret…they talk about each other all the time, to me. Paula thought she could confide in Carrie, and once again, she was wrong.”

“Mom…I…”

“Neil, don’t worry about it. I’ll deal with Paula in my own way. And while I don’t need to know what happens between you and Ann in your own bed, I know she was a part of this. Whatever rules you’re going to have for the two of you in your bedroom are totally up to you two. You’re both adults, and I respect that. I don’t really want to know…but, I’ll trust that if you have any further sexual encounters with any of my friends, or frankly, with anyone else period, it will only be with her blessing.”

“Mom…I…I can explain.”

“So can I Neil. So, you don’t have to explain, because I already know. Frankly, I’m surprised that Carrie didn’t try something with you once she heard about Paula. And in case you didn’t know it, they are two of three girls that went to college together, and all three of them are pretty much the same. I’ll leave it to you to figure out the rest,” she said with a little laugh. “But, I also know that Paula crossed a line, and she knows I expect retribution. And until that happens, she knows that I’m the one in control right now.”

“Okay…now you’re scaring me a little.”

Mom looked at me, and I could see the confidence in her eyes. It was funny that I found it somewhat reassuring, and I knew she wasn’t pissed at me. She wasn’t pissed at all. It all seemed so benign to her, like a well read novel where she already knew every word on every page, and how it was going to end, but she needed to read it again anyway.

“There’s nothing to be scared of, honey. I’ve been down this path with them before. I thought we all outgrew it, but I guess when it comes to women who love sex, there’s just no way to really tame us…them. Shit! Well, I guess I kind of let the cat out of the bag there, didn’t I,” she said with a laugh.

“I knew what you meant before…although I thought I could find a way to pretend I didn’t. Probably not now, though,” I said shaking my head.

Mom smiled and walked toward me, and she put her hand on my chin, making me look up into her eyes.

“Honey, I didn’t say that to give you a complex. But you need to know it, because Ann isn’t a whole lot different that I am, or Carrie or Paula.”

“What?”

“Relax, sweetie. Being like us isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You already know this, but I’ll tell you anyway. Ann isn’t like your ex. You can trust her…she’s not going to stray. You just need to make sure you communicate, and let each other know what you want out of your marriage. And not just when it comes to sex; when it comes to everything. I think Ann knows that, but that’s my advice. Don’t try to change each other, just talk about what you want, and make compromises if you have to.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said, even though I had an idea. I couldn’t seem to stop the conversation, even though I knew I should have never asked the question that started it all. I kept perpetuating it, compelled by some perverse impulse.

“Well, Paula and Rob have their little arrangement, and Carrie and Mack have theirs, which is a little different. And…your father and I have one of our own. It’s evolved a little over the years, but it works for us.”

“I’m scared to ask what you’re talking about, but what the hell. What do you two do…mud wrestle?”

“Really, that’s between me and your father, so there’s not a lot that I’m willing to say. I’m a lot better at keeping secrets than my sorority sisters are. But I will tell you that I’m not innocent…and we had to curtail a lot when you moved back home. We were pretty active while you and your brother were younger, and then it kind of slowed down. But when you two moved out, we reinvented our marriage. When you came home, our fun all came to an abrupt halt. Well, actually, that’s not true at all. We just had to be more resourceful. I wasn’t going to change again, and I don’t think your Dad would let me anyway. He’s a pretty horny old fart.”

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