life gets complicated
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by KJ Hannah Greenberg




Notwithstanding her efforts to establish new intimacies, Doris never felt that her new romantic delvings ever approached her prior connection to Kiplinger. Her ex-husband seemed irreplaceable. It was a pity that he had been a sycophant of the worst kind.


That brat of a would-be science phenom had coerced Doris to complete his research for him and had otherwise stolen colleagues’ findings. Per “his” knowledge about creepy-crawly, winged, and webbed things, Kiplinger held a surfeit of plagiarized data. In contrast, when expressing tenderness to Doris, he had had neither original nor borrowed words to share.


Even had Doris not mixed it up with Furries, Kiplinger would have eventually shunned her integrity and her emotional neediness. That man, who insisted on cufflinks instead of buttons, and who shaved his head so that no one would suspect that he was balding, excelled in appearances.


In fact, Kiplinger was so solipsistic that his universe contained just him. Over and again, he forgot Doris’ birthday, their anniversary, and the many children they had lost to miscarriages. All the more so, he eschewed their sexual intimacy.


Ever saintly, Doris initially excused him, attributing his hurtful behaviors to undiagnosed, untreated Asperger’s. Over time, though, after her many attempts to get him to CBT therapy, that is, to leave his “flawless” world of one, failed, Doris began to second guess the soundness of their marriage.


She stopped excusing Kiplinger, a minor scholar, for habitually berating her international recognition. What’s more, she dredged up how, when Kiplinger failed to achieve tenure, he further emotionally assaulted her. At first, he had screamed that his potential went unfulfilled because he had thrown all of his resources behind her rising star. Later, he had demanded that Doris cease submitting findings to important journals so as to stop overshadow him. Pointing his finger at her, he’d say that she should be grateful for the hue of his eyes and for the expertise of his fingers and that relative to him, she was a novice in the bedroom.


Doris silently walked away from her husband’s tirades. Sure, Kiplinger was well-preserved, relative to her faded caricature of stringy gray hair, cheeks smoothed into a chaste expression, and fading intellectual curiosity. Nevertheless, in spite of his allure, Kiplinger was a bore. If he had not flaunted his amorous conquests, Doris might have enjoyed his attractiveness and carried on as his self-sacrificing wife (she had learned to substitute hair perms and gourmet dinners for his affection.)


It hadn’t helped that Kiplinger’s favorite lover was Doris’ graduate school classmate, Catinka Jones. Catinka, who had been impregnated, decades earlier, by the university’s volleyball coach, had left a full fellowship behind to change diapers. Her staggering contributions to the study of chemical processes within newts became completely sidelined when her unfunded “research” succeeded too well.


According to Doris’ divorce lawyer, Kiplinger had been idling at a local park at the same time as Catinka was waiting for her son to finish Little League practice. Allegedly, it was Catinka who had noticed Kiplinger and who had soon thereafter propositioned him. Kiplinger’s crime was his failure to decline.


More to the point, Kiplinger reserved the first of a series of hotel rooms. It was not that he was not opposed to marriage as Doris’ servile manner suited him. It was, however, the case that he was an aficionado of female flesh. Whereas his past perfidies had lasted a night or two at most, Kiplinger and Catinka blissfully traded STDs for months.


In the interim, Doris sought new ways to pay their household bills since Kiplinger’s expansive lunch hours had gotten him fired. She was as of yet unaware of his disloyalty.


In hunting for that peace of mind that comes from having earnings that are greater than expenses, she left her beloved research position and took a job at a major producer of health and beauty aids. Specifically, she accepted a job supervising other chemists in the creation of a floor cleaner that simultaneously killed cockroaches and smelled like spring flowers.


Since Doris’ skills were marketable, she was offered an admirable salary and the possibility, if certain deadlines were met, of receiving a matching bonus. The corporation’s hiring manager was particularly enamored of Doris’ fastidious methods and ability to think out of the box.


In the conglomerate’s lab, Doris wilted. She was a gentle soul whose research agenda had involved planetary ecologies, not bug extermination. As well, she missed her peers’ recognition of her scholarship. All of the patents on her commercial work were owned by her employer.


Meanwhile, Doris discovered Kiplinger’s affairs. To wit, she sold their home, and moved into a rented apartment.


While she didn’t return to academia, Doris began using a significant portion of her large income to fuel her newfound shopping compulsion. With exacting intentionality, she’d spent up to one third of her earnings on finery. Soon, Doris’ closet overflowed with suits incompatible with lab work and with buckram hats, decorated with ripple-edge roses, which were impracticle in a city noted for its rain. Her jewelry box, brimmed with costume and real gewgaws, too.


All things considered, it was unsurprising that Doris freaked out when Kiplinger suddenly showed up at her lab. That man-boy, who had more connections than a millipede has legs, had had no trouble accessing her secure site. He had emerged in plain view because he: was horny, had had a tiff with Catinka, and knew his estranged wife to be the least resistant of his sexual partners.


What Kiplinger had failed to anticipate was Doris’ improved self-esteem. Realizing his blunder, he made a spectacle of himself. Kiplinger “fessing up” varied and numerous extracurricular relationships and then shone his best puppy dog expression at his former spouse.


Doris threw a small container of roaches at him.


Kiplinger cowered behind a work island. He would have stayed there, incautiously brushing off the scurrying beetles, had Catinka not entered the lab. Catinka was searching for a valuable earring that had gone missing during a moment of intimacy. During his “confession” to Doris, Kiplinger had neglected to reveal how often he delighted in straddling lovers in his ex-wife’s test center.


Catinka sized up Doris. She might be milk toast, but she was brilliant. Catinka sized up Kiplinger. He was a pretty boy and he was covered with beetles. It was beyond Catinka’s worst nightmare that the man who had stolen her health by giving her herpes, and who had probably stolen one of her most valuable ornaments, would also deign to also steal her peace of mind. Catinka was a self-professed entomophobic.


Disgusted, she fled. A few days later, she had Kiplinger arrested for theft.


Doris completed her project and then quit her job. She didn’t like killing even the smallest of beasts. Even more, she didn’t like working where her ex’s sexual juices had been repeatedly spilled.


Surprisingly, Doris reinvigorated her friendship with Catinka. The two bonded over the world’s surplus of louts like Kiplinger and the world’s shortage of Prince Charmings. Ultimately, Doris began to show up at Butler’s, Catinka’s kid’s, Little League games; Doris was better at sports than her recycled friend.


In turn, Catinka introduced Doris to organizations for unmarrieds. At her first Parents without Partners meeting, Doris perked up. She had never considered the possibility of adopting. She might yet have a happy ever after.


Widower Jorge Canady began attending Parents without Partners a few months later. He sat with Doris and Catinka. Doris was his client and Catinka was a fellow softball parent. His son, Rodger, was in the same division as Butler.


Increasingly, Rodger had been suggesting that various mommies might be suitable for Jorge. He didn’t know that all of them wanted no part of a bended family and wanted no part in keeping house for guys like himself and his dad. Mostly, his friends’ moms, who were available, were self-reliant women who were okay with temporary liaisons, but not with more permanent ties.


Providentially, Rodger nudged Jorge in additional directions. He again and again pleaded with him to check out Butler’s mom’s support group. Apparently, kids talked about more than Pokémon and aluminum bats in the dugout.


Jorge conceded to his kid that he had been right. He enjoyed talking to Doris outside of his law office. Unlike other divorcees, Doris was willing to “settle” for a nice guy and to make “compromises” that would help insure a functional marriage. In the bleachers, she’d poured out her feelings about her lack of children, and then pause to ascertain that Jorge was not going to charge her for billable hours and that Catinka was not going to laugh at her.


She couldn’t know that both Catinka and Jorge daydreamed while she spoke.  Catinka’s fantasies were filled with contemporary, chivalrous men. Jorge’s were filled with Doris.


He and Rodger would benefit if someone new puttered in their kitchen, burned their roast, and undercooked their potatoes. He longed for someone to once again mismatch his navy ankle-highs with his dressy black socks. Jorge asked Doris to fire him.


Dumbfounded, Doris refused. Doris needed her reliable lawyer to stay in his place. Without the backing of her capable attorney, Kiplinger might return to harassing her. After Jorge made his request, Doris began suffering from night terrors.


Jorge, contrariwise, slept better than he had in years. Many nights, he dreamt of sitting with Doris and watching mindless stuff, which no lawyer or chemist would publically concede enjoying, on TV. In those dreams, he and Doris spooned, ate over salted popcorn, and almost always remembered to set the video player to record action flicks for Rodger.


Those happy fantasies decided Jorge. He released Doris as a client.


Helped by a women’s aid organization, Doris sued. It was ridiculous that Jorge refused to continue representing her. She couldn’t afford to again feel vulnerable to Kiplinger.


Jorge and Doris resolved the matter out of court. Jorge gladly paid both his fine and the fees for Doris’ representatives. He also helped Doris find a new, private counselor.


A week after paying his defrayal, Jorge called her to invite her to accompany him to a Little League game. Butler’s team was playing Rodger’s. Jorge was very careful to specify that he was calling as a friend.


Doris insisted that Catinka join them. She couldn’t imagine sitting peaceably with him despite the fact that he was a nice man. She accepted the invitation, nonetheless, because she believed it was important to take care of other lonely people. That outlook was the one that had allowed her to ignore Catinka’s role in Kiplinger’s infidelities and to renew their friendship.


At the ballpark, Catinka failed to show up. She furthermore failed to answer her cell phone.


Two innings into the game, Rodger got hit in the face by a bat and had to be taken to an emergency center. Doris drove him and his trembling father to the closest care facility.


A few weeks later, Doris agreed to a pizza date with Jorge. Minutes after entering the shop, the two got into an argument about the relative merits of pepperoni and of pineapple. Both reasoned purchasing a full pie would be most economical, but neither liked the other’s topping. The next time they went out, they brought Rodger along to referee.


Doris saw more and more of Jorge and Rodger. Concurrently, she set aside extra time to take Butler to his sports events - Catinka had since become chummy with a banker.


Less than a year from the time of their first shared pizza, Jorge trothed himself to Doris. In addition to a ring, he presented her with two pies, one of which was entirely covered with pineapple and the other of which was entirely covered with pepperoni.


Butler and Catinka walked Doris down the aisle.


Two years later, Doris gave birth to a little girl.


Doris still chides Jorge that kale is better than cheese puffs. On the other hand, she hesitates to knock him for leaving mountains of clean laundry on her dresser. It’s beyond her ken as to why he never puts it away.


When their daughter, Belinda, is safely in high school and Rodger is married with kids of his own, Doris returns to chemistry. She teaches part-time at a local community college and contributes a thought piece, every year or so, to an academic journal.


Catrina marries a proctologist. Butler becomes a playwright. Both visit Doris and Jorge whenever possible.


As for Kiplinger, he remains unemployed and promiscuous. Most men of his ilk would have long since floundered, but Kiplinger still gets by on charisma.




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