Friday, May 4, 2012

The Selfish One by Lisa Moreno

The Selfish One

"Selfish!  Selfish!"  Greg yelled, waving his golf club around like a maniac.  The foursome in front of him was playing too slowly for his purposes and hadn't offered to let him and his partner walk through.

            "There's that character again," said one of the men, a retired minister.  And the foursome played on, at the same pace, as if Greg didn't even exist.

            Greg Hoover was indeed a character.  A former alcoholic and heroin addict turned social worker who still gulped down Vicodin by the handfuls, he had picked up the "selfish" concept from Alcoholics Anonymous while trolling for women.  Everybody was just selfish, that is if they didn't do exactly what he expected or wanted them to do.

            His partner, Ray O'Brian, said "Thanks, Greg.  Now they'll just slow down even more -- on purpose.  You just pissed them off."  Ray was one of the few people Greg had any respect for.  In fact, as far as anyone knows, he was the only person.

            Greg had spent his youth as a total hedonist.  His life revolved around sex and drugs.  Girls were in and out of his life, but none of them meant anything to him.  Sure, he had some longer relationships, three or four years here and there, but he was never monogamous.  Sadly, a few of the young ladies actually loved him deeply in spite of the fact that he was a narcissistic asshole and treated them like slaves.  If ever one strayed away, he would pursue her as if she were the only woman in the world until she came back,,. just to prove he could get her back.

            Thirty years and two marriages later, Jillian still carried a flame for him, even though he had dumped her for a prostitute when she was 19. They had started dating when she was 14 and he was 19.  Her father, who must have been out of his mind himself, let the young lovebirds come live with him after Jillian's mother threatened Greg with statutory rape charges.

            She would speak of him often, constantly reminding me that she had lost her virginity to him.  "He wrote me the most romantic sonnets and read them to me as we sat in our favorite spot in the woods," she would say.  If she had told me that once, she had told me a thousand times.  "He didn't always act like this," she would add.  "It's the drugs; they destroyed his brain."

            "Acting like this" meant pursuing a woman, conquering her, treating her like dirt, then pursuing another woman. 

            "He dumped you for a prostitute, Jillian, " I always reminded her.

            "Oh, that was later.  We had the best relationship in the world for years," she explained over and over again.  "He didn't start doing stuff like that until he got into the heroin."

            "Yeah.  Meanwhile he turned you into a raging alcoholic by the age of 17, got you pregnant and made you get an abortion, and talked you out of your dream of going to college to be a veterinarian."  I would tell her.

            The truth is, in spite of his belief that everyone just loved him so, she was probably the only person in the world who still gave a damn about him.  Not to mention that she was also hooked on painkillers, so the two would share whatever they could get their hands on.  All these years later, it was still about getting fucked up one way or another. 

            Greg was spoiled, but he didn't grow up that way. Although his family had money, a lot of money, his childhood was miserable.  Both parents were simply upper class drunks, with his mother throwing in an addiction to painkillers.  They fought in front of him constantly.  Late nights of drinking and fighting would lead to oversleeping; Greg would get up and go next door, where a kindly neighbor would feed him breakfast with her children and make sure he got to school on time. 

            As he grew older, he adopted his parents ' behaviors, and they didn't notice because they pretty much ignored him completely.  By the time they divorced and, eventually got themselves straight, it was too late for Greg.  He was not only using drugs, but also dealing them.  He was, in fact, the first person in Columbia, South Carolina to get arrested for selling marijuana.   His mother ended up worshipping him, but he didn't give a damn about her.  His father despised him for the loser he had become, yet Greg idolized him.

            But, before learning any of this information, I was one of the women Greg managed to ensnare. After hearing about me from a mutual acquaintance, he tracked me down through my first husband's obituary.  When he told me this, he laughed and declared, "I'm going straight to hell when I die!" 

Oh, he was charming at first, downright suave.  He wanted to spend time with me; he wanted to spend time with my son.  And, since he didn't work because he had a supposedly hefty trust fund to live off of and was studying for his Social Work degree part time, he had plenty of time to spare. 

            Before long his true colors came through.  "Will you come over and watch a movie with me?"  I would agree, but then he would call back.  "Can you go to Food Lion and get me some milk, bread, and bologna?"  I didn't mind this.  But when he started demanding I clean his house, which never got dirty because he lived there alone, rarely left his bedroom, and never cooked, I was history, but there was something tragic about him that caused me to remain friends.

            Maybe it was the way he would lie around in his long-dead father's robes and slippers and wear his old pants to go golfing.  Maybe it was the pitiful calls he would make when he wasn't getting attention from anyone.  Or maybe it was just because I knew he was putting on a mask for the rest of the world to hide what he really was - a miserable, lonely, sickly hermit.  Yes, his evil ways had pushed most everyone away at some point.

            Ironically, however, it was through him that I met Jillian, who would become my best friend, and Ray, who would become my husband (much to Greg's dismay).  He had lost me and was in the process of pursuing me again when I met Ray at his house.   Greg was ill, and I had been nice enough to pick up a prescription for him; Ray was dropping off some homemade chicken noodle soup. 

            Oh, Greg remained a character in our lives long after Ray and I were married.  He may have lost me, but damn it, he wasn't giving up his golfing partner.  Every Saturday, Greg would take my husband for the morning.  According to Ray, Greg cheated his way through every hole.

            "He must carry 20 clubs in that bag.  The limit is 14," Ray came home and told me one day.  "And he shaves points.  He thinks I don't notice."

            "Why don't you call him out on it?"  I asked.  I was in my underwear washing dishes.

            My husband was kinder than I would have been, saying, "Nah, it doesn't make a difference in his score.  But then, he lies about that, too."

            "Doesn't sound like much fun to me," I told Ray, secretly wishing he would just stay home on Saturdays.

            So, Ray continued to play golf with him, religiously.   And the stories came home with him.

            One of my favorites was about Charles the duck.  I had known that Greg took crackers to the course with him to feed a duck, but it was Ray who told me the whole story. 

            Charles was a duck that had taken up with the geese on the golf course.  Why he didn't like the other ducks was a mystery, but he chose to hang out with the geese.   Unlike the geese, however, Charles liked to beg food off of the golfers.  Greg claimed full responsibility for the naming and taming of "Charlie," as he called him.  But, Greg had to take credit for everything.  He was insidious on so very many levels. 

            Yes, everything revolved around Greg, at least in his own mind.  He would spend 30 minutes standing in front of the mirror in his dark bedroom trying to arrange his hair just right.  It was fine, thin, and, in my opinion, poorly cut.  No matter what he did to it, it looked the same.  Dull and lifeless.  But, in reality, Greg was dull and lifeless, too.

            Greg's life revolved around a big lie; he tried to seem important, wealthy, and socially liberal.  Outwardly, he supported women's rights, gay rights, and civil rights.  In reality, he thought himself to be superior to all of these groups - and most anybody else, for that matter. 

            One of the most disgusting things he would do is share the stories of his clients with anyone willing to listen.  He would go into vivid detail about their marital problems, which particularly disgusted a psychiatrist he played golf with from time to time.

            "That's not right, Greg.  You shouldn't be sharing that information with anyone, even on the premise of getting my feedback.," he finally told him.  After that, he lightened up a little, but not completely. 

            When a man shot his wife and killed his father-in-law in a mall parking lot, he actually called to tell me that they were his clients.   I commented, "Well, it must not have worked out to well."  Then I added, "It's none of my business, anyway" before he could go into further detail.

It was a way to brag on himself, even if he was failing at the counseling.  Of course, we all wondered how a man who had never been married and never had a child had ended up counseling couples and children.  The thought of him advising children and teens horrified us all.

You see, he hated children.  He had no patience with them whatsoever.  If a woman had a child but had somehow come into his sights, it was a strike against her that would eventually become a point of contention.  After all, he wanted undivided attention.

He attended various churches, not for the fellowship or the messages, but to meet women.  And he looked for the weak and vulnerable, as I was when I met him. Karma is hell, though.  Oh, he believed in all that stuff - karma, transcendental meditation, etc., but he didn't practice it.  It was just another way to be different than everyone else.

            Greg kept coming down with various ailments.  Bizarre things, like an ankle swelling so badly that fluid started to leak out.   Whatever pain he claimed to be in became worse to the point we all believed him for a change. 

            Eventually, he went into renal failure.  And it was at that point he had to admit he had Hepatitis C.  Still, he lied about that.  He would tell one person that he'd known about it only three years, someone else heard him tell a doctor ten . . . we all wondered just when he would start telling the truth.

            But, when he had found out, he had not gone through the treatment because he had heard it was agonizing.  This may be true, but it also saved your life.  Besides, nothing could compare to the agony he went through when he finally started dying.

            He was in and out of the hospitals, any hospital, until some refused to see him anymore or give him any more prescriptions.  He mainly went in to get painkillers and tranquilizers and then left against medical advice, once wearing nothing but a hospital gown.

            All of his pride and vanity were a thing of the past by 2009.  Oh, he was still mean, and he would still lie.  Once, while recovering from a drug overdose, which may have been intentional, Jillian went to see him in the hospital.  She said that he would say things, some bizarre, and then add, "You know I'm lying."  She told him that he had been lying his entire life.

            When he was between hospital visits, he would call us, often in the middle of the night, begging for painkillers or tranquilizers.  We didn't have any, and we told him that repeatedly.  We finally had to start taking our phone off the hook before we went to bed.

            But it was the overdose that, in a way, caused the doctors to feel some mercy.  They had been limiting his pain medication because of his history of addiction and abuse.  However, while he was unconscious, they managed a liver biopsy and an MRI of his abdomen.  He had cancer everywhere.  His pain had been real.  They kept him there a few more days, then released him to go home with a hospice nurse and enough pills to satisfy even him. 

            Jillian stayed devoted to him.  She became his Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, and Executrix of his will.  She visited almost daily, bringing groceries, prescriptions (which she was helping herself to), or whatever he needed.  He continued to be mean to her, the hospice nurse, and anyone else trying to help him.

            She did finally ask him, "How long have you really known this, Greg?  That you had Hepatitis C?"

            "Fourteen years," he admitted.

            "So, you mean to tell me that you have been exposing women to this virus for fourteen years without warning them?  You mean you exposed me, too?"

            "It's hard to catch.  The risk is minimal," he replied.

            "I don't care how minimal it is.  That was just wrong!"

            For the next few months they engaged in this danse macabre that was worse than any soap opera I had ever seen.  They would fight, make up, then fight again.  She would call us, flipping out, because of something new that would crop up - liver failure, fluid in his abdomen, and so on.  I said, "Yes, he's dying.  Things like this will happen.  You keep acting like he will mysteriously recover."  But Jillian had to make everything very dramatic, and she got on everyone's nerves doing so.

            Finally, the time came for inpatient hospice.  In one final act of cruelty, he forbid Jillian to see him.  He ordered the staff not to give her any information.  She wouldn't know anything until it was over and she would take over as Executrix. 

            For three days, she was nearly out of her mind.  She did get reports from a few friends that dropped in to see him, but, sure enough, she didn't hear from the facility until December 26, 2010.  He had died, heavily medicated and resting comfortably.


            I attended Greg's funeral, along with maybe 30 other people who felt like they needed to make an appearance.  Only one cousin showed up; the rest of his family didn't seem to care about anything until they heard that they were not in his will.  Then they demanded this and that, sued the estate, called Jillian and blamed her for things - you name it.  And, as mad as I was at him for all that he'd done to people, especially knowingly exposing women to Hep C, I felt sorry for him.  This was the family that produced the wickedness that was Greg Hoover.

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