Application for a Restraining Order

Application for a Restraining Order

Application for a Restraining Order 1200 1600 Anne Rasmussen

Mr. Peanut likes it rough.

He wants to strangle me, but without leaving a mark, no telltale bruising, no garroting gash lipsticked across my pale throat. Once the swelling goes down I’ll make a perfect corpse.

Never trust a monocle and a jaunty exterior.

Lately I need not one but two adrenaline shots en route to the hospital, me panting shallow in the passenger’s seat, my partner just trying to get us there in time. Are the reactions getting worse? Is the generic not as strong as the brand I can no longer afford? It’s best not to think, just plunge the second needle into my thigh hard enough to leave a bruise that will change colors for weeks: first a livid red, then purple, then the palest jade.

I never have to wait to be seen in the ER; my association with Mr. Peanut is a kind of VIP pass, the velvet rope lifted and we are waved through, the hospital bracelet marked ALLERGY, red as the full body rash that has me ready to tear off my clothes, put fingernails to skin and scratch until there is blood and relief or maybe just blood and the feeling of a thousand bees beneath my skin.

Mr. Peanut teaches me that my health coverage has recently changed; my employer has switched to a cheaper plan and emergency room visits are no longer covered by the $100 copay. Mr. Peanut tells me my deductible is still only $500 after the copay so why am I complaining?

**

When I am in preschool, my mother, in spite of her mistrust of organized religion, checks out a picture book about God from our local library. I guess she doesn’t want me hearing about God from someone else first.

“God isn’t a person. God is more of a feeling,” she explains, then adds, bafflingly, “God is invisible. God is everywhere and in everything.”

I don’t believe in God but I believe in Mr. Peanut.

Mr. Peanut is everywhere, shape-shifting, ditching monocle and gloves for new disguises. He stretches along the bread knife the pimpled teen working at Bruegger’s will use to cut my bagel, he is my lover’s oily lips three hours after the baseball game. He pours himself into a bottle of peanut oil in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. It’s my first meal in her home and she is frying chicken, the skin of each breast and thigh crackling and golden. His powdery residue lines the bulk bins (now containing Craisins) at Whole Foods. He is an airline tray insufficiently wiped down during a hectic changeover at O’Hare.

Mr. Peanut pops up smiling in my Twitter feed, PROMOTED, like so many mediocre guys at work, bubbling effortlessly to the top like a fart in the bath.

At my neighborhood Thai place he slides casually into a pan of basil stir fry I’ve ordered a zillion times: Hey girl, U up?

Most days I don’t see him, but he is always there, just outside my line of sight. If I turn my head sharply, I might catch a flash of tailcoat, a white glove. He is Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter, calmly stalking his prey, the preacher’s suit concealing his serial killer glint, those tattooed knuckles promising LOVE, HATE, or worse. Mr. Peanut is playing the long game. The rest of the world sees a man of God, but I’m huddled in the hay loft with a shotgun, I’m pushing my rowboat away from the swampy shore and praying it won’t spring a leak, and all the while I can hear him singing:

Leaning,

Leaning,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.

The world is a giant soundstage built to film my death in black and white.

**

In the beginning, my mother kept me safe from Mr. Peanut.

To be a severely allergic child is to spend the dog days of summer staring at your scabby knees on a schoolyard bench while your mother recites a litany of forbidden foods to your new teacher, the list so long it’s easier to name the things you can eat: rice, chicken, apples. In restaurants, my mother orders me an empty plate on which to arrange the food she’s brought from home.

I’ve known that food could hurt me since before I could read, since before I understood why the allergist took so many vials of blood and called me brave, since before he called my mother to apologize when the results came in: he’d mistaken her for one of those hysterical mothers until every test came back positive.

I can Trick-or-Treat as long as I turn over my candy, like weapons, to my parents at the end of the night. The evening’s haul cascades across the dining room table: Mr. Peanut, of course, and all of his aliases: Mr. Goodbar, Oh Henry!, Big Hunk, Old Faithful, Baby Ruth, Mary Jane, Butterfinger, Snickers, Look! Bar, Clark Bar, 5th Avenue Bar, Payday, Whatchamacallit, Abba Zabba, Chick-O-Stick, Goobers, Reese’s Cups, Boston Baked Beans, GooGoo Clusters, those black and orange wrapped candies nobody wants. My parents divide the spoils between them in exchange for two dense cookies made with rice flour and honey.

To be safe is to be swaddled in so many layers that other sensations are dulled: not just taste and smell, but surprise and pleasure. To be safe in my body is to be out of my body, unless I am presenting that body to doctors for tests, needles darting up my arms in rows. I will open my mouth wide for the dentist, later the orthodontist, later the jaw surgeon. I will say “Aaaahhhhh” and they too will call me brave.

Entrusting your body to non-doctors, people who aren’t trying to kill you, but could inadvertently do so, is a high-wire act. To be a severely allergic adult is to consider the risks and rewards of unswaddling yourself. Letting yourself experience your own body as a source of pleasure requires the acceptance of potential peril. Eating in a restaurant. Going to the company cookout. Flying across the country. Accepting hospitality. Falling into bed with someone new.

Beneath the nets stretched out to catch my fall Mr. Peanut strolls to and fro, looking for his opening.

**

Mr. Peanut emails me at work from a Gmail account, impersonating my boss. He asks me to buy $500 worth of iTunes gift cards and send him a picture of the scratched-off numbers. He promises to reimburse me. It doesn’t occur to me that this is Mr. Peanut because my boss has asked for inappropriate favors before, and I can finally afford to put this amount on my credit card. It isn’t until I send him the cards and he replies thank u now i need more can u get me $500 more that the penny drops.

In the silence that follows the sound of 50,000 pennies dropping, a sound like an exploding glockenspiel, I hear Mr. Peanut cracking his knuckles with pleasure. First LOVE, then HATE. I am such a goddamn patsy to have fallen for this. It goes without saying that I am not reimbursed for this $500, a fool’s deductible of sorts.

The police officers who take down my information when I report the scam are not the same ones who respond to my inquiry about a restraining order, but their laughter belongs to the same family. Kissing cousins, kissing cops, everyone slap-happy at this palate cleanser of a call.

**

My childhood allergist was a gentle soul. When I Google him, I’m saddened to discover news of his death. Like my father, he had developed dementia. Like my father, he still went on daily walks. Until one day he disappeared. Friends and family sounded the alarm, sent out a search party, posted signs. How frightened they must have been, how stricken with grief and guilt. His body was found, days later, in a wooded area not far from his home. The cause of death: exposure. The sheriff had no reason to suspect foul play.

I suspect Mr. Peanut immediately. Why wouldn’t he take advantage of an old foe in a weakened state, a man who had tested and protected so many from harm during the long arc of his medical career? Mr. Peanut is playing the long game. Which form did he take as he beckoned the old man with his walker off the trail, over the uneven ground needled with pitch and pine?

Leaning,

Leaning,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.

**

In thirty years, maybe forty, when I lose my mind, who will be left to protect me from Mr. Peanut? Who will search for me when I go missing?

Mr. Peanut has nothing but time.

Header photography © Sarah Huels.

Share This: