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Donna’s Men

by Michael E. Lloyd

Table of Contents
Book I: Windmills Everywhere

Chapter 8: Prickly Landings

part 2 of 2

‘So, Donna, you’ve almost certainly just suffered what’s known as a Brief Psychotic Disorder.’

‘That sounds rather ominous ...’

‘Well, it’s not a nice thing to have to go through — as you’ve just explained — but you shouldn’t be too worried. “Brief” is the key word. The hallucinations and the associated delusions sometimes go on for only two or three days. Often for a week or more. But never beyond a month. And most people then return to normal, and usually quite quickly. But of course the symptoms might well come back, if the underlying causes aren’t addressed.’

‘So what are the causes?’

‘There are three likely influencers. One of them is a genetic disposition to BPD. But not many people have an insight into that aspect of their family’s medical histories. I assume you don’t?’


‘Too right.’

‘So we’ll leave that as an outside possibility. No further investigation unless this all starts up again. And the second probable cause is some sort of acute oxygen deprivation in childhood, typically at birth. Did your mother ever speak of a particular problem with her labour?’



‘So we’ll lay that aside as well, at least for now. And that leaves the third factor. It’s by far the most common one, and it fits your situation perfectly. BPD can be readily brought on by significant substance abuse.’

‘Too much drink and drugs, you mean?’

‘Exactly. And you’ve just told me you did more of that than usual in the months following your mother’s death. Did you actually mean a great deal more, Donna?’

‘Well ...’

‘Look, this isn’t a court of law, you know. It’s your safe haven. And what you’ve been doing to yourself is not a crime ... well, some aspects of it are, technically, but let’s ignore that. What you did was unsurprising, in the circumstances. Some might even say quite normal. The trouble is, you were obviously more vulnerable than others to entering a psychotic state at that level of abuse.’

That’s not all I was vulnerable to. Or the only abuse I’ve been suffering.

‘OK, I think you’ve got it right. Yes, I did a lot of that stuff recently. Far more than usual. And quite a cocktail of things, some of them very hard, if I’m really honest. But I haven’t taken any drugs for nearly three weeks, and I’ve been getting back to normal drinking ever since the hallucinations started to tail off.’

‘Well, I’m going to say “very good” to all of that, even the bad bits, because it gives me a lot of confidence in my diagnosis. But if you’d told me about those minor hallucinations as soon as they began, we might have nipped this in the bud quite quickly, one way or another. As it is, you had to suffer the disorder and its knock-on effects on your own, and over its full course. Now, how long was that altogether, do you think?’

‘Hmmm. Well, I was “seeing things” until about a fortnight ago. And I had this strange feeling of “release” from something the following Wednesday. But the more I think about it, I realise that for several days the building swaps had been heavily suggested to me by ... someone who was with me in Paris. So the last mix-up I really saw — for myself, if you know what I mean — was probably back in Cambridge. Although he did specifically lead me there too. So it might even have been in Oxford. Oh, actually, he encouraged me to seek them out there as well, just after I’d told him all about .......’

‘All about what?’

‘Oh, it doesn’t matter. Look, I’m sorry, I really don’t know the answer. Somewhere between nine and nineteen days, perhaps?’

‘Don’t worry, Donna. That’s all very helpful. It was probably much closer to nine or ten days, if we ignore the “suggestions” from your so-called friend. By the way, do you want to tell me anything more about him?’


‘Are you quite sure? There could be a lot of benefit ...’

‘Yes, I’m sure. I just want to forget him, and I’m already doing quite well at that.’

‘All right. But do remember this is your safe haven. And don’t forget how many people and resources there are beyond the privacy of this room. They’re all there to help you if and when you need them.’

‘No, I shan’t forget that. Thank you. Really.’

‘OK. So would you like to tell me what you’re planning to do to get yourself back on an even keel?’

* * *

Monday 25 May, evening

I gave Doctor Unwin the speech he wanted to hear about handling the drink and the drugs and getting out and about again.

And I think I probably meant it, too. ’Cos it’s really so much easier now. All the pressures of managing Mother’s estate have finally gone away. I have a solid little investment to shield me from any storms — good thing too, after throwing away a very nice job — so there’s no need to worry about finances. And I told Shaun (dammit!) that I didn’t care about any of my uncaring “parents” and that’s still completely true. So I mustn’t let silly thoughts about existence and “identity” destroy the rest of my life. Burn your books, Donna!

Will I hell! You can lead a mare to burn her bra, but you’ll never ...


But I don’t need to fall back on drugs and heavy drinking any more. And I’m already getting back with my old friends. Well, I’ve started, anyway.

Perfect logic. Problem solved.

Until the next time, eh, girl? Will your memory be your friend too?


* * *

So now it’s Thursday. And it’s stopped hailing. What next?

Just looked at what I wrote in the diary the other night. Do I really believe any of that??

I don’t know.

So, as I said, what next?

What would Meursault do?

It doesn’t matter what I’d do. Nothing really matters, anyway. And in the end it just comes down to your principles. But you knew all that already, didn’t you, Donna? Why ask me again? So, enfin, what do your principles suggest you should do?

You’re a loser, Meursault. This type will self-destruct in ...

Ah yes, I remember it well. Quite absurd. But strangely satisfying.

Hmmm. What about you, Roquentin?

You know that very well too, don’t you? With aggravating questions like that, anyone would think you were self-educated! But since you seem to need me to spell it out again: all right, I would finally try hard to break out of my lethargy and my unhappy past, and make a commitment to act, in some way or other, and to deliver something of value, someday, somewhere, somehow. Entendu?

And does that make you a winner, sir? Should I really just sit down and write a novel, as you were planning to? Wouldn’t even a crusty old biography actually be more useful?

If I were you, young lady, I should simply avoid everything that you know might easily derail you, and accentuate the positive. Which fortuitously appears to be close to your current strategy. And you can always go back to the noise of the Black Boulevard any time you care to ...

Thank you, gentlemen. That will be quite enough thinking for today. I have a lot more relaxing to do for the foreseeable future.

Relaxing? Hell no, I’ve had enough of that too, recently! This room needs a good spring clean. And maybe I’ll phone Helen ...

* * *

Mon 2 June

Spent all of Saturday and half of Sunday doing the cleaning. Helped Mrs Y in the garden for a couple of hours, too. That was hard work, but fun!

And I had a really nice lunch over at Helen’s, and a lazy afternoon reading the papers together. No wrong captions this week! She still doesn’t understand what I was getting at.

Hmmm. Neither do I.

I discovered that photo of Graham in my purse last night. Must have put it there the day after my birthday. Hang on .......

Yes, I just went back a few pages — that was when I last looked at it. Funny ... it says there that I thought he was much better-looking than I remembered. But that’s nonsense. Look at him! Heart of gold, but still a very large nose and crooked teeth. Maybe that’s the reason I dumped him!

Did I dump him?

* * *

Wed 4 June, evening

I can’t believe it’s three whole weeks since Shaun walked out.

And I wish I wasn’t still thinking about it. Am I weak? Pathetic? Pre-1978 woman?

Hmmm. I think I might call Vanessa some time next week. When I’m feeling a bit braver. Don’t think I apologised properly the day I quit.

Why the hell did I quit? Hah! Oh well. Not sure if I feel up to job-hunting just yet, though. But there’s no rush. I’ve only lost half of what I kept as cash savings. And most of the money from the house sale is safe and sound. It wasn’t as much as I’d expected, in the end, but it’s still a tidy sum and earning good interest, all things considered. It’s there for that sunny day.

* * *

Thurs 12 June

Another week of doing almost nothing. Too much time to think, Donna!

Every so often, Meursault’s way has seemed very, very tempting. Still does, sometimes. But I’ve always tried not to mention it to anybody. These days, talking about that would probably buy me a one-way ticket to a place of no return. And I don’t mean the afterlife.

But I reckon he loses the contest in the final round. Nobody gains if I decide to drop out of everything. Least of all me! But if I play it Roquentin’s way, maybe I can do some good, even though the very idea of that can really seem absurd, if you let it.

Perhaps a bit of voluntary work in the neighbourhood, instead of staying in and going back to reading all day? Until I get a proper job again, of course. Might not be able to manage it then.

What sort of work? No idea. Good for nothing, me. Well, good for nobody, at least. Bet I’d frighten them all to death. Probably end up scrubbing floors.

Guess I should just wait for something to turn up.

Or maybe I should try harder.


* * *

All that thinking about voluntary work in bed last night made me remember Vanessa again. I reckon she really deserves that call.

‘Hello Vanessa. It’s Donna.’

‘Well, this is a nice surprise, young lady. How are you now?’

‘Not too bad, thank you. But I have been rather unwell for the past few weeks.’

‘A lot longer than that, I’d say, Donna.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, to put it very bluntly, you changed a lot after your mother’s death. I tried to get you to talk about it, several times, but you always ignored me.’

‘Did you? Did I?’

‘Yes. As you can see, you succeeded in hiding all that away from yourself.’

‘Oh, I am sorry, Vanessa. You must have thought terribly of me.’

‘No, I didn’t, Donna. I just hoped and prayed that you’d eventually get through it on your own. You obviously weren’t going to allow anyone else to work on it with you. Just the drugs and the alcohol.’

Wow. She knew about that?

‘Ah. All right. Well, I can only say “Thank you” for trying to help, Vanessa. And I am really sorry I walked out on you the way I did.’

‘I don’t think you need to apologise for that, Donna. I could tell you were sick. And now you’ve confirmed it.’

‘But I’m already a lot better.’

‘Yes, that’s also quite obvious. And I’m very pleased. You sound just like your old self again!’

Hmmm. Yes, I probably am still my old self. Whoever that is!

‘Oh, that’s good to hear! Thank you, Vanessa. Anyway, I do hope you’ve managed to find someone to replace me.’

‘No, I haven’t. There’s been very little time to spare for recruiting, and the research backlog’s getting worse every day, and the few people I have interviewed in the last six weeks were quite inappropriate.’

‘Oh! So there’s still a vacancy, then?’

‘There certainly is.’

‘Oh. Well ... Vanessa ... would you be willing to consider taking me back?’

‘Hmmm. Yes, I think so, Donna. But only for a couple of weeks to begin with. And there would need to be some strict conditions. I hope I don’t have to spell them out ...’

‘Oh, thank you, Vanessa! I’m so grateful!’

‘Actually, I’m probably as grateful as you are. And for more than just the extra pair of hands. So let’s just say this could be a lucky day for both of us, and call it quits. Can you start again on Monday?’

‘I could be in by eleven o’clock today, if you like!’

‘Excellent! And we’ll celebrate your return to ... everything with a little drink at lunch-time. Lemonades all round!’

* * *

Fri eve

Wonderful to be back with the gang. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed them!

Girls are all you need!

And I’ve been thinking about that idea of voluntary work. Even though I’m hopefully full-time at the Institute again now, there’s no reason why I can’t do a few hours on an evening or two, or at the weekend, is there?

I’ll do some research on Saturday.

* * *

Wed 25 June, early a.m.

Been back at work for eight whole days now. Vanessa’s decided I’m coping all right, and there’s a fascinating new project and I’m fully responsible for it. Perfect!

And I have two interviews fixed for voluntary work already. And another one bubbling under. Yes!

And I have another grand plan in mind. This one’s a bit more “do or die” though. I need to think about it carefully during the day. But I reckon I’m going to make a phone call one of these evenings.


* * *

Now, don’t ever forget this again — he dumped you, girl, and not the other way round, right? Right.

‘You’re too bound up in yourself and what you care about,’ he said, didn’t he? ‘You need to consider what other people want from time to time,’ he said. ‘Take more of an interest in what concerns them. And try to lighten up.’

And he wasn’t the first one to say that sort of thing, was he?

No, he wasn’t.

Hmmm. OK, here goes. Nothing ventured ...


‘Hi, Graham! Remember me?’

‘Donna! Hey, how nice to hear your voice again!’


‘Aw, thanks. It’s great to hear you too! Nearly three years, isn’t it! So, how are you and that big old nose of yours?’

Donna’s Men continues in Issue 396
with Book II: Never So Good.

Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd

to Special Challenge 395...

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