Wednesday 1 April 2015

Saving Brodsy

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

Dedicated to Ms Louise Dorothy Kathleen Fraser, ‘Brodsy’, the big sister that I’ve always wanted.

I think that my friend of longest standing is slowly becoming mentally ill. In fact I would say that I’m virtually certain of it, recognising in her the same signs that burgeoned into my own schizophrenia at the age of nineteen. She’s twenty-five now, the same age as me. Her name is Layla Demeter Kathleen Frances, but assures me that her name belies her ancient English heritage. I’ve nicknamed her Brodsy because, like Franz Kafka’s editor, Max Brod, she’s always been my editor, since I began writing at the age of five and a half. Indeed, her editing invariably allows me to reasonably compete with my fellow writers in the struggle for publication.
     Whatever has made Brodsy and I close since we first clung to each other outside preschool, upon our very first arrival there, remains unknown to both of us. I guess it’s just one of those things. Like I said she’s twenty-five now, with a husband and two young children, and she remains as my chosen editor. I sometimes point out to her that we’ve always been naturally very close but she usually doesn’t reply, and the times she does deign to do so it’s always with a cliché whilst looking downwards.
     And it’s this very closeness between the both of us that has showed me signs in her similar to those that I had before I first ended up in Rozella Psychiatric Hospital: joking about being telepathic, earnestly arguing bizarre theories or perspectives upon life, talking non sequiturs, having sleep disturbances. This last is the most serious as it can easily snowball out of control, sometimes resulting in suicide. But, yeah, Layla, she too may be developing schizophrenia. It certainly looks like it.
     Thus, the first thing upon awaking this morning, the last day of Sydney’s hottest summer on record, 2015, I’ve decided Layla needs serious help. Layla needs an Intervention. I’ll be back with greater detail.


The Intervention ended two hours ago. It took only three days to get together. It went well. It wasn’t hard to round up mutually concerned friends and Layla has always been a reasonable person. When she saw the plethora of anecdotal evidence laid out against her she was quite willing that we had a certain point. And, she admitted, she’d been feeling often confused herself over the past several months, generally not well, like part of her foundations had been kicked out from under her. And since every family has some level of mental illness in their genes there was possibly schizophrenia in Brodsy’s. The net result is that she’s agreed to see a doctor about it and get any treatment that s/he prescribes. A good result for all.
     But something completely unexpected has happened: Layla has told me that she’s addicted to heroin. Not even her husband, Ovie, a generous Bangladeshi young gentleman, knows this secret. She respects him too much to risk his bad or lowly opinion of her. She’s only allowed me to reveal it to you, dear reader, in hindsight. She asked me to stay behind after the Intervention and revealed the heroin as the real reason she’d been acting flaky lately: she’s been trying to quit it for seven months, on her own, first trying it about two years ago at one of her girlfriends’ place. She tried it because she felt that she could really do with some nice, powerful relaxation as a result of bringing up two boisterous boys. She wanted to seek help through her parents to quit the junk – she couldn’t afford the inevitable more and more regular shots - but it would be a big admission of her immaturity, her short-sightedness. They might also cut off her generous allowance, a Godsend with a young family in expensive Sydney. Her parents would also never forgive the disrepute. And admitting it to our other friends would do nothing but bring up a wall, all parties aware of the fundamentally different mindsets. She could only trust me to help her now in her desperation. I told her she must tell Ovie, getting the aid he avowed her on their wedding day, and that all three of us would fight the heroin with her. She was sure to win now. She looked down again and muttered a cliché.
     And since I’ve always been quick witted I instantly saw a possible solution: Ovie and I will give up the smokes while Layla gives up the heroin. We’ll all fight our good fight with each other at hand, able in any emergency. It should work.
     Layla instantly saw the possibilities and we are now off to collect her husband from work, to tell him all the news and to enlist his sure aid. I’ve never seen Layla happier.


Why Layla found it relatively straightforward to give up the junk is explained by her doctors as a natural desire to look after her children as best she can. She has realised that her young ones are naturally far important than being zonked out to the world.  Quitting the heroin has now made Layla a more properly attendant mother, each child symbolising her conquest of a serious addiction and being extra attentive to them is a wish to revel in that conquest.
     I, on the other hand, am not doing so well, and hereby reveal such to you, Layla. Giving up the smokes was easy enough for the first two days but on the third I made a sneaky deal with myself, one that would allow me to smoke but still keep you on track. I promised myself that if I awoke every morning at 1am I could have just three cigarettes, spaced out over an hour or two. I chose this way for a sneaky smoke because it would leave absolutely no evidence, scent-wise, stain-wise, breath-wise, and I could still have a smoke without endangering you, good Layla.
     I awoke this morning feeling the abomination of this lie and promise to return to you, dear Layla, once I have had a doctor straighten me out.


On a whim at the doctor’s I had had myself checked for emphysema. Boy, was I surprised when I was told the results were positive. I didn’t ask her how long I have to live. I feel sure that I can cheat the odds some way. I’ve always been very smart.
     Actually, as I write this, the solution, the cheating of the odds that I’m looking for, has just come to me. I just need to move into The Blue Mountains and with some regular breathing exercises and a healthy fitness regime I should live as long as expected in the much easier air. And if I don’t at least I will have had a high quality of life before I go. My next entry when I’m in The Blue Mountains.


I’ve been here in The Blue Mountains only three weeks, having smoked only a few cigarettes over that time, and it’s only been honour that made me reveal to Brodsy, yesterday, when she visited me here for the first time, that I’ve got a plan for committing suicide elegantly, opening my wrists in a warm bath. I’ve begun entertaining thoughts of suicide as a way to grab back the hold on my own life, taking it firmly in hand, away from the emphysema, living and ending it where I want. Of course, I could just be very lonely up here all on my own, my life dripping slowly and irrevocably away. Suicide certainly is some control. But no. No.
     And borrowing a leaf from my book, Layla came up with a solution straight away, a way for me to keep from killing myself: her own family and I can rent a place, one large family, with an Uncle who has to chip in nothing but the occasional child minding.
     It sounds like a good arrangement to me. Thus, at a local pizza place tonight, Layla, Ovie, and I are going to plan a new family, one where we’ll all be safe. I’m looking forward to it.


If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here his previous such stories, from September 2013 to February 2015, are also available as a Kindle book, Amongst the Ways of God, at, which also includes several completely new ones. You may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me, which tells the story of how Tonia achieves her life's fundamental aim of having her home as a social hub, by staring at herself in the mirror. It is also available as a Kindle book at Denis also has a short non-fiction book available, King Street Blues, which is an encouraging tale of Denis' willfully chosen five years of homelessness in the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne. It too is available as a Kindle book at If you don't have a Kindle you can download the Kindle app for free onto your smartphone, tablet, or computer through your local app store.

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