Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Madly in Love


© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015


Jeanne Margit Revoir appeared to be glad to be now arriving home even though she had just stepped out onto one of the wards in Rozella Psychiatric Hospital, near the heart of Sydney, after being involuntarily committed. It wasn’t hard either to notice her arrival as she went straight out into the common area, as if she knew Rozella well, and asked one of the smokers for a lighter. I offered her mine as she looked like a young lady who desperately just needed to talk. For a long time.
     ‘What’s your name?’ I asked when she had lit her cigarette and handed me back the lighter.
     ‘Jeanne. What’s yours?’
     ‘Xavier. I’m back here for the second time because I stopped the meds for a while. I thought I was better. The voices didn’t. They’re still screaming in my head now but a lot more quietly. I can reason now. Which is good, because I’m a writer.’
     ‘I’m an actress and I’m back because I’m in another very big manic phase.’ She laughed. She had a very nice laugh, both deep and elfin. ‘My cup runneth over!’ She also had no idea how she had ended up in Rozella but suspected her boyfriend, as she vaguely remembered having just come from a drive with him.  
     Jeanne and I then clicked, both of us naturally having just fallen into each other’s young persons’ company. We were both scheduled involuntarily so we may as well make the most of it. We also liked flirting with each other, making lurid remarks about each other’s sex appeal, even though Jeanne said she was very happily seeing a young man, who wasn’t mentally ill. I guess it’s natural then, despite the fact that I was holding a candle for someone else (whom shall remain nameless), that on my part I began to take this flirting seriously. Despite the schizophrenia I’m just a regular guy involuntarily ruled by his gonads.
     When I confessed my adoration to her she responded enthusiastically, touching me and flirting, but could only promise me that I would be her next boyfriend if she and her present one, Dominic, ever broke up. She was also sure to point out that she owed him a lot over the past two years, whom had always been helpful, to the best of his abilities, with her bipolar disorder. As love is mostly loyalty I would have to wait and see. But don’t get too hopeful, she told me, she was going to start dropping hints to Dominic very soon about him asking for her hand in marriage.
     The good Dominic I did eventually meet, a couple of days later, and he certainly provided a lot of competition. He was colourfully dressed, with shoulder-length, slim, and clean, pale brown dreadlocks tied at the back of his head. He was clean shaven and his whole face seemed to be a smile. Jeanne seemed besotted with him, sitting spread-legged on his lap throughout most of his visit, her arms draped about his neck. Not that I was jealously studying them.
     But there was trouble in Paradise. Big trouble. Jeanne awoke me early the morning after Dominic’s visit to say that he had broken up with her. When I sat up in bed, blearily awaking, it was her red, swollen eyes that first warned me of the current disaster. She said she’d been crying all night and was now very suicidal. She showed me the razor she had got from one of the nurses, saying she was going to shave her legs. She had been on her way to the bathroom to open her veins in its warm, lone bath, and at the last minute had decided to say goodbye to me. I snatched the razor from her. She made no protest.
     ‘I think I was hoping you’d do that,’ she said, looking down at her bare feet.
     ‘Jeanne, no man is worth suicide. No man. Or woman either. Why did he leave you?’
     ‘He said he was fed up with my constant hospital admissions. He’d been recently talking with his last girlfriend about how I’m hardly there, about how high maintenance I am. He said he’s going to try and get back with her.’
     ‘Well, he’s definitely not worth suiciding over. You’re worth a lot of trouble.’
     ‘Why?’
     ‘Because you’re a lot of fun.’
     ‘Yeah, but you haven’t seen me in my downer moods. I’m almost a vegetable.’
     ‘Do you handle your high moods a lot better than your down moods?’
     ‘A lot better. But I tend to do stupid things. Which reminds me.’
     ‘What’s that?’
     ‘I need your help, now that suicide isn’t an option.’
     ‘With what?’
     She then sat on the bed, grabbing my arms. ‘Show me how to be normal. Give me something, some plan to be normal, like a schedule or an instruction book, something I can always have nearby for guidance. That way Dominic is sure to come back to me if I can be normal. You’re smart, Xavier, surely you can help me?’ How could I ignore those pleading, clear, green eyes?
     ‘I’ll think of something,’ I promised.
     ‘Thanks, Xavier.’ She then left me to think about the problem.
     Surprisingly the answer came quickly, a plan to regulate her violently swinging moods. It was suggested by her mentioning ‘a schedule.’ What if Jeanne planned out the hours of each day, having a set programme all of the time, a diary of every day’s activities? That way she would have a greater sense of daily certainty, being able to channel her mood swings into appropriate activities. She would also need to exercise and eat really healthily, the base to this programme. When the mood swings become too much she should head out to a café. For the numbing depression she should treat herself to a hot chocolate or two, with marshmallows, and for the manic excitement she should have a camomile tea or two. The exercise and healthy diet should provide her the wherewithal to make it to the café when the moods are too rough.
     When I informed Jeanne of the plan she thought it brilliant, a physical manifestation of control over her moods. She began on the project immediately, borrowing some paper from the nurses and outlining the rest of that day as well as the following. Apart from that she was going to take life one day at a time.
     The regime must have worked better than expected for Jeanne was discharged from Rozella a week and a half after her breakup with Dominic. The doctors and nurses were keen to encourage the stability she had suddenly displayed, or so she told me. I was worried about her though. Sure she had her daily diarised events, a guide to channel her mood swings, but she had no backup in case of trouble. She had already come to me those times she felt the diary was useless, an inanimate taskmaster who didn’t care for her. Could she now resolve such problems without my assistance? Surely Dominic could help her there, if he didn’t get too jealous?
     The answer was, apparently not. She was back in hospital two weeks later, myself still waiting to be admitted into the rehab cottages. As I had been homeless for so long the hospital thought it prudent for me to go into the rehab cottages in order to relearn everyday living skills. Which was fine by me, I was fed up with being homeless.
     Jeanne though was back in hospital under false pretences, having faked a mild suicide attempt. She was back in hospital just to see me. She was back in hospital to ask me to marry her. She wished to marry me because the diary idea had really grounded her, setting out a clear path in which to control her wayward mind. She had also been eating right and had begun exercising regularly and was back here to claim the only real support she had ever received.
     ‘My cup runneth over, Xavier. You have given me meaning,’ she said, after her proposal.
     ‘Jeanne, yes, I will marry you, but we’re in a psychiatric hospital. Our vows have no legal meaning while we’re not of sound mind. Or at least while I’m not of sound mind since you’re here malingering.’
     ‘When are you discharged?’
     ‘Not for months at least. Three months I’d imagine.’
     ‘We’ll marry on that day. We have to marry. You’ve given me real direction, Xavier, and I just can’t let that go.’
     ‘Well, visit me every day, sweetie, while I’m in rehab. You’ll be out again soon so you can get things ready on the outside for us.’
     ‘You’ll really marry me, Xavier? Continue guiding me?’
     ‘Yes.’
     And so we were married four months later, on the day that I moved into the flat she had got for us, quite affordable with both our Federal Disability Support Pensions, albeit an hour’s train ride from the centre of Sydney. I’m writing this now from our reception and Jeanne says her cup once again ‘runneth over.’ She’s drinking camomile tea and tells me she has not the slightest desire for any of the alcohol intoxicants here. She also tells me that I intoxicate her enough. How have I been so lucky?
~~~
If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available at www.amazon.com as both Kindle books and paperbacks. Click this link to view them - http://amzn.to/1NfodtN Other ebook options are available through www.lulu.com; go to - http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD
    

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