Douglas had a clinical psychologist named Nick and Nick had told him about the traffic light system of relapse prevention, when Douglas told him of his intention to come off of medication, predominantly due to their side-effects and the lack of care from the outpatient psychiatrist to challenge his abilities to get well.

Douglas had told him that morning at their final weekly meeting. The psychologist’s sessions hadn’t been unpleasant, aimed as they were at unearthing some inner flaw or faultline, yet through talking. Douglas had grown used to the discussions, able to take advantage of the platform to discuss his concerns with the prescribed medication, understanding that the psychiatrist’s biomedical model stopped at the door, for a clinical psychologist.

Douglas didn’t have much confidence there would be a nugget to be found in the sifting through his childhood memories, but he hoped his willingness and compliance with treatment would earn him the brownie points he needed for an occasion, coming off medication.

And so it had worked – he had walked out of the clinic this morning a free man – free of toxins from the psychiatric needle. He had played the game and played it well.

Now Douglas sat in the front room of his flat, heavily on the edge of his sofa, sitting forward so that his legs ached behind his knees on the worn patch of the upholstery, white showing through black. He was logged on and staring at the screen.

Douglas sat staring at the message box, hesitating.

How should he approach this?

He could start with: “Dear Joanna, I am a 54 year old paranoid schizophrenic just off medication and I am looking for a good time?” No, he didn’t think that would work, but perhaps…the risk was attractive. No, that way led amber and red behaviour, he considered.

“Dear Joanna, I am a poet, perhaps I could write poetry for you?”

Nah…for one thing his poetry was all schizophrenic and therefore in the amber and red and hard to understand, and secondly “what if she found out about your diagnosis at a later date, what would she think?”

Better to get it out the way. No loss, he didn’t even know this person. All he knew was Joanna somewhere had liked his photo and profile, upon which he had not lied. Except by omission. Okay, he tried again:

“Dear Joanna, I have been in and out of Mental Institutions twelve times in the last twelve years…” Nope. A big N O.

Oh boy. From a rash amber moment here he was committing his limited income and wasting his time on a dating website. From some amber thinking he was burdened with a months subscription to a dating sight he didn’t want and he didn’t even feel curious.

Sure he was a lonely man, he didn’t have to be told. Years of isolation had engrained lonely habits, like not brushing his teeth and keeping his head shaved for cleanliness purposes. These were practical symptoms of his illness that would have an effect, as one day his teeth would fall out and his hair wouldn’t grow back anymore and these symbols thrust into his life, his sentinel existence. Looking at the demands from the “Profile” screen made him even more aware of his inadequacies, of his life of disdain for the company of others and the happiness he desired, free of love and free of responsibilities.

Douglas resolved (again) that he had to learn to stay away from the computer when he was depressed. This led to risky behaviour and often impulsive expense, this was a lesson he had yet to effectively implement. So he had clicked on the link while surfing facebook… his idle time on the web with facebook, his base, opened him up to a lot of stimuli but for the most part he was withdrawn from it.

Douglas’ mind wandered.

The first psychiatrist he had ever met, a Russian who he named Dr Yeltsin because his name started with a “y”, had accused him of “lacking insight” so Douglas did not know he was ill. But after twelve years and twelve detentions, he would have to be stupid, not a Ph.D. candidate, not to have figured it out. Twelve years of psychology, telling him he was ill, had taken its toll upon his self-confidence.

Yeltsin had warned him to beware of relapsing if he came off the meds and then he would be vulnerable. To what, Douglas asked. And as for relapsing? If he lacked insight, Douglas thought, so he would not know if he was relapsing or not.

He would not feel ill. He would not feel out of sorts. It was left to other people to say he was ill.

So it was a question of green-traffic-light thinking or green-traffic-light behaviour since he could not tell the difference between green, amber and red apparently.

No, Douglas concluded he was in the green all the way.

“Dear Joanna. Your photo is great. I feel an instant attraction to you as you look like my first girlfriend of whom I have fond memories…”

He went into his tiny kitchenette to make a cup of coffee and while the kettle was boiling he heard the ping of his laptop, signalling he had mail in his inbox.

He sat again with his cup on the table surrounded by loose tobacco and ring-stains and clicked on “new messages”. One came from OneSoul, the dating agency. He opened it.

It was a greeting to new members. The usual blurb he assumed.

He scanned down and found what he was looking for, subscription renewal.

A glance at the terms told him instantly it was a good thing he checked. Renewal was handsfree and automatic at the end of the month. Douglas made a note of the renewal date on a post-it and stuck it to the side of his laptop lid which always stood open on the living room table of his flat. It would take his intervention to stop the direct debit going through next month.

He scanned up again for anything of interest he might have missed.

“Whoops! What’s that?”

“For over fifties only!” he read.

“Christ! What had happened to me while I blinked?” thought Douglas.

At that time of night everything British was silent on the web. Douglas put his legs up on his soafe, pulled a duvet over him and went to sleep. In the morning when he woke he had only to swing his feet to the floor and he was awake and at his work station. The dating site was still on his screen and he inspected it.

The dating agency was called OneSoul and the website had a pink palette. In fact it was very chocolate box, with pinks and whites and black text. The views of his profile were going wild, and it was six in the morning. 350 views and seven likes! My God, it had only been twenty-four hours. No messages though, and no winks.

“Let’s cut to the chase!” and Douglas clicked on the likes icon.

Five images and two no show-ers. Hmm. Anything promising? Nothing to write home about.

Back to the views. These were the ones who responded to the picture and the location out of curiosity but did not rise to the bait.

My God! Rows and rows of women, head and shoulders, all over fifty. Douglas couldn’t believe his eyes. Britain’s flowers.

Row upon row of hormone strung-out child-bearing-hipped flowers of the British summer of 1976.

He grinned. Where to begin. The application wanted him to click on an image of interest. He picked a pretty blonde 53 year old living in his own small City, out of curiosity, who had kept her looks.

“Oh boy!” he smiled again.

“Not looking for a relationship.” Best attribute: “My chest”.

He’s said it was his hands.

He clicked the blue star on her image and Patty was liked.

Douglas continued flipping through the images in idle curiosity. A lot of early risers it seems amongst the British women-folk.

Douglas had a habit. He liked to google search his name, out of curiosity, to see what had been written about him or attributed to him, just in case. When you hit his age, one accumulated a lot of detritus.

He did it again today. And burst out laughing.

“Man dies in woodchipper!” read the headline of a small paper on the eastern seaboard.

And it went on to read about a man, Douglas Green, who had died after being up ended in a woodchipper in the town of Orkney Mass.

Douglas could believe his eyes. Was it true?

It looked real. The Boston Tribune. Hmmm.

Now it was time to answer one of his five likes. Joanna.

* * * * * * * * *

Joanna looked at the e-mail. It was a poem. “Robot Love” it read:

“I want to dig You, Baby but

I can’t – I don’t have a heart.

It was wrenched from Me in My

construction and led to a false

data entry number 9

on the code of My Words.

I will be able to recommence

on instruction from You

but You must be able to make

Me utter the words

“I love”

to You and not understand what they

mean at the same time as Me.

Your Robot


* * * * * * * * *

Later that day, Douglas tried to log onto the OneSoul website and found he was shut out. He checked his e-mails and found two from the site management. The first said his membership has been cancelled and the second said his automatic renewal had been cancelled.

To be continued.



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