Not-Donna

Thoughts from a Hospital Hallway

Olivia Semple

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Photo by Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash

Her name was Mary, but uncle Teddy may as well have introduced her to us as “Not-Donna”, since that’s how we all treated her. Vivian hated her. The other sisters didn’t hate her, but said they thought she was “a lot”, which meant the same thing. Not-Donna was big and fat, half-deaf, and so rude. She’d just plop down at the kitchen table while the rest of us were talking and yell at him about what time did he want to leave. Except she wasn’t really yelling at him, she just couldn’t hear how loud her own voice was. We all knew that, but since she was Not-Donna, the sisters rolled their eyes at one another when Teddy wasn’t looking. Nobody wanted to like her.

Donna hadn’t even been dead for two months when he started talking about this new, big fat woman. Nobody knew she was big and fat yet though, because he’d met her on the internet, and on the internet, she just had a big old bobblehead and a lot of pictures of her cats. He loved cats.

They met on a Facebook group for Abyssinian lovers. I guess one night, a week or so after Donna died, Not-Donna’s cat had an allergic reaction in the middle of the night. Teddy couldn’t sleep back then because he was grieving so hard, and so he saw her 2am plea for help, and he messaged her with some tips. Whatever he suggested worked, and the cat got better within a few minutes. Then Teddy and Mary got to chatting, and for some reason she mentioned she was a widow (I think she said the cat missed his dad or something) and then with that information all out in the open, as you can imagine, they bonded over their grief. The chat turned into an all-nighter. Her boyfriend had died of pancreatic cancer barely a month before Donna died. Crazy what a small world we live in. Or maybe it’s just cancer-ridden. Still crazy.

In the beginning it was almost like she breathed new life into him. He called her just-a-friend, but his face lit up when he talked about her. Everyone saw it. One time he said to me that she understood that broken part of him in a way no one else did, the part that aches at the loss of your other half.

“It can never be filled or fixed,” he said, “But it’s like her broken half and my broken half somehow even each other out.”

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Olivia Semple

Gypsy lady, chocolate fiend. Forever dizzy at Kierkegaard's abyss. I should be editing my novel but I’m procrastinating here instead.