Dr. Tariq wanted me to make a choice. Fear was my choice. It felt nothing like a choice at all.
My mother spent the evening sifting through dusty books filled with collections of family photos, most of which had been stowed away in her bedroom closet. As she flipped through the plastic pages, she removed particular photos, which were then strewn out over the kitchen table like a scattered craft project she was masterminding. By ten o’clock, they were all organized, and my mother called me over, ready to reveal a mystery she had solved.
With me at her side, my mother began by explaining that, according to what she had read, schizophrenia had likely been passed down to me through genetics, a disorder which had hatched inside of me. She plucked up various photos, rehashing old stories, going back through the generations. Some stories she knew personally, while others had been told to her by other family members. My mother took time pointing out distant relatives who were the possible perpetrators.
There was a great-grandfather who believed the government had poisoned his well and had isolated himself away from anyone who might turn him, becoming a recluse over time.
There was a great-aunt who hoarded old namesakes and memorabilia, filling every room in her house with an abundance of useless collections. Her husband, my great-uncle, had left her because of it.
There was a cousin who had committed suicide, hanging himself in the woods. Numerous rumors had spread throughout the town, and most people were convinced that he was a devil worshiper.
Then there was another relative, maybe a distant cousin, who raised five children in a trailer and lived off of food stamps. Her trailer was filthy. Nothing was ever clean. Everyone agreed she was bipolar.
My mother exposed these ghastly tales to me (none of which were very ghastly), and as she did, a new family picture was created, one of those dreary sepia ones taken at a circus. There I was, standing between lobster boy and the bearded lady. Because the family tree, it turned out, had a branch colored puke green. And I was its newest shoot.