Dejavu. He is standing in the doorway, staring at her as she folds her clothes, stacking them up in the suitcase. How many years ago was it? It must be twenty. He told her how lucky she was, that he would follow her path someday, stay with her on the other side of the planet. She had kept silent, with a fake smile slapped on her face, always on guard in his presence. She had wished for him to never visit her. She was leaving after all partly because of him. Partly because of the growing hostility of the house.

For years plotting the big flight soothed mother’s pain. She was mother’s co-pilot, partner in crime. How often they would dream of escaping. How liberating it was to imagine life outside of this cursed house. The stove would burn mother’s pots all the time; the bougainvillea plants of the indoor patio refused to bloom, even though Tehran was gorging the earth’s heat that summer. But what seemed like an innocent tease turned into malice, just like his innocent puppy eyes that turned into shining emeralds. How is it that she has only two kinds of childhood memories: the nostalgic ones in which the house was paradise on earth, with jasmines, bougainvillea, and dog roses all thriving under the generous canopy of the growing magnolia; or the horrific ones in which the house had blocked the light of all windows, and life was dark, grey, and nasty.

It is hard to leave you behind when your eyes don’t have the alarming look of the last few years you were still around. That look that first appeared on your face periodically and gradually stole you from us. I used to be terrified by your estranging eyes that twinkled green. They signaled to the fantastical world of your restless mind. With the first green sparkle the fun Amir was on a non-cocaine organically induced euphoria. Anything was possible. The unstoppable you who walked all the way from Tajrish square in the north to our house in the south. Do you remember how you gave all your monthly allowance to a street beggar? It made you feel like a good person you told mother. Were you a good person? You asked her persistently over and over.

I have been following the tiktok account of a woman with psychotic tendencies and fantastical thinking. My curiosity in mental illness only began long after you disappeared, when I had just moved to the farm house in the north of Ontario. The closest I have gotten to having a home after immigration. In her videos, the ticktoker talks about how embarrassed she is when she hears voices, so ashamed that she gets quiet and keeps to herself. Because she is worried everybody would know that she is having an episode. The shame of mental illness itself reproduces it. It isolates the patient, person. It’s important to not linger too much on the validity of their delusions-your delusions, but to rather pay attention to their-your emotional journey and sensitivities. Easy enough you would think. But that meant that I had no control over the world in which I lived. Your bloated God posing ego would decide that I wasn’t allowed to get out of my room. Or your fear of an earthquake that was going to hit Tehran. You had received messages about it. Your emotional journey was difficult to trace. The paranoia, depression, quietness, they creeped under your skin so stealthily, slowly, and steadily. Every time you were hospitalized it felt that our world went into a battle with yours. Every time the medical staff of the private mental facility won. They killed your reality by stuffing you with lithium, haloperidol, olanzapine, perphenazine. They made you heavy and slow. You were a strong tall boy who turned into a muscular hunk. You had this drive to look big and evil. A force beyond your comprehension. You even shaved your head at 21 to look rough. But no matter how chunky you got, your fear of government intelligence services outgrew you. Growing up in a minority community that is harassed daily by the government and others, your paranoia could be understandable. Yet again, how come I didn’t end up like you?

Why you? I have asked myself a million times. Why was it not me? Because I was a girl? Because I was smarter? Because I wasn’t born with the same psychosis as you, that which father detected early on, feared, and detested in himself too? They all sound equally unfair. I feel lucky every day that I am not you. I thank God for the injustice of this world. Perhaps this is why I could never join my activist friends in college years. While they strived for equality in rallies in Revolution square, I held on tight to my privilege over you, packed it in my luggage eventually and flew into a brand new world. I sat on the flight’s chair, let my head fall back on the headrest, and felt like I was shot into the abyss. But no matter how far I flew, which continent I landed on, I felt the weight of that pair of precious emeralds on my shoulders, as if you were standing behind me gazing. The farther I got from that time-space, the heavier your look got. Not so much today, when oddly enough I am not distressed by your reflection in the mirror. Today it feels like I have found you baby brother. You, whom I lost before I knew. You, my relationship to whom has been mediated by grief. Mother is convincing, the house is falling on its head. How can I leave your eyes behind?



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The Magnolia

Published author. Creative writer. Historian. Lover of sand, sun, and water. I write to take care of myself.