Voight-Kampff for my mother’s daughter

by Mahalia Sobhani

Content warning: suicidal ideation, death of a parent

[[Source text: “Mother, I have worn your name like a shield.”[1]]]

[[Begin assessment.]]

Who sang you to sleep at night? Mother.
Who warned you of wolves, drugs and men? Mother.
Who is always on the phone? Mother.

  • When you have a bad day at work, do you:
    A. Tell your sister about it
    B. Smoke weed about it
    C. Stand in front of a mirror and pick the dry, scabbed skin from your scalp until your fingertips are red, and then some

Do you have a mother? Mother.
If your mother’s dead, do you have a mother? Mother.
When you were thirteen, did you feel smothered? Mother.

  • How much social interaction do you need to feel normal?
    A. An exchange with the grocery store cashier reduces you to tears
    B. The silence of your bedroom is never truly silent, the broken stereocilia inside your ears keep you company with their half-pleasant hum
    C. If you don’t hear validation at least seventeen times a day you will forget that you are a person, approximately

Do you long to be someone else’s mother? Mother.
Where did you get your hazel eyes, your disposition? Mother.
What does it mean to care, to raise, to start and end life with a gaping wound? Mother.

  • Please circle all appropriate methods of self-care.
    A. Light a candle
    B. Knit or crochet, work with your hand
    C. Run until your hips creak
    D. Read tarot
    E. Rend your clothing
    F. Smoke in the garage
    G. Rearrange the furniture
    H. Calculate the astrological birth charts of all your exes

Do your clothes fit right? Worn.
Did you fit in during high school? Worn.
Are there circles under your eyes? Worn.

  • Do you think you’re a bad person?
    A. Yes
    B. No
    C. It depends

[[Logic error: Anomaly detected. Go back and answer again, truthfully.]]

What’s it like to get enough sleep? Worn.
Did your mom ever look tired, near the end? Worn.
Are you keeping warm? Worn.

  • How would you describe your substance use?
    A. Social drinker
    B. California sober
    C. One day it became apparent that your hangover anxiety was quickly becoming hangover suicidality

When was the last time you felt something soft? Worn.
When did you last know the skin of another on yours? Worn.

  • How would you describe your attachment style?
    A. Anxious-avoidant
    B. Completely warranted
  • How did your last relationship end?
    A. Infidelity (theirs)
    B. Infidelity (yours)
    C. Not with a bang, but with six months of whimpers
    D. “It’s not me, it’s you”

What’s in a name? Name.
Did your mother pick your name? Name.
Can you stand the sound of your own name? Name.

  • Has there ever been a period of time when you were not your usual self or exhibited behaviors that were unusual for you? Circle all behaviors that apply. Did you:
    〇 Spend too much money?
    〇 Dress for the body you want instead of the body you have?
    〇 Attend concerts alone?
    〇 Live off of cucumber slices and cream cheese?
    〇 Become convinced that everyone was in love with you?
    〇 Finally vacuum the car mats?
    〇 Blame it on Leo season?

What does a knight carry? Shield.
How do you bring your heart out into the world? Shield.
Why the sour expression? Shield.

  • Why do you think you’re mentally ill?
    〇 At your cubicle you replay a daydream in which you take a baseball bat to car windows, then somehow your own ribcage. Before she died you never dreamt of violence, not like this.
    〇 Sometimes you think you hear someone shout your name in an empty room.
    〇 You spend a lot of time wondering if you’re the alien or if everyone else is.
    〇 Something is definitely up because there’s no way anyone could live like this.

Do you ever think there’s something wrong with you? Shield.
Why didn’t your mom tell you she was bipolar? Shield.
Is a turtle on its back in the road safe if it retreats into its shell? Shield.
Do you ever feel truly safe? Shield.

What are you? Name.
What are you? Shield.
What are you? Worn.
What are you? Mother.
What’s a mother? Shield.

[[Logic error: I am not grown away from you, whatever I say.[2]]]




[1] “february 13, 1980” by Lucille Clifton

[2] Lucille Clifton