MY SON, A SCHIZOID (Part 2)   

 By Isabel Guillén  


 It’s your first birthday, and we have given you a small toy car.

 Your face lights up when you see it and, before you get out of bed, you inspect it carefully…

You press the hooter and listen,

you spin the wheels one by one, then move the steering wheel left and right ... only then do you get up.


 Later, you refuse to leave your walker, and even eat in it.

 You walk in it to every corner of the courtyard, while I inflate balloons, decorate tables, ice a cake ...

 All the while, I hear your little footsteps and see your radiant face ...  

 People begin to arrive: they kiss your cheeks and bring you gifts ...

 You ...

…refuse to leave the walker, forcing everyone to bend down,

you eye them suspiciously, but with disinterest,

 you ignore their gifts and don’t bother to open them ...  

 Children approach you and ask if they can use your walker ...  I tell you that you must share ...

 I squat down to your height ...

 and there, in the depths of your eyes, I discover  a plea, an urgent cry for help ...

 I lift you in one arm and your little car in the other, and carry you to my bedroom.

 I comfort you, assure you that we’ll rescue your walker and lock it safely in my closet.

 Why did I never understood that it was you I needed to rescue?



 I pick you up and return you to the guests, never suspecting that they are the source of your discomfort.

 You blow out candles, eat cake, accept a thousand kisses and hugs, but ...

 your dark look tells me that something is wrong ...

 Only when we are alone, does your expression lighten. 

It is very late. It has been a long day, and  we are both exhausted ...

but you ask for your walker and ...  we stay up almost until dawn,

you hold your little car, while I contemplate your happy face.

 And, for the first time, I realize that your prefer solitude, silence,

and the darkness of night to the company of your peers I am thoughtful:

 ---What was it that made you unhappy?

 ---What was what it that created tension in your angelic face?

 ---What was what it that darkened your expression during the party?

 ---What did I do wrong?

 I wanted the day to be perfect ...



 You have survived life by fleeing, and escaping to one refuge or another.

Though you have had few friends, you have always had a rich, inner world,

 and an outward appearance of indifference and detachment.


 You completed your primary and secondary schooling by studying little,

yet obtaining good grades , proof of your superior intellect.

 You have had several partners, all of whom you have kept away from the house.

I wondered why you never brought them home ...

  I always had the sad suspicion that there was something lacking in me,

in our home, or in our family that did not fulfil you ...

 and I spent your childhood and adolescence trying to discover what it was.



 You are 19 years old.

 I'm excited because we’re going on holiday to the USA for the first time.

Though I think you will like the idea, you show little enthusiasm …

I promise you ...  

 --- That we will visit the place where you were born,

visit the New York neighborhood where your father and I lived for some time. 

But it seems that only I am excited by the prospect...  

 --- of travelling with 50 teenagers, your father and his new family, including 3 boys of your own age.

 Nothing seems to excite you ...

  whereas your brother is enthusiastic, and looks forward to travelling.


  We spend 3 days in New York. Teenagers far outnumber the adults.

And, though you seem to integrate with them, you maintain a low profile.  

 I watch you, and sense that you are uncomfortable.

But I console myself with the few moments you do enjoy.


Today we separate – the adults and the teenagers go different ways.

As usual, you are not happy with this idea.

When we separate, your young brother stays with the adults while you go with the teenagers.

I feel bad, and squeeze your brother’s hand as though I am comforting you ....


 It's time to meet up again. Everyone converges at the appointed time ... everyone except you!...

The boys explain that they lost you in the first minute.

 But it is two hours later, and you have still not re-appeared.…


We search frantically, calling for you in Spanish and in English ...

 I squeeze your younger brother’s hand as he dries his tears with his free hand.  

 This is not the same as the time you did not return from school ...  This is New York.

Five hours have passed and I feel as though I’m going insane.


 I phone the hotel, the concierge tells me that the room keys are still there.  

He encourages me to return to the hotel and ask the police to assist with the search …

 In several taxis, we all rush to the hotel.…

We are all confused ...  Guilt corrodes my very being.

 --- Why did we separate?

--- Why did the teenagers not alert me when you disappeared?

 Even your brother blames me:

 ---"Why didn’t you hold his hand like you hold mine? "

 When we arrive at the hotel, the concierge identifies me by my panic. 

 --- “Is it you who has lost the boy?”

Unable to speak, I merely nod.

 --- “Well, relax, because the boy has just arrived” ...

 I find you lying on the bed , watching TV, as though nothing has happened ...

 You explain that you couldn’t find our assigned meeting place, and returned to the hotel instead.

 I am so distressed that I decide to end the trip even though we should stay for several more days.  


 I vow to myself that I will never lose you again, because I could not endure a repeat of today …..  

 Your enigmatic look tells me that I overreacted,  

that  I lost control, that it was not so serious, that I am an emotional fool,

that I do not understand you, that the fault lies with me. And that the pain and guilt is mine alone.



Today I understand that ...

   the presence of people triggers your discomfort.

That, when you were a year old, your dark expression was the result of panic

which arose from your very core.

And that it had nothing to do with leaving your walker ...

  You have always been this way.

 Later, you learned to protect yourself by shutting people out of your life.

 So you never developed friendships.

 Then, in ignorance, I inflicted on you the torture of being with all those people in New York.

For your own survival, you were compelled into taking drastic action

And I’ll never know for sure what you thought, what you did or where you went for those hours

But one thing I am certain of is:

That though I felt wounded by pain, you had only been trying to ease your own.

 Now that I understand, everything is more simple, less traumatic.

 I no longer blame you, nor myself.

 My only regret is that we wasted so much of our lives … misunderstanding ...


 Now, understanding has enabled me to make allowances.

Only the closes are invited for your birthday

 You do not like surprises, so I avoid them.

When we go on holiday , you decide whether to join us or not

and, whatever your decision, I accept it  with joy.  If you do come, there are rules of respect,

 and not sharing your room is one of them.  Even on holiday, you need your refuge.



 Before I understood,

your habit of being present yet absent at the same time tormented me.

I wondered why you were only ever moved by your own inner world,

and I even began to see it as my enemy.

 Today, I know that your inner world is wise, rich, kind, and discerning.

 That it is where you live in harmony with your personal truth,  where you create and live your fantasies.

From this place, you emerge. And to it, you escape.

Before I understood,

I thought you were shy, distracted, indifferent, introverted ...

 Today I know that you are a special being,

 that you preserve your sanity by living in two different worlds :  one that I know and share,

and another - your own - which I can scarcely imagine, but which I respect more each day.


Because, ultimately, this is the place where you protected yourself from

my abundant maternal fear and instinct.  

 And while I floundered, not knowing where to turn, that world was there   protecting you

from people who, though they loved you, caused you deep discomfort.

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