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Homemade Insanity

Homemade Insanity

– Nonfiction by Matthew Wong –

Featured in issue 16 of Dreamers Magazine and Honorable Mention in the 2023 Dreamers Flash Fiction and Non-Fiction Contest!

Homemade Insanity

This—was my mother’s recipe, passed onto me from her frigid, tender hands. I remember the first time I experienced it: a mellow, subtle, and quiet taste. It was as if the air itself stopped moving, and I was vulnerable, like a child left alone to fend for themself. The experience was textureless, but left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. A whole two weeks’ time until the lingering pungency passed.

The second time was different. One bite of you, and I was overcome by a sickening sweetness. It was as if the world had ignited into a flurry of colour, waiting to burst apart. You were the most exquisite delicacy I had ever tasted, overwhelming my senses until I was a frenzied mess. Indeed, nothing could ever compare to that day I experienced you for the second time.

My mother’s recipe was a peculiar one. It always seemed as if I was at the whims of the gods each time I tasted it. Sometimes it would taste dry and frozen, other times, like fireworks in my mouth. After every meal, it would leave a strong aftertaste that no amount of water seemed to wash away. It was like the emotions had dissolved on my tongue and been absorbed into my very soul. Each episode was stronger than the last, the dish always seemed to be more and more intense, and each one left a longer aftertaste for me to live with.

The sixth time was also different. After tasting you, I was out of control, babbling incoherently, recklessly running through town. It was truly—insanity. I spent all those sleepless nights in that empty white room, frightened by how clinical it all seemed. Three weeks I slept in that sterile prison, and I came out of it different. In the seventeen years I had worked to perfect my mother’s gift to me, I had only made one change to its recipe—Lithium Carbonate, 300mg, take once daily at night

I tasted you with your new medical seasoning. A pinch of white powder, that you could mistake for spices. A simple change to this intergenerational recipe indeed. Suddenly, you made me nauseous, I could not stand to be around you. The sickening metallic taste was all that I could feel. Like pennies running down my throat, proving me a crazy man. But, despite this all, I stomached you for my sake. I lived my days like a dead man walking, just so that I may disguise myself as a sane person, for society has few larger stigmas than that of a “nut-job.” At birth, I was given a lifelong sentence, by a rigged judge, in a system that would commit me before I would commit a crime. So I salted my dish with tears rather than spices, I lived with that small plastic capsule, wondering how much of me was merely a pill. Mother always said not to stray from the recipe. That one new ingredient would destroy a bloodline’s history. I still wonder to myself which is worse—the symptoms, or the cure. I had defiled my family’s pride and joy. I had defiled our recipe. Cooking is an art like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. Perfecting the texture, the taste, the smell. Even within my hospital cell. I do it so it feels real—like Lady Lazarus herself. For my cooking, table salt could not be replaced by lithium salts, and so, I stopped adding it to the pot, and never looked back.

My sweet, forbidden, secret recipe, I have spent years with you. Doctors will call you bipolar disorder, but to me, you are life itself. You are what it is to fly and soar through the clouds, to have your wings burn from the heat of the sun. As that manic fire crackles and explodes, I am left gasping for air as the smoke chars my lungs. Oh, my own homemade insanity, I still remember all those days on the mountain. All that climbing and falling, the ups and downs. I remember how thin the air would become near the top, and how the mountain seemed to block out the sun at the base. I had missed you, my old recipe. I missed you and the pain.

This passion is no artificial creation—it’s real. I am a gourmet at heart and would settle for no mere artificial insanity. Ingredients haphazardly taken without the thoughtfulness of a chef, mushrooms and salad grass could never compare to my craft. No other dish could ever match the exuberant dualities of my family recipe. I am irreplicable, for I am the chef of my own destiny. Oh, my own homemade insanity, I remember you. So just as my mother did before me, and her mother before that, I will cook my own homemade insanity; raw and bitter, but all that I know how to stomach.

About the Author – Matthew Wong

As a university freshman from Vancouver, Canada, Matthew has adored writing ever since he was a child. Nowadays, he can be found composing poems under shaded trees and writing articles for his school newspaper. Matthew loves exploring themes of nature, family, and personal hardship in his writing. Drawing from personal experience, Matthew adores weaving references and metaphors into his sentences for readers to decipher. Beyond writing, some of his interests include fencing, reading, evening strolls, and long philosophical conversations that lead to nothing at all.

Meanwhile, at Dreamers…