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(Parenthetical Asides) by Jacqueline Doyle

You love parentheses and asides. (It’s a matter of depth perception, figure and ground, the interplay of what jumps out and what hangs back. Or perhaps it’s a matter of boundaries, what’s central and what’s peripheral. Or just the way the text opens up given opportunities to make infinite asides. You could make asides to your asides. Or footnote them. Often you skim the endnotes in a new book before you look at the text.) You imagine that readers who dislike epigraphs and parenthetical asides and endnotes prefer clear boundaries around their texts. Among the many epigraphs in Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir In the Dream House, you admire this one particularly from the artist Louise Bourgeois: “You pile up associations the way you pile up bricks. Memory itself is a form of architecture.” You envision your two psychotic breaks as earthquakes precipitating the collapse of the carefully constructed architecture of your psyche. What remains after rebuilding: A pile of bricks left over after construction of the new edifice. A heap of colorful fragments. (Kaleidoscopic recombinations of memories, images, quotations, parenthetical asides, notes.) A flood of ideas and associations. A profusion of metaphors and similes. An excess overflowing the boundaries. You’ve always thought of bipolar mood disorder as a kind of excess as well. People become depressed. Bipolars become too depressed. People become elated. Bipolars become too elated. We exceed the boundaries of the normal. You keep returning to your dysfunctional family and the frightening conformity of the suburbs. (And what your mother said to your Aunt Maddy when she was diagnosed as bipolar: “I’m the only normal one in the family.” As if that was something to be desired.) But perhaps being bipolar in suburbia is no different than being bipolar anywhere. Keep your crazy relatives hidden away from the world. Keep your own craziness hidden away. In the cellar where mushrooms sprout in dark corners from the damp, in the attic piled high with dust-furred boxes no one opens, in the extra closet crammed with clothes you never wear. (The impulse buys, the dresses in wild patterns, leggings in neon colors, the faux leopard jacket that was on sale.) What narratives flourish in parentheses and gaps, an entire wardrobe of stories without clear beginnings, middles, ends. You admire yourself in the mirror. Do you dare to leave the house dressed this way?

Hear Jacqueline Doyle read her story

Jacqueline Doyle is the author of the flash chapbook The Missing Girl (Black Lawrence Press). Hybrid essays and flash from her WIP The Lunatics’ Ball have appeared in EPOCH, Passages North, The Collagist, matchbook, Permafrost, and F(r)iction. Find her online at and on X @doylejacq.

Statue Forest by Tara Campbell | Elizabet by Jonathan Cardew | Love Taker by Michael Czyzniejewski | (Parenthetical Asides) by Jacqueline Doyle | Lace in Your Hands by Lydia Gwyn | I Wouldn’t Know It & He Wouldn’t Know It by Kara Vernor | Clumped Dough by Lucy Zhang