I miss what my brother’s voice used to sound like. Before the first break, he had music in his voice: variations in pitch and tempo, accents, melismata. Now, he speaks in a steady, clipped monotone, just loudly enough that he can hear himself over the other voices that are always there. I haven’t heard him laugh in four years.
Onomatopoeically, psychiatrists refer to this phenomenon as “affective flattening.” It impacts facial expression, eye contact, and body language as well as the speaking voice, and is one of the criteria used by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose schizophrenia. It is also, perversely, a side-effect of the medications that are commonly used to treat the disease.
My brother’s voice has haunted me since Friday. It is him and not-him; it is the voice of a mentally ill man who used to be my little brother.
It’s Monday. I’ll stop now.