These essays are that. I don’t know what you might use them for, but I can say that they are hard to shake off. They linger, they return, they dazzle, and they rile. You should read them:
I’ve had guns pulled on me by four people under Central Mississippi skies — once by a white undercover cop, once by a young brother trying to rob me for the leftovers of a weak work-study check, once by my mother and twice by myself. Not sure how or if I’ve helped many folks say yes to life but I’ve definitely aided in few folks dying slowly in America, all without the aid of a gun.
On my first morning on the ward, I was awoken from a broken sleep of noisy, hurtling dreams by a rhythmic slosh. The curtain rail around my bed enclosed the ward’s communal sink, and stood in front of it was a man who could only be described as sparkly. He was wearing a sequined pink tube top, wrap-around sunglasses and was in his fifties. He was manually washing a pair of ragged old Y fronts in some soapy water. “Ah, the new man. You don’t mind if I do this?” His voice was oddly metallic and ran a little too slow. I thought of a musical toy with knackered batteries. Not that I knew it then, but I’d soon come to recognise that voice in its many variations. It was the voice of anti-psychotic medication, drugs that seem to inhabit a person’s entire being, altering how they talk and how they move (the movement is sometimes referred to as the ‘Risperidol shuffle’). How disturbing it must be for those people’s loved ones to see them so altered, to see their essences flattened in order to manage that vast and still unknown illness we call schizophrenia.
Every once in a while, though, an athlete goes down and it’s … different. There’s no good way to describe this, but if you’ve watched sports long enough, chances are you’ve seen it once or twice and never want to see it again. A player goes down, and almost immediately there’s this miserable, crawly sense that something is different; something is wrong. It’s a sensation, a sort of tingle that spreads from the other players to the fans in the stadium to the people watching at home. Oh no. You can tell when this has happened because within about 10 seconds, no one at the game remembers which team they’re cheering for. Fans on both sides look on with their hands clasped in front of their faces. The top half of the player disappears under a dome of medics. You stare at the player’s foot and will it to move. Did it just twitch? Please get up, please get up, no one is supposed to die playing sports, please get up …