So I can’t say I was surprised when I got pulled over yesterday for doing forty-seven miles an hour in a thirty-five-mile-an-hour zone. The policeman let me off with a warning, which was more mercy than I deserved. What do I think I’m doing, rushing through these precious, unrepeatable days?
Poe Ballantine On Writing, Madness, And His Journey From Vagabond To Family Man
My point is that good writers are after the truth. We’re trying to draw the blood from real life and use it to make the words come alive, and that kind of alchemical process can be, you know, hazardous. But if you don’t get into trouble, if you don’t gamble, if you don’t present a sticky situation, if you’re not facing a monster, then you’re simply not going to be interesting, from a commercial or an artistic point of view. If you want to make a difference and stand out, you’re obliged to sound the depths.
It’s February in New York City, and I’m the only one in the family still speaking to my grandmother. That’s not quite true; my father, her son-in-law, will talk to her, too. But he can’t take off from work today, so it’s up to me to get her across town to an urgent hematologist’s appointment.
I have three gifts: I can make an excellent cream soup, I’m a good speller, and most people who don’t think I’m a smart-ass or from Venus think I’m funny. Even my computer programmer ex-brother-in-law, who never laughs and is probably to some extent autistic, admits that I have a “sophisticated sense of humor.”
Irish Mike and I had planned my trip — the “Grand Tour,” we liked to call it — on the floor of a job site. While all the other painters and construction workers were busy with lunch and football arguments, we’d draw a map of Europe in the dust with our fingertips and make wavy lines across it for my route.
You’re not really exhausted until the hallucinations start: Droplets of mercury floated in my peripheral vision. A lemon levitated out of the fruit bowl. A streetlight at the corner of State and Garfield laid its long body down on the sidewalk. The cat looked up at me from the corner of my desk, twitched his muzzle, and said, “Libby, Libby, Libby.”
In rugby I find a clan of women who braid their hair tight to their scalps, who have tattoos and girlfriends and are fiercely loyal. They are my comrades on the field. They risk injury for me, and I do the same for them. Since women’s rugby is an underfunded club sport, we fight for field space, wake up early, play on the rocky public fields of Oakland.
The pills are about the size of a bing-cherry pit in diameter and are a faint green color, like the eggs of some songbirds. On one side they have a deeply inscribed SZ, on the other, the number 789. They are Ritalin, the ten-milligram kind. Imogene knows them by sight because occasionally patients admitted to the psychiatric ward where she works as a nurse have containers of assorted pills, and she has learned to spot the ones that will get her high.