Essay — From the September 2013 issue

The Devil’s Bait

Symptoms, signs, and the riddle of Morgellons

( 8 of 12 )

When I leave the church, I find sunlight waiting outside our windowless rooms. The world has been patient. Springtime in Austin is grackles in the trees; a nearly invisible fluttering of bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge and a waft of guano in blue-washed twilight. Austin is beautiful women everywhere, in scarves and boots, and wind-blown oak leaves skittering across patios where I eat oysters on ice. People with narrative tattoos smoke in the heat. I find a grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary with an empty beer bottle and a bag of Cheez-Its buried in the gravel.

I walk among the young and healthy and I am more or less one of them. I am trying not to itch. I am trying not to take my skin for granted. But I can’t quiet the voices of those who no longer feel they belong anywhere. I spend a day in their kingdom and then leave when I please. It feels like a betrayal to come up for air.

is the author of a novel, The Gin Closet (Free Press), and of The Empathy Exams: Essays, to be published next April by Graywolf.

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