BET­TER LATE

Geist - - Endnotes - —Patty Os­borne

A mid­dle-aged man moves to a new city to restart his life, gets to know an old man named Oliver, and after only a few months re­al­izes that he has fallen in love with both the new city and the old man. Not a re­mark­able story, un­less that city is New York and Oliver is the neu­rol­o­gist and writer (played by Robin Wil­liams in the movie Awak­en­ings), Oliver Sacks. Each man is sur­prised by the other: Sacks has never been in a re­la­tion­ship be­fore and has not come out as a gay man, and Hayes is not look­ing for love, let alone with a seventy-seven-year-old. Both Hayes and Sacks are in­som­ni­acs; Sacks’s so­lu­tion is Xanax, but Hayes prefers to wan­der around New York at night tak­ing pho­tos and talk­ing to strangers. Hayes writes about his ram­blings and his life with Sacks in In­som­niac City: New York, Oliver, and Me (Blooms­bury) and in­cludes some of his pho­tos.

My favourite sec­tions of the book are short jot­tings from Hayes’s jour­nal that paint an in­ti­mate pic­ture of a quirky, end­lessly cu­ri­ous Sacks who still looks at things with child­like won­der and who of­ten thinks about the el­e­ments in the pe­ri­odic ta­ble. Hayes moves into an apart­ment a few floors above Sacks and the two share a quiet do­mes­tic life of cook­ing, read­ing po­etry, look­ing things up in dic­tio­nar­ies, shar­ing bath­wa­ter (not at the same time) and drink­ing wine on the rooftop pa­tio of their build­ing. Even as he is dy­ing of can­cer, Sacks con­tin­ues to write, and near the end he tells Hayes: “I love writ­ing but it is re­ally think­ing I love—that rush of thoughts—new con­nec­tions in the brain be­ing made.” It was a plea­sure to read this sim­ple and beau­ti­ful love story, but later I re­al­ized that I had also been given a glimpse of what it would be like to be a man: to be able to walk around a city alone and at night, strike up con­ver­sa­tions with crack ad­dicts and other ran­dom dudes or ex­plore a dark ware­house/artist’s stu­dio full of junk—all with­out be­ing ha­rassed or feel­ing (and be­ing) un­safe.

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