I love Tom Bissell.
Bissell is like the mysterious older brother of your best friend — the one who graduated with a liberal arts degree and then joined the Peace Corps. He came back with giardia and uncut hair and a tan that was half sun and half dirt, carrying a thick, worn, dusty journal full of (articulate, beautiful, introspective) insights based on late nights listening to the tales of old men’s lives and conversations about everything from lemons to lynchings with street vendors and taxi drivers and other people whose stories never get told.
Three years and travel to a handful of new countries have taught me that these mysterious older brothers come back with a lot more than intestinal parasites and messy hair, including, apparently, vicious coke habits and Grand Theft Auto addictions:
Soon I was sleeping in my clothes. Soon my hair was stiff and fragrantly unclean. Soon I was doing lines before my Estonian class, staying up for days, curating prodigious nose bleeds and spontaneously vomiting from exhaustion. Soon my pillowcases bore rusty coins of nasal drippage. Soon the only thing I could smell was something like the inside of an empty bottle of prescription medicine. Soon my biweekly phone call to my cocaine dealer was a weekly phone call. Soon I was walking into the night, handing hundreds of dollars in cash to a Russian man whose name I did not even know, waiting in alleys for him to come back – which he always did, though I never fully expected him to – and retreating home, to my Xbox, to GTA IV, to the electrifying solitude of my mind at play in an anarchic digital world.
So glamorous! So exciting!