Today, we set aside election reporting (which we’ll return to soon) in order to gin up some reading for your Thursday anxieties: dubious conviction and cultural claustrophobia, not to mention suicide and delusion. But there are surprises – and hope – tucked in here: the rich life of the first child diagnosed with autism (now 77), the friendship that leads one friend off a bridge into the water to save another, and the coda to the story of a man who spent 18 years in jail despite a case that crumbled years ago.
After nearly half an hour, they managed to get Rodley back to the car door. But as they attempted to guide him into the Acura, he suddenly pushed Vino aside and bounded toward the railing, hurling himself over it and into the darkness of the Charles River below. Put yourself in this horror for a minute. Despite your best efforts, your closest friend has just jumped off a bridge, right before your eyes. What do you do? Call 911? Scream into the night for help? Collapse in a heap of despair?
Here’s what Vino did. In his waterlogged green sneakers, and without a moment’s pause, he bounded toward that railing, hurling himself over it and into the darkness of the Charles River below.
If you were desperate and hopeless enough to log on to a suicide chat room in recent years, there was a good chance a mysterious woman named Li Dao would find you, befriend you, and gently urge you to take your own life. And, she’d promise, she would join you in that final journey. But then the bodies started adding up, and the promises didn’t. Turned out, Li Dao was something even more sinister than anyone thought.
Since August 23, 1992, Anthony Graves has been behind bars for the gruesome murder of a family in Somerville. There was no clear motive, no physical evidence connecting him to the crime, and the only witness against him recanted, declaring again and again before his death, in 2000, that Graves didn’t do it. If he didn’t, the truth will come out. Won’t it?
“Autism’s First Child” by Jon Donvan and Caren Zucker in The Atlantic.
As new cases of autism have exploded in recent years—some form of the condition affects about one in 110 children today—efforts have multiplied to understand and accommodate the condition in childhood. But children with autism will become adults with autism, some 500,000 of them in this decade alone. What then? Meet Donald Gray Triplett, 77, of Forest, Mississippi. He was the first person ever diagnosed with autism. And his long, happy, surprising life may hold some answers.
Three or four nights after surgery – when, in the words of the staff, I have ‘mobilised’ – I come out of the bathroom and spot a circus strongman squatting on my bed. He sees me too; from beneath his shaggy brow he rolls a liquid eye. Brown-skinned, naked except for the tattered hide of some endangered species, he is bouncing on his heels and smoking furiously without taking the cigarette from his lips: puff, bounce, puff, bounce. What rubbish, I think, actually shouting at myself, but silently. This is a no-smoking hospital.
The sensation of trying to connect psychically with the old Singapore is rather painful, as though Disneyland’s New Orleans Square had been erected on the site of the actual French Quarter, obliterating it in the process but leaving in its place a glassy simulacrum. The facades of the remaining Victorian shop-houses recall Covent Garden on some impossibly bright London day. I took several solitary, jet-lagged walks at dawn, when a city’s ghosts tend to be most visible, but there was very little to be seen of previous realities: Joss stick smouldering in an old brass holder on the white-painted column of a shop-house; a mirror positioned above the door of a supplier of electrical goods, set to snare and deflect the evil that travels in a straight line; a rusty trishaw, chained to a freshly painted iron railing. The physical past, here, has almost entirely vanished.