I throw myself in front of her, and she shoves me against the wall. Her strength is startling: 5'4", maybe a hundred pounds, enormous gusts of energy whistling through her like a storm. Wrestling me to the floor, she rips off my glasses, claws my face till it bleeds. Pat lets out a shriek and runs over to help me. Overwhelmed by the two of us, the stretched wire of her body slackens. I break our clinch, still guarding the door, and she scuttles out from under us, retreating to the opposite side of the apartment.

She sits on the floor under a window, and we glare at each other, panting, like animals across a cage.

Recovering her composure, Pat slides down beside her. Who's waiting for you, Sally? What do you want to tell them?

That's all the coaxing she requires. She erupts into language again, a pressured string of words delivered with a false air of calmness this time, as if Pat has put a gun to her head and ordered her to sound "normal." She has had a vision. It came to her a few days ago, in the Bleecker Street playground, while she was watching two little girls play on the wooden footbridge near the slide. In a surge of insight, she saw their genius, their limitless native little-girl genius, and simultaneously realized that we all are geniuses, that the very idea the word stands for has been distorted. Genius is not the fluke they want us to believe it is, no, it's as basic to who we are as our sense of love, of God. Genius is childhood. The Creator gives it to us with life, and society drums it out of us before we have the chance to follow the impulses of our naturally creative souls. Einstein, Newton, Mozart, Shakespeare—not one of them is abnormal. They simply found a way to hold on to the gift every one of us is given, like a door prize, at birth.

Sally related her vision to the little girls in the playground. Then she walked out onto Bleecker Street and discovered her life was changed. The flowers in front of the Korean deli in their green plastic vases, the magazine covers in the news shop window, the buildings, cars—all took on a sharpness beyond anything she had imagined. The sharpness, she said, "of present time." A wavelet of energy swelled through the center of her being. She could see the hidden life in things, their detailed brilliance, the funneled genius that went into making them what they are. Sharpest of all was the misery on the faces of the people she passed. She tried to explain her vision to them, but they just kept rushing by.

Pat and I are dumbstruck, less by what she is saying than how she is saying it. No sooner does one thought come galloping out of her mouth than another overtakes it. Our pulses racing, we strain to absorb the sheer volume of energy pouring from her tiny body. The longer she speaks, the more incoherent she becomes, and the more incoherent she becomes, the more urgent is her need to make us understand her! I feel helpless watching her. And yet I am galvanized by her sheer aliveness.

Trying to make sense of her outburst, I grasp on to what I am certain is the cause of Sally's exaggerated self-regard: drugs. Some havoc-wreaking speedball has invaded her bloodstream, prompting a violent—and, most important, temporary—seizure. "If we can just get her to calm down, all this will pass, I'm sure of it. She'll be back to her old self again."

"We may have to ask ourselves who Sally's 'old self' really is," says Pat.

The blank incredulity of her voice stuns me. "What do you mean?"

"You're not going to like hearing this, but I don't think Sally is stoned. Even if she did take something, it would have to have been at least 10 hours ago. Shouldn't the effects be wearing off?"
Excerpted from Hurry Down Sunshine, by Michael Greenberg. Copyright © 2008 Michael Greenberg. Published by Other Press LLC.


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