(cont.) "I used to see them all the time when when I was a kid." "What? Yes, I meant to say 'them,' by which I mean more than one." "This was when we were living on the coast, which meant that I could go down to the beach by myself whenever I wanted. Which I did a lot, because I liked digging in the sand and running back and forth like the sandpipers as the waves rolled in. My parents didn't mind. They trusted me. I guess it was a different time, when we weren't always worried about getting kidnapped or murdered." "I was also an only child, so I was used to spending time by myself. That's just the way I was. Even at school, when I was surrounded by tons of other kids, I was by myself, really just kind of watching the world through this glass barrier." "It didn't make me the best student. I could read books and concentrate on doing homework, but when I was in class, my mind drifted and teachers hated that. I think all teachers probably have a bit of a performer in them, which is why they like to be in front of an audience, and why they hate it when kids like me weren't exactly 'entertained.'" "I could never be a teacher, either. I understand why the standard teacher-student relationship works for most people, but it always made me uncomfortable. All I could think about was being alone, preferably on the beach, where the only sounds were natural sounds. The wind, the ocean, the birds." "What's nice about growing up on the beach is that it sticks with you for the rest of our life, too. As an adult, I've spent my share of time locked in a room with nothing else but the walls and all I have to do is close my eyes and I'm back. It's a great source of comfort, but it's also a curse." "Sometimes I think that's how most of us are. We're solitary creatures living in metaphorical rooms, trying to remember something that was beautiful and magical, that feeling you only get a few times in your life when you have the sense that your body is kind of porous and the landscape is flowing through you." "Or maybe that's just my disposition, which is why I saw them when nobody else did." "The first time I remember well. It was a summer morning, but the fog was thick, which made the air cool down by the water. I couldn't see much, probably not more than ten feet in front of me." "I don't know if you've ever been in a fog like that, but your eyesight changes. It's like everything becomes shadows. At the same time, your hearing is magnified, so that it sound like your ear is only a few inches from the water." "I was walking along the water's edge, doing my best to keep my feet dry and probably not succeeding, when I heard these very quiet voices. They were quite like whispers, but they weren't quite like talking, either. I wasn't afraid -- I was too young to be afraid -- but I was curious." "And I said something like 'who's there?' and the voices stopped, which made me think that I had heard them before they were aware of me, which makes sense if you consider that I was alone. Maybe I surprised them." "By this point, the fog was starting to burn off, which meant that these shafts of light were slanting down through the haze. It was a strange feeling. I guess the closest thing I could compare it to would be standing in the middle of a carousel, but one that was rotating around you, if that makes sense, which it might not. Anyway, I stayed like this for a few minutes, until the the fog seemed to split apart, almost like a pair of curtains being pulled back, and through this opening I could see them, just as I knew that they could see me." "After that day, I saw many of them. How many? Maybe hundreds? I wasn't counting, and I wasn't sure if it was the same ones or different ones. Now I'd probably pay more attention, but I haven't seen them in years, so that's not really an option. One day, though, if I get out of here, I'm definitely going back to our old house, because I want to see it with my eyes again, and not just my mind, the way I've been doing all these years." Pictures from Fort Tryon Park taken April 30, 2016. Text excerpted from The #Gods Project (Section 2: Interviews with the Institutionalized).