“I just had an astounding alteration of perception!” he once blurted to his partner, Bill Hayes, shortly after they’d gotten stoned. “I opened my eyes, and in place of my body all I could see was my feet — my comically large, flat human feet.”
Compared with Sacks’s experiences as a young neurology resident, when he indulged in far more potent substances (he once got into a lively discussion with a spider about Bertrand Russell and Frege’s Theorem), this little episode may seem tame. But it’s exciting to think that the doctor’s brainstem, even in his 80s, was still throwing off sparks.
Sacks made it his life’s work to convey what it was like to inhabit exceptional, radically different kinds of minds, whether it was that of a surgeon with Tourette’s syndrome (one of the case studies in “An Anthropologist on Mars”) or that of the music teacher who was the title case study in “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” Yet it wasn’t until the publication of his 2015 autobiography, “On the Move,” that Sacks wrote freely about himself. Only then did he reveal that he’d fallen in love with Hayes, a writer 30 years his junior, after three and a half decades of celibacy.
I knew Sacks was gay, although I don't think Sacks himself ever said so until his autobiography. But this is the first time I heard he had ever had a partner. THIRTY FIVE YEARS of celibacy. Wow and I thought I had it rough! I guess there's a lesson in there for us all.
Here is Sacks talking about his drug use history.