Anna Deavere Smith has three questions she asks to learn about people in order to be them and tell their stories.

Question One: Have you ever been close to death?

Have you ever been close to death?  Yes. There are two times. When I was a toddler my father stuffed my head in the toilet after he took a shit, then he raped me, and smothered me with a pillow because I fought him. He put the pillow over my head, and at some point I could no longer breathe. When I stopped struggling and let go of the terror of not being able to breathe, I felt at peace. Then there were some people who said they were very happy to see me. I was happy to see them too. I felt so much joy, more joy that I had ever felt. They were all so familiar. As soon as I was about to see who they were he pulled the pillow off my head. Probably because I had stopped moving. He wanted to see if he had killed me. I got the feeling that he had mixed feelings about it. He wanted to kill, but he wasn’t sure how he could explain to the police. I was disappointed. I wanted to be back with those good people who liked and loved me.

The other time is last year. I told my therapist and Owen I was dying. I had been depressed for so long (15 years) and exhausted, it felt like my heart would stop. They didn’t believe it until I started screaming it and then they listened. Maybe I wasn’t dying. I really don’t know but it felt like it.