Among the casualties of the fire was a music studio where Rison had worked to build a career as a hip-hop artist. By last month he had replaced it with a new studio in a building downtown. He would go there after practice and on days off and stay late in the night, oftentimes past dawn. "Music is where I find peace," he says. The beats drummed in his head, and the words followed. Through music he was telling his story, letting it go. He wanted to speak the truth, no matter what.
"I used to be the neighborhood hero," went one of his lines. "Now I'm zero."
A month after the fire, when camp opened for the new season, Rison worked harder than he ever had in his life, knowing that the game would be his way back up, anticipating the big contract he was certain to win as a free agent at the end of the year. He bought a piece of property and started planning to build a new house. Some days he hopped on his motorcycle and went wherever the road took him. "I would ride from one o'clock to one o'clock," he says. "I would think about everything. I wouldn't stop."
Too often, when Rison considered his place in the world, it was not without confusion. He couldn't help it. People didn't know him, they would never know him. They saw him and saw a house on fire. Or they saw him and saw him standing in line behind receivers with half his talent. Or they saw him and saw the bad. Why didn't they see what else was there? Where was the good when they looked?
The sun is gone. The night is cold and ripe with autumn. Rison lifts the can of beer to his lips and takes a final sip.
"I like to get out and breathe the air when it's fresh," he says. "Because—let me tell you something, man—when I'm dead and gone, nobody on this earth is going to give a damn about Andre Rison. All the stats and all I did,——. If somebody were to say to you, 'Name the greatest players in the NFL,' you'd leave one out. Well, I always felt that I would be the one left out. So really, man, really...I just don't think about it."