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 The Crazy Man

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PostSubject: The Crazy Man   Tue Aug 30, 2011 1:22 pm

I nodded at the crazy man today. He’s there every day as I pass by, talking. One time I rode to the corner and stopped to watch for a few minutes. He stands under the awning of an out-of-business thrift store and addresses anyone who passes. He doesn’t yell, as some of them do, he just talks. It’s almost more interesting to watch the faces of the people he is trying to connect with. They studiously ignore him, as if acknowledging him might make them like him. He never begs for change, he dresses warmly when it’s cold out, and he looks relatively clean. He may have a home to go to, and a family that loves him. Or he may not.

What is it about him that makes everyone ignore him? Is it what he says? Possibly, but I don’t think so. He doesn’t say anything offensive, rude, or too far out there. He’s not like those scary people who are angry at the world and so far gone that they don’t realize that nice folks don’t shout at strangers. He’s also not one of those lovable crazies that sometimes work themselves into movies, like the Rollerblade Turban Guitar Guy on Venice Beach, or the Tin-Foil-Antenna-head guy on Hollywood Boulevard. He just has a talent, a talent for making people uncomfortable, so he uses it. He talks as if he is in mid-conversation with whoever passes. He doesn’t talk to himself; he waits until he sees someone approaching, then starts up in the middle of a conversation. When the person is out of view, he turns back and looks for someone else. If no one is there, he waits until the next person comes by before continuing the conversation. The time I watched and listened, it sounded like he was talking about some mundane domestic chore.

Like I said, no one even reacts to him. He pretends that they are his companions, and they pretend that he isn’t there. Usually, I do the same thing, but I think about him long after I’ve passed. His defunct thrift store is on the way to where I work, so I pass him five days a week. On the rare occasions that he isn’t under the awning, I wonder why until something at the office demands my attention. Sometimes that can be hours. I worry that he’s sick, or hurt, and that no one will find him until its too late. Or, if I’m in a good mood, I think that he probably is one of those eccentric millionaires, and that he’s visiting his Tahitian Island retreat.

I guess I should explain something-it’s not like I’m some do-gooder that worries about my fellow man or something. Quite the opposite, in fact. Most people who have made my acquaintance would say that it doesn’t seem like I give a shit about anyone but myself, and I’d have to agree with them, for the most part. That’s why it’s so disturbing to me that this nobody, this fringe-living exhibition of the failure of American society has gotten to me.

If I had a therapist, they’d probably tell me that the street-talker is a metaphor for my own isolation, or some such bullshit. It’s not bullshit because they’re wrong; it’s bullshit because it doesn’t matter. I don’t need an overly sensitive and empathetic asshole to help me realize what I already know. I’ve chosen my isolation, and I don’t often feel like I’m missing anything by avoiding the baggage that human relationships bring. I guess this all sounds jaded, narrow minded. Well, it isn’t. I’ve had more experiences than the average person to base my disdain for the human race upon. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to degenerate into some sappy sob story about how in the sunlit days of my youth I had my heart broken irrevocably or something and that’s why I closed everyone out. I’ve always been closed.

As a baby I cried when people picked me up, not the opposite like most kids. I always wanted to be left alone. I was never teased by other kids at school, because I wasn’t around them long enough for them figure out what to tease me about. By college I had learned how to be invisible to most people, but every once in a while some drama-major type girl would follow me around for a while and try to make me her special project. She’d let me fuck her and I’d let her talk to me. It was never too long before the talking became more painful than the sex was pleasurable, so I’d end it harshly, and she’d leave crying, not because our relationship meant something to her, but because she had wasted so much time on a project that failed.

You’d think that someone with as bad an attitude about people as I have would go live where I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone at all, or become one of those scientists that lives in the African bush with apes or something. I couldn’t do that, because as much as I avoid intimacy, I love to watch people. I watch them wherever I am. I see them judging each other, ridiculing each other, and sometimes abusing each other. They are much more entertaining than those apes in the bush, because they have so many more ways to hurt each other.

I live in the city, where even though people are crushed together in an unnatural way, they don’t really interact, and if they do, it’s usually unpleasant. I ride a bike to work, because I couldn’t stomach sitting with 20 or 30 others on a bus or subway, and the concept of a carpool is more revolting to me than cannibalism. At least cannibals gain physical nourishment and emotional superiority from eating the flesh of their enemies. Ride-sharers only get inane stories about their co-worker’s kids, or worse, bawdy tales of weekend adventures that may or may not be true. I’d rather pedal.

The time I feel most positively connected to the world is when I’m riding. I ride through smells that are always changing as I pass through different areas. The weather, the time of day, and the amount of traffic surrounding me alters my perception of everything I see, so it’s new every time. In a city this size, you almost never see the same people twice-except for the street people. The business suits and cabs are always different, but the people in them are so much the same with nothing to distinguish them from one another.

I work with those people, the ones you can barely tell apart. I’m even one of them, though I don’t usually think of myself that way. We all wear suits, and we change them every day, but we still look the same. We all work in offices that look basically the same. Some of the more desperate ones try to personalize their areas with family photos or inspirational and/or irreverent sayings, but even these are framed in the same mass produced frames or cut from the same comics pages.

I think that’s what draws me to the crazy man. He is not the same. He’s even different from the other crazy people I’ve seen. I respect him for that. He doesn’t try to be different, he doesn’t have a point, an agenda, an ambition. He just is. It is reassuring to see him trying so hard to connect with those clones who pass him, but being eternally unable to because of his individuality. If he looked like them, or acted like them, they’d acknowledge him, but because he doesn’t, they don’t know how to reconcile his existence with their ideas of what is normal. So they pretend that he isn’t there. But today, I didn’t.

I nodded at him when he saw me and started speaking. I stopped my bike and pulled it up on the curb to listen. He looked right at me and told me that I never should have let her get away, whoever she was. He asked me why I had been so stupid and insensitive, and I didn’t know what to say, so I just shrugged. He continued, telling me that it isn’t too late, that if I try I could win her back, and what did I think of that? I shrugged again and he got angry. He asked me how did I think I was ever going to be happy if I didn’t learn to appreciate what I had before it was gone? People were passing and looking at us uncomfortably. It confused them to see a suit-wearing business type talking to this undesirable street dweller. And it was undoubtedly obvious that the undesirable one had the upper hand in the conversation. I was being chastised, and they could tell.

I never answered him, and soon just rode off. There was a woman walking her dog approaching when I left, so he simply continued berating her for missing opportunities. The dog barked at him, but she just walked on as if no one was there.

Now I am at work, and I can hear the people around me telling each other things, and politely pretending to listen to the same stories they have heard every day of their working lives. Usually this monotonous chatter raises thoughts of a sociopathic outburst of violence in my mind, but today I just thought of the crazy man. Maybe I’ll stop and chat with him again tomorrow.


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