Four crazy people

Waiting at a bus stop, I saw a woman coming from two blocks away, and knew something was wrong long before she came into focus. She was a middle-aged, plump but not enormous black woman, her face painted white like kabuki theater, and she wore a huge platinum blonde wig that rose two feet above her head.

She's a drag queen, was my first thought, but she walked right past me, and from a lifetime of admiring boobies I'll attest that hers were real. Mental illness of some sort seemed the only explanation for her look.

She seemed happy, though, even whistling as she walked by. Happier than me, so who's crazy, eh? 

She waited for the walk sign, crossed the street and stepped into a bodega. My bus came and I rode away, thinking about the kabuki black woman under a blonde wig.

♦ ♦ ♦

There must be millions of mentally ill people in our society. It's the American way. There's no-one in the entire nation who simply helps people, without paperwork and pre-screening and two pieces of ID, billing or means-checking, or all the other rules and requirements that keep help out of reach for the people who most need it.

And that's just health care. When it's mental health care, help is even more against the rules.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I see America's crazies up close and personal, because lots of them ride the bus with me, and they all seem to hang out at the Burien Transit Center.

Couple of days ago, a very old, weak-looking man was digging through a trash can at the bus depot, but being neat about it. He wasn't piling trash out of the can onto the sidewalk, like bums sometimes do, so's they can dig deeper into the can. 

Two normals were watching but pretending not to, and a third was shaking his head. The headshaker giggled, and I wanted to throttle him, but I'm the sane one here. Or so I tell myself.. 

What I wanted to tell him was, Dude, we both know you have worse things in your life and in your head than anything an old bum might find in the trash.

I said nothing, though, and what the bum found was a third of a sandwich in a Burger King wrapper. He took a bite and then another, and the man who'd giggled let out a moan of disgust.

Angry but silent, I looked at that disgusted man, and he disgusted me, but — Say nothing, Doug. One day there'll be a fist fight and I'll likely lose a few more teeth, but not today.

The man felt my eyeballs on him, and looked at me, but I'd already looked elsewhere.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Near me at the back of the bus, a young white man in rags with tats on his very bald skull was batting at the air. He reminded me of my cat trying to catch a fly, but there wasn't anything there.

The driver was watching in the rear-view mirror, unaware that he'd left the public address switched on, so I heard him mutter, "Ah, Jesus, what's with this one?"

Which is always the question, really. Is this one dangerous, or just another damaged soul wandering the world?

The bum loudly clapped his hands in front of him, and he'd finally caught or killed whatever he'd imagined he'd been swiping at. "You got it," I said, but he said nothing, probably hadn't even heard me.

♦ ♦ ♦

On another ride, a man in a suit got onto the bus, and sat in a sideways seat with his briefcase in his lap. He was wearing earbuds to silence everyone around him, and flipping through the internet on his cell so he wouldn't have to see any of us.

I spent a block or two studying that man from two rows behind, as he used his bouncy thumbs to text someone, and occasionally tilted his head to whatever music he heard. Mellow jazz, probably. It would go well with his nice suit, great hair, expensive briefcase.

I'd never seen that man before, have no idea who he was, but it felt like I knew him, and I really, really hated him. The world would be a sweeter place if someone cordially shoved an icepick between that man's temples, I thought to myself, and smiled.

It's good to remember what sometimes I forget, that I'm as mentally malfunctional as any black woman in whiteface, any young bum with a tattooed skull, or any old bum looking for lunch in the trash.



  1. That's classic you, but also somewhat darker than expected. Just checking - you doing OK Doug?


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