As an observer in this world, it can start to feel like the action around you isn’t real, but rather that you’re watching an episode on a screen. The task at hand is to dare to understand what you are observing and appreciate the spectacle.
A scruffy black man parks himself near a low tree on the sidewalk and begins his bombasts. His voice booms and carries into the air, clearly and loudly up to the 9th floor where I live. Even with my windows shut I can make out his words. His cadence and vocabulary are similar to those of someone with Tourette’s, but without the pauses in between outbursts. His discourse is peppered with blasphemies and accusations, blaming others for his insanity.
For hours he bellows into the open night, unleashing his angry and endless stream of consciousness made up of broken thoughts and enraged bitterness. He seems to never tire or run out of breath. His ranting can go on for hours into the night, only to be resumed in the early morning with that same tenor of anger and despair. His vocal chords strain under his epic fury and resentment, sometimes reaching a fever pitch of absolute bile. He might live in one of the halfway houses in the area. He might be homeless.
One day I stepped onto a bus and he was already aboard yelling directly in the faces of several passengers. He stooped, pushing his face within inches theirs, screaming at top volume, “You’re why I’m crazy! Why do I have to be crazy!!?!” He walked down the aisle getting in each face, roaring his profound question. Some passengers seemed intimidated and were obviously uncomfortable, but a large number of them simply ignored the man. A few began to snicker. Suddenly he panicked as if the bus was careering straight into the gaping chasm of Hell. He screamed ten times in a row, “Driver, let me off this bus!!”
As he stepped off, the laughing passengers became even more vocal in how droll they found the situation. “He has PTSD, from the war. I knew him back then,” one passenger revealed. They lived through something atrocious together, and now years later only one of them can laugh about it.
On my street, he stands below my window and lets his constant pain be known. Sometimes when I catch a phrase or two, I laugh a little myself, but otherwise it is deeply disturbing. Today he screamed for hours, but stopped when a fire truck and ambulance sped up to the corner with their sirens blowing. Another McDonald’s casualty?
The EMTs got out and rushed to a person who had collapsed at the corner of McDonald’s and Halfway House Row. Yelling man seemed fascinated by the action as he stood back and watched silently with a sideways glance. General Schwarzkopf’s doppelganger stepped out of the paramedic truck and helped hoist the body onto the gurney. An EMT kicked some small hard object into the crosswalk, pointed at it and then to the yelling man, scolding him firmly. What object could possibly have made the EMT so irate, blaming the now-hushed street man? A bit of a crack pipe? An undersized dildo? The General and the other EMTs quickly pushed the gurney back into the truck and drove off. Yelling man began wandering to another destination to work up the heated froth necessary for his next tirade. The streets are now more or less quiet, if only for a moment.