I assumed that in New York City, the sidewalks are in a perpetual state of "walk" when in actuality, we spent a lot of time staring at the red hand symbol while taxis whizzed by. On one street corner there was a large homeless woman with a carriage, talking to herself and to us. She said, "Want to see my bunny rabbit?" And she pulled out an M&M container with Bugs Bunny on it. She kept talking to us, I suppose, but I was in another conversation and in my intuitiveness easily tuned her out. When the crosswalk blinked we started moving, and she stood up and started crying. I saw her pants were too small, gaping in the front where they were unbuttoned. As we walked away she yelled at us, "Mommy, help me! Help me zip up my pants, please!" She was so loud and sounded so piteous . . . I swallowed and kept walking.
Mentally ill people make me nervous. They are the epitome of that which I don't understand, and that which I fear the most. The disease of the mind is a terrifying thing. We are so frail, and I see so clearly how weak the human mind is. And walking away, I was so ashamed that I was afraid of her and her mental illness, and horrible guilt mingled with my confused compassion. What could she have wanted in her simplicity? Security, comfort, attention, love. And not only was I afraid of her but I walked away, head down, biting my lip. And remembering. Talking to Christopher on Market Street, nodding at the hot dog vendor in the T station. You're supposed to walk away. That's what they tell you to do, that's what the proper thing to do is. We are not God. We cannot meet every need, we cannot fill every void. But still, walking away feels awful every time. And every time I wonder, is this right?
Oh, Lord, have mercy on all that is broken.