A Story About A Crazy Man

I go shopping at the Farmers Market most Sunday mornings. My favorite is the one in Hollywood; it’s huge and full of vegetable lovers. A few months ago I was walking back to my car and heard:

THUD, THUD, THUD, THUD, THUD.

I was being chased. Well, sort of. This man is fast approaching and reaching out to me with his left arm. His fingernails are painted black and chipping away.

Now I have to back up to give you some context about myself. When I was a kid I mostly loved school. It was about learning, and I loved learning. But then at some point it was about being popular, and I wasn’t so good at that. Girls were mean. I was a mean girl once, too. But, to the point, I became really introverted around people I didn’t know well at a kinda young age. Maybe I thought people didn’t like my personality or something. I’m not sure. Either way, somewhere along the way I must’ve decided to hide it.

In order to hide myself I put on a tough shell. One time, my freshman year of college, I was walking past a bunch of dudes sitting on a stoop on Broad Street in Philly. They looked at me and one of them said, “Mmmmmmm. She looks like she mad at her boyfriend.” Inside I was cracking up. That’s the funniest thing I’d heard all week, but outside I still looked like I was mad at my boyfriend. And I probably was. I was mad a lot. I was critical of the world.

Through the years I cracked the shell off. I let people see me. I stopped being afraid. I’m sure there’s some residual dust lingering around. Old habits die hard. Another thing that happened while living in the city for eight years is that men would holla atcha. Anytime you walked down the street. And then a few homeless people stalked me and screamed at me when I didn’t give them money. Those are two stories for other days. The point here is that over the years I created a wall up around people who tried to approach me on the street.

So, here we are. THUD, THUD, THUD, THUD, THUD.

“I’m…sorry,” he says winded, “but I saw you from across the street and had to find out your name.” In my mind I roll my eyes, note the objectification, and think that he must be really outta shape because that one block has him wiped.

He looks like he’s in his late thirties, dark brown hair, light skin, and baggy clothes. Hmmm. It’s 95 degrees out and he’s wearing a heavy t-shirt with a long-sleeved sweatshirt underneath, denim, and chucks. I find myself starting to shut down, put him in a box, treat him like he doesn’t deserve to talk to me. I catch myself and choose to engage instead. I ask him if he’s hot. He laughs, says no, and asks me my name again.

We walk and talk. He is a bit erratic. His mind moves fast, probably faster than his lips, but those were going pretty quick too. I start to ask him questions about himself, and he reluctantly tells me that he is staying at a covenant house. He pulls the only dollar to his name out of his pocket and tells me he hates money, as-a matter of fact, it’s evil. He isn’t proud or ashamed about it. The night before had tried to talk a homeless woman out of doing drugs. He felt like he had her until a dealer approached; then she was gone.

He has a good heart. I can tell that. He is also suffering in some way. So, we get to my car and I tell him I have to leave and that it was nice to meet him. He shoves his hands deep into his pockets, hunches his shoulders, and shyly asks me on a date, eyes fluttering up and down like a 13 year old boy. He wants to buy me a coffee sometime, something I’m not sure how he’ll do with his $1. Coffee tends to start around $4.00 in Los Angeles. I tell him the truth: that I’m not emotionally available, that I had just gone through a difficult breakup, that I am trying to heal. I thank him.

He looks me in the eye. I see his face get red and his eyes well up. I start to walk away because I’m feeling kinda strange, kinda confused. I don’t really know how to deal with this sudden emotion from this stranger. I can’t process his behavior so quickly. As I get into my car he puts his fist to his chest, beats it lightly, and with a quavering voice says, “I truly wish you nothing but joy in your life.”

I drive away feeling moved by this person. I’m moved by his capacity for feeling, for his bravery in approaching a stranger, for brazenly asking me on a date without a home or money, for showing me compassion, and for expressing his true wishes for another human being.

Or maybe he was just crazy. If so, I’ll take that kind of crazy over the fearful, image driven people I walk by every day. Myself included.