Every town, city or village I've ever lived in has had its local crazy people. I know "crazy" is an insensitive term, but the people I'm calling "crazy" represent such a wide variety of mental disorders and charms, that it's easier just to use the blanket term. I'm talking about the local eccentrics, the raving lunatics and the harmless or dangerous folks who walk the streets talking to themselves or to God or to aliens.
Today, I passed a woman who was talking to herself, occasionally yelling at the sky or at cars going by. During the fireworks on the Fourth, a woman walked by and demanded to know why I was polluting the air with sulfur. Whenever I encounter these folks, for as long as I can remember, I've always thought to myself, "That's going to be me in ten years." Now, I've said this since I was a toddler, so really, I'm long overdue.
It never fails, whenever I see crazy people, I immediately begin to wonder how they got to this point in time. Were they always crazy? Are they suffering, untreated, from some mental disorder? Or did something happen? One day, did it just get to be too much for them? Did they just snap? This latter scenario intrigues me, and it's the reason I mutter, "That's going to be me in ten years." My mind starts to ponder what could push me over the edge someday. Will it be a huge, cataclysmic event, like in the movies? Or will it be some little thing. Some little thing that tips the scales and finally breaks whatever tenuous hold I still have on reality.
In my hometown in Oklahoma, we had a whole cast of characters who the townspeople alternately scolded and watched over. In college, there was a guy named Ludwig Plutonium, who always wore bright orange hunting gear and submitted full-page ads to the paper describing his latest discoveries in physics and time travel. In Los Angeles, any evening on Hollywood Boulevard reveals a wide array of the oddball or the forgotten. Here, too, I'm sure there are local characters who everyone knows by name and condition.
So why do I do it? Why do I look into the face of crazy and see a crystal ball? What could transform me from my safe life as a mild-mannered blogger to an unofficial, unsanctioned town crier?
I don't know. But undoubtedly, it'll be because of something you did.