A girl stopped me on my way to work to ask if I had a few dollars (for once, I'd have given her money, and for once, I didn't actually have any on me). She then proceeded to follow me and talk to me.
I guess what really struck me about this one particular transient, of all the mentally ill individuals I come across on a daily basis, was how "together" she was, and how "normal" she seemed. I knew something may have been wrong when I saw her running over the bridge in flip-flops, stopping occasionally. Running. Walking. Stopping. Running. Repeat.
The running wasn't so crazy when it dawned on me that she was chasing pieces of her collection. The bridge is very windy, and if you're collecting paper with no proper storage receptacle, it's bound to the mercy of the breeze. The running was quite crazy, however, when she admitted (with no prompting on my part) that she collected garbage. She said it with a smile.
I said, "surely there's a reason."
"Yeah, there's a reason."
"And what reason is that?"
She was stumped.
It's hard not to jump to the part of the story where she handed me a Bible, which was one of several tattered books she kept in one arm (with all other forms of trash in the opposite arm). She claimed she was going to a devotional on the lawn of the Presbyterian church.
"Are you a Christian, have you read the Bible?" she asked.
"I'm not a Christian, but I've read the Bible, and the Koran, and even the Book of Mormon, which I happen to have right here in my backpack."
I then went into "out-crazy" mode, which is a tool in the arsenal of the rational and sane (but just barely) in dealing with crazy people. You simply "out-crazy" them and they almost always leave you alone. I told her the story about how I obtained my copy of the Book of Mormon, about how I had a roommate who couldn't say no, and how they were in my house for three hours. I told her this story with zest and refined energy, because it's also a stand-up bit that I've included in my routine.
She didn't flinch. She handled it like a normal person. God damn it.
After following me into the store, looking around, leaving, coming back, leaving, popping her head in one more time, and leaving for the last time, my coworker noted that she "seemed harmless."
He also commented that he's always surprised whenever young and attractive homeless girls aren't being exploited into sexual slavery. I haven't ruled out the possibility that she's probably already experienced some degree of this, or will be exploited at some point in the future.
I may or may not see this person again, but she will always follow me around in some form or another. We give to charity and we think we're solving a problem. Whatever we give to our homeless, whether it's a cheap meal or the cheap promise of a fair and just afterlife, we're only treating the symptoms. This young woman is both a symptom and a symbol for how very little we, as the public, care about mental health.
But I can't keep talking about the mental health of others without looking a little more closely at my own. This post was originally going to be about how much I think Rick Scott deserves to be assassinated. With that in mind, does anyone know of a good therapist in North Florida?