Some days the world seems to be full of freaks.
I wake up drink a cup of coffee, get ready for the day and things seem so normal and peaceful inside the comfort of my private living space.
Then I walk outside to run errands and everyone I come across either has a severe mental illness or some overt quirky personality. I encounter the homeless man standing in front of Walmart wearing a black leather jacket despite the fact that it is August and the hottest day of the year. The homeless man isn’t asking anyone for money; he’s just standing there staring people down with his beady eyes.
Since the confused man isn’t panhandling, I wonder if he is waiting for someone to come out of the store. Whose family member is he? Why didn’t his people advise him to dress appropriately for the weather?
Careening down the aisle I pass a heavily bearded man wearing a ripped stained white tee shirt and strong body odor. Smelly man also has a skin disease I observe as I look down at his legs. His cut-offs clash with the redness of his legs. Why are his legs the only part sunburned? The rest of his skin was apricot and normal but his legs were red and peeling like the skin of an onion.
In the meat section I always encounter a black woman yacking loudly into a cell phone while shifting through the cold packages of raw chicken.
It is inevitable that I hear:
“…and when Jason came walking in at two a.m. I asked him where was all night and you know what he said to me, girl?”
Over hearing her loud conversation, now I what to know what Jason’s excuse was.
“…he said he was hanging with friends.” She would finish and I would move on thanking God that I didn’t have to deal with a cheater like Jason.
Carting through the rest of the store, I realize that every other black woman in the store is wearing a headscarf. Some are silk and tied awkwardly in the front of the head making the woman look like a unicorn. The ambitious ones will warp the scraf around their heads like a head piece that goes to traditional African outfit. As I look around I begin to feel left out. Should I have come to the store with my nighttime head scarf on?
Most black women wear head scarfs to bed and I am no exception. Every night I put on a scarf so my hair doesn’t turn into an afro in the middle of the night. But it never occurs to me to just keep my scarf on when I run my errands. So naturally when I see my sisters running errands in their head scarf’s I assume that they’ve just rolled out of bed, even if it is four o’clock in the afternoon. Either that or they just got finished cleaning a white woman’s house and now they are stopping at the market to buy groceries for the white family whom they work for.
With a cart full of plastic bags of groceries I try to make my way to the parking lot but get stuck behind a woman with wildly awkward gait. She limbers from side to side looking as if she will fall over on her next step. Does she have a wooden leg under her beige leggings? I am behind her in the exit way with a cart full of groceries but she is walking out empty handed. Why doesn’t she have any purchases? Did she come in just to ambulate around in a retial environment? Perhaps she is just strengthening her legs under physical therapists orders. Okay…she probably just dropped a prescription to the pharmacy.
In the parking lot, it never fails. I always see an androgynous person loading groceries in the trunk of an SUV. There is frequently a person who is clearly a woman along with the ambiguous person and they tend to participating in an ambiguous conversation. The androgynous person usually has a low haircut, but not too low as to liken itself to a men’s haircut yet the style isn’t like a woman’s either. The person is wearing men’s tee-shirt and unisex khakis. The diamond earrings can’t confirm the sex because men and woman wear earrings these days.
I try to listen in on their conversation.
Androgynous person: “What do you think Paul will say?”
Woman: “I don’t know…screw Paul.”
Is the woman cheating on Paul? Are they on their way to tell Paul the truth about their relationship? Or is the androgynous person just a supportive friend helping her lady friend through a breakup? I look for signs of public displays of affection. No hand holding, no playful tapping or seductive staring. They just get in the car and leave and I’m left wondering if that was a lesbian relationship or a dude and his girlfriend talking about military recruiter named Paul.
Now off to the public library where I will be surrounded by colorful books in an inner sanctum of peace. But realistically, walking into a large public library is like walking into a booming men’s shelter. Every dysfunctional, homeless male schizophrenic has wandered into the public library and are mysteriously sulking around bookshelves and giving the enormous prestigious building an air of creepiness.
What is encouraging is the fact that you will see some of these scruffy men actually reading a book or taking advantage of the free internet services. Sometimes I wonder, which book the guy who has four plastic bags on the floor, wearing punctured sneakers you can see his toes through, a dirty white toboggan, and a stained and shredded Izod shirt, is reading. Where does his interest lie? Is he reading a sci-fi thriller? A romance? A book about homelessness?
The most maladjusted man always gets into the elevator with me. I’m usually holding a book I’ve picked from the lower level. The weird guy always stares at me the entire elevator ride. It seems like he is trying to get a glimpse of my reading selection and but his stare is still inappropriately long.
“Nice day out.” He’ll say. Except his speech is slurred and disorganized so it sounds like, “Ny day…(grunt).”
I smile politely at him hoping that he isn’t the violent kind of vagabond. He takes my friendly smile as an invitation to open up a conversation.
“Day took my coat…do ya know day took my coat?” At this point I’m squinting at him and wondering why it’s taking the elevator so long to get up to level two.
“Day know, right?” He says.
“Yeah.” I reply nervously still trying to smile politely. But now I’m wondering who “Day” is. A family member? Caseworker?
When the elevator beeps my new friend follows me out to the foyer on the second floor. Suddenly, my new friend decides that he is now at a football game and his team just scored a point. He screams “yeah” at the top of his lungs making every patron in the library look over toward us.
The librarian, who isn’t without quirks herself, wearing a XXL sweatshirt on her extra small frame and hair that is in a messy ponytail like she just got out of a rowdy sexual encounter, looks over at us and I can tell that she assumes that I am with the schizophrenic screaming man. I see her walk out from behind her desk and start walking toward me. Her mouth is fixed to inform me that I needed to keep my patient quiet so not to disturb the library patrons.
I move quickly away from the man and bolt towards the back by the cookbooks. I don’t really cook. I know a lot of women find cooking relaxing or they take pride in being able to feed their families gourmet dishes, but I am not one of those women. Although I will admit that I am proud of myself for keeping my daughters alive by routinely giving them the required doses of editable items. So I don’t really want to look at cookbooks but I feel trapped because the dowdy librarian and the crazy man are still standing in the common area confused.
I break down and look through a couple of cookbooks figuring that I would at least try to make something fried or baked or pouched this weekend. By the time I’m done choosing, the coast is clear and I make my way up to the third level so that I can look at some serious books about parapsychology and psychoanalytic theories.
On the third floor there is a big space littered with long work tables for tutoring and studying. I always see the most drastic social combinations at these tables. There is always a very pale dainty white woman tutoring an enormous dark black guy, a black woman tutoring an Asian kid, and a Rastafarian dude with dreads to his waist sitting across from a corporate looking white man. I can never tell who’s tutoring whom in that combo.
I trot past the United Nations feeling good that we all can come together in the name of education. Once I get back in the shelves holding literary novels, there is always…and I mean always, some older black woman schooling her daughter or niece in the aisles. I can always hear her voice from three aisles away.
“That’s how Shelia got raped. I keep tellin’ her to stop wearing those low cut tops. I don’t want to see you end up like her.”
The older woman will caution her young charge, but then almost in the same breath, she’ll start giving unsolicited sex advice. “…and then you roll it around your tongue a little bit…if you do that your man will go wild…”
I’m usually standing in the aisle holding a paperback with my mouth hanging open. By this time I am shocked and confused, so I know that poor little Keisha is perplexed about how she should approach sex and relationships.
I have my selections and finally check out and head to the parking garage. Things go smoothing in the concrete structure until a young couple who just pulled in get out of the car and start yelling at each other.
“Screw you….screw you.” The woman yells at her boyfriend. As they’re fighting they are making their way toward the library entrance. The boyfriend tries to lock the car doors with some device but ends up setting off the car alarm instead.
So the car alarm is blaring, the girlfriend is now screaming, “you’re so stupid” and pushing her boyfriend’s shoulder. I quickly get in my car before he hauls off and hits her. I certainly wouldn’t want to be subpoenaed as a witness. I’m about to start my engine when I realize that I forgot to validate my parking ticket.
Now I have to walk back inside right behind Ike and Tina.
it’s okay to have quirks
I let out a low sigh feeling glad that I’m not the only weirdo in town.