“Do I look crazy to you?”
That was the first question the stranger asked as I tapped my phone and breezed past her on 10th Street.
Check that. Actually, her first question was, “How are you doing today?”
Fine, I said, followed by a generic remark about the weather. After agreeing that it was pleasant, the woman asked my opinion on her mental state.
I think we all know better than to answer “yes” to this question, no matter who poses it. I adhered to that social decorum.
The woman, about late 40s with slightly discolored eyes, confessed to relapsing and smoking crack recently. She said she was struggling with her payee system to provide addiction resources. In fact, she said, she was on her way to a liquor store to buy a taste.
“I’m slipping,” she said. “I mean, I’m doing good because I’m alive, but I’m slipping.”
She might have been asking for money. I’m not sure. If she was, it was subtle. She said she’s sought alms outside of the residential motel where she lives, and been mistaken for a prostitute. One man offered her $7 for an unseemly return. Apparently he, or someone else, got rough. She removed her denim cap to show a ruby knot pushing up under one of her braids.
I told her I had to cross the street. She smiled as if we had still been talking about the weather and said goodbye. She said her name was Kathy.
As I crossed Cesar Chavez Plaza Park toward my car, burnishing a pristine municipal envelope beneath its wiper, two police officers book-ended a cognitively disabled woman. Barely taller than the receptacle in front of which she stood, the diminutive woman described a grievance the officers could do nothing about.
I snatched the citation from my windshield, and sympathized.