Wednesday, February 3, 2010


In the days of the cavemen, while I was a student at Wayne State University, I was sitting in the hallway near the band room one day when a guy in his mid twenties came in from the front. He was very thin and disheveled. There was a wildness to him. His hair was a mess but his clothes were clean. His movement seemed slow and specific, like he knew where he was going but he didn’t want to get there. He was carrying a Monopoly game box under his arm. It had big rubber bands holding it together, packed full of papers that were sticking out here and there. It was impossible to not see him. On the street you might not see him, but in a university music building, he stood out like a stop sign.

We made eye contact.

He looked away. His eyes scanned the hallway, floor, walls, ceiling, as if he was looking for cracks. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Finally, he looked at me again. Then he walked right up to me and stood directly in front of me where I was sitting on the bench. If I’d tried to stand up, I would have bumped into him. He looked very tall from that perspective.

Him: You go to school here?
Me: Yes.
Him: Me too.
Me: Cool.
Him: Yeah. I’m a trumpet major. French horn. Flute. But right now I’m producer for the Commodores.
Me: Wow.
Him: Yeah. But you gotta be careful.
Me: Careful about what?
Him: About them. You can’t trust them.
Me: Who’s them?
Him: The operator. You can’t talk to her because she know. She can see what you thinking. You have to be careful.
Me: Yeah.
Him: They’ll get your numbers and then you got nothing left.
Me: Is that what’s in your box?
Him: Yeah. All my numbers. I produce. The Commodores. Kool and the Gang. Retha Franklin.
Me: You produce all of them?
Him: Yeah.
Me: Wow.
Him: Yeah.
Me: Must keep you busy.
Him: I got it all right here. Everything I need.
Me: Cool.
Him: Yeah. Don’t call her. Don’t talk to the operator. She know, man. She know. You gotta be careful what you do.
Me: Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.
Him: Yeah.

Awkward pause.

Then he walked away, that box held tightly to his chest. As he went he looked at the floor and the walls and the ceiling. He turned the corner and I never saw him again.

Another student in the music department walked up to me. He said, “I think that guy used to go to school here. I said, “Really.” “Yeah.” “Wow.” “Yeah, they say he dropped out one year and then he just came back around all messed up.” “Wow.” “Yeah.”

I have wondered from time to time if that could happen to me. The brain decides to stir up a little too much dopamine. No one knows why. Would it be a slow decline into confusion? Would it be a sudden fall? Could I wake up one morning and find myself compulsively trying to avoid the operator, walking the streets, speaking nonsense to strangers?

If you were the stranger, would you be kind to me?

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010


  1. I can't help but be kind to those that don't seem to be intouch with reality. There's a lady in our community. I call her the "hat lady" because she wears these incredibly ornate hats (self designed for sure) and I wonder? What are the hats for????? Who was she before she was the hat lady? Is she someone's mom?

  2. Yes, I would be kind to you, but I would suggest carrying around Guess Who? I really like that game. I may even suggest playing.

    In all seriousness, my ex, who was the valedictorian and received a full-ride scholarship to U of M turned into someone like you've just described. It's quite sad.


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