Smith Street Shambler

he shambles down Smith street.

he is not drunk. his face is crinkled but would look more so if it were not covered by a leonine mane of grey. yes, he shambles, but shambles with purpose.

no one, perhaps not even the man himself, knows what that purpose is.

i hear him before i see him. his voice cracks with anger and the words are drowned out by the tram that trundles past. all i hear is an intermittent ‘fuck’ or ‘shit.’ it would not surprise me if the words i cannot make out are also obscenities.

he is rage and blind hatred.

i stay inside the book shop and pretend to peruse a celebrity memoir as he crackles by like bipedal thunder. i still can’t make out what he’s saying.

but his eyes are beady and crow-footed and cow-like and sad and not at all flecked with the anger and hate that he exudes.

when he disappears, perhaps into an alleyway, perhaps onto a tram, i wonder whether this particular type of mental illness is merely an inversion of ‘normal’ behaviour. it seems as though the man voices all the rambling random thoughts that popped into his head, unfiltered.

maybe the thoughts and emotions that he keeps to himself are those that you and me do say.  maybe his internal monologue is one that is reasonable, socially conventional and articulate. it’s a silly idea and i feel like a bit of cunt for thinking it. one of those ‘isn’t it pretty to think so’ moments.

but the mad homeless man also shows me how far we have to go on mental health and homelessness and how they are both intimately linked.

i am suddenly reminded of a friend who has passed. she wasn’t homeless, but the standard approach to mental health couldn’t preserve her.

i walk out onto the street and a light rain is falling. i don’t cry, but i leave the hood of my jacket down, just in case.


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