The Old Woman Who Spoke and Laughed

Photo Credits: Nelson Afonso

Photo Credits: Nelson Afonso

I have this theory that insane people are not really insane. Instead, they have just made do with the insane, inexplainable things around them. Things like violence, bullying, not being noticed, being noticed too much … they have separated everything and filtered out reality.

Today I was eating lunch alone in a public space and there was an elderly woman who sat at the table next to me. I was quietly reading a book from my iTouch and eating my burger, thinking of the groceries I had to buy, and she sat at the other table drinking a bottle of milk and every so often muttering and giggling. Sometimes she had her bare feet propped up on the chair beside her, and sometimes folded.

Note how I never wrote that she was muttering to herself nor giggling to herself. ‘Cause I really don’t think that’s how she saw the world.

I sat there, and was reading, and at the same time I imagined what it was like to be her. And here are a thousand assumptions and fictional worlds I create around this one woman I saw at the table next to me.

She probably lives alone. She might or might not have relatives, but she probably isn’t visited much. She is probably like the people who slip through the cracks of society like in Gaiman’s Neverwhere. She probably belongs to the world Below. She probably doesn’t get acknowledged much in her day-to-day life. She is probably losing her awareness of whether she still exists. She is probably waiting. She is probably waiting to get noticed, waiting for someone to come back to her.

And because of these reasons, there are fictional causalities that I’ve fabricated for her, while sitting at the table next to her, sipping on my tea. She’s probably created a harmless friend; she’s probably reimagined a long lost relative; she’s probably happy in this world she’s created.

And as I sat there eating my lunch peacefully, I gazed at the other people eating their lunch; people who tried to pretend they don’t see her, but stole glimpses of this woman as she talked enthusiastically at the air in front of her.

I wondered whether they pitied her or abhorred her or – worse – whether they were entirely apathetic to her presence in the room.

But I didn’t pity her. ‘Cause I could see that she was making do and trying to cope with the situation that society has presented to her. If anything, I was fascinated by this world she’s created for herself – this means to cope with her lot in life.

And maybe there are a few dozen “insane” people out there, who talk to themselves, who seem a bit off their rockers, but I sat there considering that the last thing we should do is dismiss them as and categorise them as: insane.

Circumstances make a person who they are. Putting a child in a locked room away from human contact, away from love and affection and then taking him out of it and blaming him for who s/he is is hypocrisy. But somehow I find the means that these individuals attempt to recreate the world around them fascinating – and possibly fodder for any writing I attempt to do in the future.

Till next time,

Cumuloq ❤


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