I’m on my way home from work. A mentally-ill man stalks the train. He fluctuates between distracted muttering and jagged bouts of shouting reminiscent of machine gun fusillade: “Strathfield. Strathfield. I hate Strathfield. MALCOLM LIVES AT STRATHFIELD. Malcolm is the devil.”
He leans close into the face of the man sitting beside me. His eyes bulge like plums. His face is mottled red. Spittle explodes from his mouth like catherine wheels. “Malcolm. Malcolm is the devil and he lives at Strathfield. Malcolm is the devil and his girlfriend Jessica is THE DEVIL’S CONCUBINE.”
Strathfield station comes. The man doesn’t get off. I sense the other passengers shifting anxiously behind me. The man beside me looks fixedly ahead, trying not to make eye contact. His Adam’s apple slides up and down. His fingers knit and unknit compulsively in his lap.
“Malcolm is the devil. Malcolm. Malcolm is the devil and he lives at Strathfield. Malcolm comes to my house in a WHITE TOYOTA HILUX. Malcolm. Malcolm. I hate Malcolm. Also Strathfield.” I look down at my book, not reading, planning what I will do if the man moves on to me. I mentally note his every word, simultaneously hoping he will leave and stay.
“Malcolm. Malcolm lives at Strathfield…”
It’s tempting to craft this episode into a more cohesive piece about mental illness, draw some type of ultimate meaning from it, attach a neat moral to the end. It is just something I saw though, one thing among thousands of others, and I’m not really sure what significance it has or what it amounts to – even to me. The world is big and there is so much in it. What are we to do?
I think – be kind. Be brave. Find joy in the lovely and ridiculous. Strive for your own happiness. Try to understand others. Do the best you can.
Happy new year.