#853: Scream

November 22nd, 2017

I hate the smart ones the most.

Hate is the wrong word. I don’t hate them. I hate that they exist, that there are crazy screaming men out there savvy enough to include notes about the Federal Reserve Bank and on the Bears’ handling of Jay Cutler in their hobo screed. I hate that I can’t reach them. I hate that there’s nothing I can do.

He started so good too.

He started all quiet and standing in the middle section of the Red Line car, a fit guy. Young and and a bit handsome in doo rag and jeans, rocking with the train’s gentle sashay.

“I love to get fucked up,” he said to no one. “I love to drink. I love to smoke dope. I love to smoke dope.”

Charming, a bit, like the beggars who admit they’re going to turn your dollar into beer.

“Drinking, smoking dope, smoking crack.”

Less charming.

Facebook has all your information, which is what made it so useful to Russian hackers. The Bears could have gone to the Super Bowl if they had taken full advantage of Jay Cutler’s full promise. He talked about politics, about the etymology of his name, about the length of actress Gabrielle Union’s virginity.

“Donald J. Trump is not his real name. His real name is Jamarcus Reeves.”

“Caucasian, Asian, Pakistani — all made up by the Chicago Police Department. Did they kill Martin Luther King or did they clone him? They cloned him.”

And off into an intricate breakdown of the early career stats of Michael Jordan, also a police department clone.

The rest of us were doing what commuters do on a train with a screaming man who claimed he wasn’t homeless, homes were only for women with babies. Nothing. We stood, we made sympathetic eye contact with each other, avoided any eye contact with him and we counted one, two, three how many stops until we could leave.

What was I supposed to do? Check him into one of Chicago’s fully staffed and convenient mental health centers with just oodles of space and funding for new wackadoodles? Stick a mic in front of him and call him the new Wesley Willis? Give him a hug, a dollar and a rousing go-get-’em-Tiger speech that will turn his disease around in moments?

Mental health is health, and I couldn’t do more for this man’s howls about the sex life of Gabrielle Union than I could a man with a cold who sneezed in my face. His screams are our failure, not his.

As a side note, I had given directions to a man with a thick mustache and thick accent earlier. He had wanted to know the best route to the Daley Center courthouse. I had told him and now we were still crowded in each others’ faces, as it was still a train, after all. He was kind, casting nervous smiles now and again to me, to the others crowded around.

His brow furrowed when the screaming man went from his ideas for reformatting the Federal Reserve Bank to Russian hacking, then on immigration. The kind man’s mustache crinkled in dismay.

“They come here, they build this country,” the kind man said, first to us around him. “You say we take you job? You can have it. You can come here and work.”

Half a car away, the screaming man continued on immigration.

“We build this country!” the kind man said, a little louder in hopes the human scream heard. “We build this country. We all immigrants.”

A few of us around the kind immigrant tried to comfort him, tell him he was wasting his breath. He wanted to yell back and argue with the scream. It would have been futile. It could have been dangerous. It marked the kind man with a mustache and court date as the only one on the train to treat the scream like a human being.

“Don’t worry about it, man,” was my contribution. “He’s gone.”

A group of drunk teens sing with a street person

A very different guy who rides the train with me

What's this?

You are currently reading #853: Scream by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • Get Stories by Email

  • Chicago Corruption Walking Tour

    Join the email list for tour dates and info.