Every community has its mentally unwell folk, but when you live in New York, it’s easier to see them than it might be where you live. Population density’s higher, for one thing. For another, we live so much of our lives in public here: on the streets, on the train, in crowded apartment buildings. For tourists, the mentally ill who are unmedicated, untreated, and wandering the streets are shocking or entertaining; for those of us who live here, they’re like anyone else: they just blend into the backdrop of your normal days.
Until you become pregnant.
After my doctor’s appointment this morning, I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up a few items. “I love your belly,” a man growled into my ear as I passed him with my cart. I glanced back at him for a second look since I hadn’t really noticed him as I was headed to the check out. He was dirty, with a scraggly beard, his shirt spotted with stains. “Um, thanks,” I said, pushing toward the cashier with a renewed sense of hurry.
Then, I stopped by my least favorite store in the universe–B & H Photo–to pick up something for Francisco. A man was picking through a trash can on the corner of 34th and 8th, but looked up when he saw me. “God bless you,” he whispered, almost reverently, pointing at my stomach as I passed him. “You too,” I said.
Finally, it was time to head home. I walked toward Penn Station, where people in various states of disease, distress, and despair tend to congregate. A guy was ranting at full throttle– something about Jesus, about the government, the weather. “Oh, a little one’s coming into the world!” he said, changing rhythm, tone, and topic completely as I walked by. My belly had broken his psychotic reverie.
Maybe the world needs more babies. Post-election crisis in Iran? Send a baby to the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad! It works for the psychotic guys in New York. Couldn’t hurt to try it elsewhere.