Thing is, I have the vague feeling that I have encountered her before. Mad Mary…how does this name come to mind? Was she a fixture in someone’s neighborhood? As I say, this is not a complete memory, more a fragment.
othing fragmentary about this woman in bodily form. I first saw her lurching down the subway platform at Millbrae. She did stand out at this genteel and suburban end of the BART line. After all, Millbrae is a transfer point for people heading to the airport, San Jose, and so on. The constituents who stumble violently up and down the tracks dressed in clear plastic sheets and speaking in tongues…well, their numbers are low.
Sitting half paralyzed in a wheelchair, I do feel vulnerable. There was no particular reason to share a subway car with her. And there was no reason for her to be aboard the train. She was way too crazy to have a destination. Did she need psychiatric attention, the BART station agent at Millbrae asked me. She needed to be off the train, I told him. He followed me down the platform from his glass cubicle. Which car was she in? Was it the last car? The penultimate? No sign in either. So I got back on the train.
Sure enough, just a few rows ahead of me, a couple of exposed legs appeared. She was reclining, largely out of sight. And since Mad Mary had reached an apparent state of repose, I tried to put her out of my mind. The train set off rumbling north. That’s when I saw the hands appear above the seats, clawing at the air. She was making a few sounds. Mostly she was struggling with the nearest poltergeist. I was struggling with what to do.
I got off at the next station. I tried to roll ahead to the next car, but the doors shut. And there I was at the South San Francisco station. Deserted at midday. Still I had a moment to ring BART police. They wanted a description. I am not the most observant person. Still I stated a few facts. Female, Caucasian, 50-ish. Her behavior? Well, the sort of thing one might see in a theater improv exercise on infancy. All four limbs kicking in the air while screaming.
And one can sympathize on this week before the presidential inauguration. She isn’t the only one kicking and screaming. I do hope she takes her meds. I hope the rest of us don’t.