The Whole Foods on P Street has a nice little outdoor cafe area, where you can take your very valuable healthy salad and sit for a spell. It was sunny today and a bit warm, but the tables were in shade and almost full with people relaxing and eating.
The vibe was pierced by a voice near the store's exit. "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!" A woman was calling after someone leaving the store at the same time as she, but I couldn't make out what came after that and no one really responded to her, so I turned back to my kale salad and magazine.
The woman continued to talk, lower now. I glanced back at her. She had a neat blond bob and looked to be in her 30s. She was dressed in a white tank top and black pants. I figured she was a high-strung yuppie who had a run-in with a rude person. I figured she was now relating this to a friend on her cell phone. Except I couldn't see a cell phone. Intent on not staring and also enjoying my meal, I turned away.
But it was so hard not to look. She wasn't talking on a cell phone. She was talking to herself. Then she burst out again.
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" She mentioned something about trash and seemed very upset by something that had happened. People just stared at her. She continued to stand by the exit, talking, and she was getting harder to ignore.
A woman who was studying at the table 2 o'clock from me mouthed, "She's crazy" with an amused look on her face to the woman sitting at my 9 o'clock. "I know," the 9 o'clock whispered, as the newly identified crazy woman continued to mutter to the left of us all.
She brought her cardboard carton of salad to a table at 10 o'clock. Some snippets I managed to make out:
"Someone in my life is disturbing me and I don't know who it is"
"Get your crotch out of my face"
"I don't mind being laughed at"
It was relatively quiet for a bit, but now there was no concentrating on my magazine. There was a tension in the air attached to the fact that there was a "crazy" person in our midst.
The anticipated outburst came after a couple of minutes, and it was directed at a man and woman standing about 10 feet away, just talking. "Excuse me. Excuse me! May I eat without you engaging in sexual activity in front of my face?" The couple gave no sign that they heard her, but she continued on about how she was being thwarted in her attempt to eat lunch because of people having sex in her face, even though there was nothing so much as PDA in her vicinity.
The situation had gone from being confusing to amusing to downright disturbing. In a city, you're bound to run into a certain amount of "crazy." It's par for the course, but it usually comes from expected sources: people who look like they are homeless, drug addicts, alcoholics, old or some combination of the above. This source was relatively young, decently dressed, very sober and so crisp in her insanity. It was voiced in such a plaintive, articulate, righteous, prissy tone that it was hard to discount right off the bat.
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" Her attention was now directed at a young man standing with a woman, at least 25 feet away. "Could you please stop pointing your erection at me? I'm trying to eat. You're really sick, you should see a psychologist. I'm trying to eat and I don't need to see your erection." The man just stared at her, half-smiling in disbelief. What was her disorder? Schizophrenia? How did she manage to make it day-to-day -- to earn enough to get her lunch at Whole Foods and buy decent clothes? How does someone not get destroyed by such an illness? Had she been abused, was that the reason for the fixation on sexuality? What meds was she supposed to be on? Wasn't there anyone looking after her?
I was torn between being so disturbed that I had to leave and being so enthralled that I had to stay. But before I could decide, she was gone in a flash, surprisingly quietly, off to reveal her torment to another segment of the city.