I was downtown helping my friend get her new dining table into her new loft yesterday, and I saw something disturbing. I've thought about it, I've talked about it, and it's still in the back of my head. I'm hoping that writing about it will give me a bit more closure.
I was crossing Main just south of 6th, and as I approached the crosswalk I noticed a man standing in the middle of the road with his pants down around his ankles. There were a couple of bike security people standing around him, stopping traffic in the right lane so he wouldn't get hit. As I got closer I noticed he was naked from the waist down. Then he took off his shirt, then started to take off his shoes so he could get completely undressed.
A cop car approached, and two officers came out and grabbed him. By this time he was stark naked and his clothes were in a pile on the street. When they grabbed him, he tried to get away from him, and wound up bare-assed on the dirty concrete scuttling like a crab to get away. People were laughing. I was horrified. Someone kept saying "hospital, hospital." It sounded like it was the man talking, but I couldn't tell for sure.
Backstory - when I had my psychotic break in Italy nine years ago, I was wandering around the streets barefoot and wearing a pair of purple aviator shades with one lens missing. People were probably laughing. My sister was horrified. Luckily, she was there. Unfortunately for this man, no one was there.
They got him into the cop car, and his clothes were still sitting in a small pile in the street. I was looking at the clothes, hoping that they would put them in the car with him. In fact, if they didn't, I was going to go say something. They did, and the car drove away. Two minutes later, it was as if nothing had happened.
Last night I started wondering where he was at that moment. Was it drugs? Maybe. Was there mental illness involved? Probably. Was he in a mental hospital? Was he scared? Was he alone? More than likely.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm on medication, I have fantastic doctors, and I have the rare ability to be able to write about how it all feels. And hopefully to shed some light on the truth of mental illness (it could happen to anyone, it's not our fault, it's not something to be ashamed of) in my lifetime. So hopefully, next time something like this happens in broad daylight in downtown LA, the instinctive reaction is not to laugh, or to pity, but to care.