Wednesday afternoon I needed to do errands in Porter and Davis And Union Squares (distance ultimately walked–three, four miles) so got to pass a series of Somerville/Cambridge summer scenes at a leisurely, on-foot pace. It had poured the night before, a glorious thunder and lightning show, which had driven off the heat and mugginess; being outside on an August afternoon proved joyful.
In my travels, however, I witnessed three people of color in terrible shape: Two men, one on Summer Street a block of so away from where I was walking, another in front of the T station in Porter Square as I passed by on the other side of the street were, apparently, having psychotic episodes. They screamed, cursed, yelled, roared, paced; the man at Porter Square was so upset he kicked a sign over. The woman, in a straw hat and cotton dress, sat motionless on the sidewalk across the street from Central Hospital—half a block up Central Street as I walked past on Somerville Avenue—while a slew of para-medics and firemen swarmed around her.
What’s going on, I wondered. (Things in three always seem significant to me.) My astrology-touting friend had told me that Mercury would go into retrograde Tuesday— the day before. So my first attempt to make meaning of these events was, shall we say, something Shakespeare might have wondered about? There’s something in the stars, perhaps? My second attempt to make meaning of this trinity was ridiculous—and when I say ridiculous—well, judge for yourself: “Oh,” I thought. “Their behavior is a delayed reaction to yesterday’s debt ceiling drama!” (See what I mean?)
But maybe I had to think stupid before I could think smart. Because I finally realized what was really going on (and, surprisingly, the debt ceiling drama does play a role.): Right now, the incredible mess this world is in environmentally and economically is most felt, most experienced in communities of color. Ditto: violence and mayhem and incarceration. Black people are truly suffering. Some are going crazy. Some sit motionless on the sidewalk. If lived in Roxbury or Dorchester I would witness that suffering daily. But Wednesday, simply because I was in more neighborhoods that I usually walk through, I had more opportunities to witness my brothers and sisters.
Random. And yet not.