Picture By CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Peregrine is asleep. So is Sakeenah. There is yelling outside and then that distinct dull thwop of fists connecting with heads.

So of course I get outside.

I’m awkward in putting on my shorts and by the time I get out into the alleyway the combatants have already been separated. A skinny guy is projecting belligerence towards a heftier, somewhat more controlled man, now with a crowd between them. The skinny guy looks worse off for the encounter and doesn’t want to let it end there. But the crowd’s efforts win out and he disappears around the corner and away from the fight.

Among the crowd are some youths I’m friendly with, and I ask them what had caused the fight. They relate a blow-by-blow description of the punches that had landed.

“No, I mean why were they fighting in the first place?”

“Oh, that guy, he is mental.”

“But wasn’t there a reason?”

“He is mental…not right in the head.”

I wasn’t going to get more out of them. For whatever reason I remain in the alleyway, chatting with the guys. Someone notes my lack of sandals. I brush off the question.

Then a form rushes by in the dark.

It happened too quick to even identify who it was, but the speed and the situation communicate enough hostile intent that I throw my arm out into the dark and snatch the runner by the waist. That knocks the wind out of him. The cinder block he was running with clunks to the ground. I let go and see that it is indeed the skinny guy from the fight. I block his path. He is very polite.

“Let me by.”

“No, I’m doing this for you.”

“Please, let me by.”

“If you go through with this, it will be bad for him and it will be bad for you. No.”

“I am asking you to let me by.”

“To what benefit? No. I’m doing it for you.”

He realizes that I won’t move and turns around to head back. I know he is just going to take a long route around, but shift down the alley just enough to observe him coming around the other way rather than blocking his path again. The young man makes it to the doorway of the house he is looking for. I realize then that it is a home at which I had seen a previous violent interaction. That time I was told about a son getting kicked out of the house. So maybe that was the son.

After a short discussion in which the family both refuses to come outside and refuses to let the young man in, the door is shut. The antagonist slams his head against the door several times and walks off into the night.

I turn to my friends.

“He hasn’t be drinking at all? Or anything?”

“No, he is just mental. No drinking. But drugs.”

“He is on drugs?”

“Yes. You know….brown sugar.”

A young man with a drug addiction, perhaps stimulated by other mental illness. A family that has had enough and isn’t going to let him in the house anymore. It’s a sad situation. But if you want to step into that situation, the next step is….?

2 thoughts on “Mental

  1. Анна Михайлова

    Copyright infringement!

    Good day!

    On the page of your website

    you used author’s photo under Creative Commons license
    It is available at

    We are glad that you found this photo useful. To comply with the rules of Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, you must place a hyperlink to the author.
    “Attribution is to be given to Rehab Center Parus When using on the Web, a hyperlink to author website is appreciated.”

    It looks like this:

    Picture By (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

    Thank you for following the rules.


  2. Thank you for letting me know! I try hard to only use CC works (unless I have explicit permission) and to follow the rules. I hope you can see that I had already included the hyperlink in the photo’s title, description, and alt tags (which I thought was in line with wikipedia’s precedent for use, as they tend not to include the CC license and hyperlink in the caption of photos themselves), but since you ask I will include it in the caption as well. Also, you may want to change the original language about hyperlinks from “appreciated” to something stronger.


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