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The Tinkered Mind
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August 12th, 2018
Early in the Twenty-First century, Lucilius found himself on a bus, tired and staring at a woman who was clearly homeless and lacking in the sort of mental stability that was considered normal at the time. Lucilius was very tired and did not realize how off-putting his staring might be. He was looking at the details of this woman’s poverty. The cheap stretch pants that teenage girls had worn a decade prior, a jean jacket that had the wrist cuffs chewed off, and a faux Louis Vuitton suitcase that was mended with duct tape along one side. The front of the suitcase was bedazzled with small, fake, plastic jewels to make a unicorn head.
Lucilius, being so tired, dazed off into a blurry middle space, and did not realize he was still looking directly at the woman.
On the quiet bus, she noticed and yelled.
“What the fuck do you think YOU’RE looking at?”
Abruptly, Lucilius snapped back to attention, realizing the woman was speaking to him, realizing his casual mistake of staring haphazardly, but rudely in her direction.
Lucilius quickly wondered what response he might say. He could ignore this woman. It was common practice to just ignore the loudly less fortunate. He could spit words back at her in the manner she had.
But this is a person, Lucilius thought. And he had been looking in her direction, not out of some perverse sense of anthropological disgust, but with genuine interest.
“I was looking at your bag,” Lucilius said. “I really like the unicorn head.”
The enraged woman’s face softened.
“Oh,” she said. “Why thank you. I did it myself.”
“How long did it take?”
“This? Oh just a day or two. Had to do it twice cause I didn’t have enough sparkly bits and didn’t realize, so I had to make it smaller.”
The bus lurched to a stop and the woman realized in a fluster that she had to get going. She propped herself up and gathered her belongings and started shuffling toward the door.
She stopped where Lucilius stood and smiled quickly at him.
“Nice talking to you.”
“You too,” Lucilius said.
The woman shuffled off the bus humming and walked into the night.
Interesting, Lucilius thought. Lucilius looked around the bus at all the other people. None of them seemed phased by the interaction in any way. Normal, Lucilius wondered. This is what normal is supposed to be. There was something uniform about all the people left on the bus. Something subdued. Something sadly insane.
Normal is crazy, Lucilius thought. Because it’s safe and nothing is more dangerous than playing it safe.