“My experience with the mentally ill on the streets is that there is a place in them that is sacred, and they can touch it in the presence of one whom they can trust, a person committed to walking with them through the minefields.

“I went out for fresh air one recent evening and walked past a young man who was engaged in a conversation with a mannequin in the display window of a large department store. It was as though he and the mannequin were having coffee together: the disturbed guy making his points, his fingers jabbing holes in the air, and the enigmatic, gazing mannequin, its slight come-hither smile egging him on.

“People are talking to themselves all over the Burnside area – indeed, in every city I have ever been in. How does one wind up talking to oneself or to an inanimate object? What is the breaking point, how much illness must exist, how much pain and suffering must be endured before the intimate and precious part of ourselves becomes unmoored and floats away, making us incapable of normal human intercourse?

“The anatomy of loneliness is a very visible one in the city. It’s true, there are many mentally ill people whose inner processes drive them to a disconnection with the world around them, and one can only hope that medication and proper mental health facilities will assist them in their search for human connection. On the other hand, many individuals, I think, are driven to talking to themselves and to the mannequins of their lives because there is no one around to listen to them or care about them. They aren’t mentally ill; they’re just lonely. Some folks connect more with the cockroaches, mice, cats, dogs, birds, and plants in their single resident occupancy rooms than they do with other human beings. This is not so much by choice as it is a result of the poison of human disregard.” (>>)