Sometimes “love thy neighbor” requires more patience and understanding than I have in me.

Yesterday, I heard a loud, bellowing voice proclaiming “I…am the Mayor…of WONDERWOOD! God’s earth…is FREE! You cannot tell me…that I cannot have…what God has given me…FOR FREE! I…am the Mayor…of WONDERWOOD!”

I peeped out my back bedroom window, half suspecting it was the crazy neighbor we like to call “Boatman” (because he owns a boat – we are supercreative with nicknames, I know!). Boatman is fairly well-known for verbally abusing his wife and extended family members when they come to visit. Since it was the weekend, I figured maybe Boatman’s ailing, elderly mother was due for a public berating. Maybe she missed the Easter brunch at his house or something.

 Alas, I was wrong. It wasn’t Boatman, though he was just overheard last weekend scolding a little girl in his backyard. Apparently, she was tired of listening to the screaming and yelling going on inside his house and she decided to go outside where it was quiet. She didn’t get permission. Her punishment? To stay outside. You know that kid was exhaling a huge sigh of relief.

Anyway, it wasn’t Boatman. It was the other neighbor, Boatman’s next-door neighbor…the one we call Crazy Rex (remember, we are supercreative with nicknames – so I’ll give you a hint why we call him Crazy Rex: he’s CRAZY).

Crazy Rex is an old man. For years I was subjected to his rants from the backyard as his property is located directly behind ours. When I was a smoker, I sat outside on my back porch and could look straight ahead into his yard. On those mornings when Rex decided to garden at 6am in his underwear, I would go into the front yard. If it was raining and he was outside at 6am gardening in his underwear, I was forced into the garage. I hated those mornings. Rex would usually go back inside after awhile and scream at his wife in the kitchen. I’m sure she hated those mornings, too.

Flash forward to this weekend: Crazy Rex is getting progressively worse. I called the police yesterday afternoon so they could follow up on him. He’s pretty harmless, to us, I believe. But there’s no telling what he puts his wife through or, for that matter, what he puts himself through. That’s the scary part. His wife is no better, having to rely on medication to control her own mental illness, so these two as a unit make an inevitably combustible pair.

After he proclaimed to be the mayor of our usually peaceful subdivision, Crazy Rex took his garden shovel and began beating on trees, bricks, the stones of his backyard pathway. Then he proceeded to knock on his own house’s windows and scream at passing drivers that if they didn’t slow down, he would “smoke and shoot the next one who speeds by!!” He was once licensed to carry a concealed weapon as a security officer years ago. I think he’s been Baker Act-ed already, but you never know.

This morning, I woke up to more bellowing and religious proclamations. “I…will not be…INTIMIDATED..by…ANY OF YOU!! I know…that Jesus…is LORD! (or WAR!). I…am not..afraid of YOU!!” That’s more than I can say about how I’m starting to feel about him.

 He’s only stopped by my house once. In 10 years as his neighbor, he came over to my house for the first time about 2 months ago. He believed the HOA was out to get him and he wanted to make sure I’d back him up when they accused him of stealing everyone’s mail. I’ve also heard rumors that he has stalked a recently widowed neighbor of ours. She has a very protective dog now, of a pitbull variety. Good luck getting through THAT, Crazy Rex.

Most of my dealings with Crazy Rex have been indirect, meaning that I really only hear him and never interact with him. Except this afternoon, on my way home from the swimming pool, I was waiting to turn left into my subdivision. Another car, a white beat-up Ford, was coming from the other direction and preparing to turn right into the subdivision. Suddenly, the driver flashed his lights at me and started driving into our neighborhood. Thinking he would keep driving, I turned left to follow him in. But the driver stopped his car in the middle of the main road, leaving my car blocking traffic. Then Crazy Rex rolled down his window and demanded I vote for Jimmy Carter.

He had his entire torso sticking out of his window and his left arm was punctuating the air, so passionate was he that I make sure my vote went to Jimmy Carter!! “Go vote! Go vote! Go vote for Jimmy Carter!! Make sure you vote for Jimmy Carter!! Ya hear me?? Do you? Do you hear me?? JIMMY CARTER!!”

And as soon as traffic started coming in my direction, I yelled at him. I have never been so angry with mental illness before. Screw you and screw Jimmy Carter. “Get the hell out of my way – there’s a car coming, you asshole!!!”

Crazy Rex, Elle, and I all made it home in one piece. He is, at this moment, banging on some metal pegs in his backyard. Clank! Clank! Clank!

I can only wish for someone or something to come into Crazy Rex’s life, to help him maintain his medication schedule, and to keep him from getting himself, or someone else, seriously hurt.  If you’re the praying kind, pray. If you’re the good vibes kind, send them.  He needs it. We need it.  I cannot imagine what it must be like to be so sick and not even know it.

Unpredictability is no fun.

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About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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