I remember meeting the man when I lived in an abandoned building in DC. I was walking around the streets just as the sun had begun to set. He was muttering to himself, indistinguishable words spoken into the air between us. I observed him from a distance. He seemed distressed, but I was not his psychologist/therapist/doctor. I moved on.
A few days later I was walking in the sunlight, heading I don’t remember where. I turned a corner and he was on the sidewalk in front of me. I decided to stay my course instead of crossing the street because I was bored, and in need of the unknown potential. Would he snap and lash out? Would he be interesting? Or would he just be an incoherent bum smelling of piss and alcohol? I approached him by direction, offering no hand or sign that I wanted conversation, on guard in case his instabilities made him aggressive.
He looked at me and started talking. “They did this to me.” he said calmly. “They use mind control rays.”
I smirked. Paranoid delusional was my official diagnosis. He saw my doubt and grew visibly anxious, in need of proving his theory.
“No. I’m serious. I used to be normal. I was in the military, and now I have nothing and can’t think straight. They took everything and mixed it up in my head.”
I was quickly becoming disinterested. His response was to pull out a piece of paper and hold it out to me. “Look!” he said.
I took the paper and began to peruse it. It was photocopied. On the paper were before and after head shots of him. The Before was groomed, clean shaven, a stable, smiling look in his eyes. The After was a mirror of the man standing in front of me, unkempt, a wild yet hurt stare alluding to his jerky, shaking movements. The rest of the paper was filled with print about mind control rays as weapons of warfare.
“They did that to me.” he said sadly.
I handed him his paper back and went on my way.

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