« | Home | »

‘Not drunk, mental’

Tags: |

As I was heading for the chemist the other day, a very large, wild-looking man paced outside, agitated, mumbling, grubby. He came in while I was waiting to be served, walked distractedly up and down for a bit and then stood still beside me and loomed. I turned to look at him.

‘I’m not drunk,’ he said to me, ‘I’m mental.’

Actually, that was what I supposed he was. Street drunk looks different from street mad. I understood the distinction as well as he wanted me to. I once lived in a flat full of dopers with a junkie who insisted: ‘You lot just take drugs, but I’m an addict.’ He meant both that he was more serious then we were, and that he was under the doctor.

It’s probably the case that being an alcoholic is as much of a condition as being ‘mental’, but there’s a kind of respectability or responsibility hierarchy involved. You’d think that being drunk was preferable to being mad; at least there’s a chance you might kick a habit, whereas if your brain chemistry is all to hell, there’s not much you can do about it. But being mental is medical and that gives you some gravitas perhaps. Something is always superior to something else.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘Are you feeling bad?’ He looked down at me and growled: ‘I’m mental. And I’m very dangerous.’ A little threateningly, almost proudly. He was telling me he was someone to be taken account of. Well, who do you pay attention to? Those you admire and those you are frightened of. I nodded in agreement, though it didn’t seem very dangerous to claim to be very dangerous. I supposed he was, at any rate, very desperate.

‘Are you taking medication? Doesn’t it help at all?’

He shook his head.

‘No, nothing helps.’  But he wanted to be fair. ‘Well, it takes the edge off, a bit, I suppose.’

‘Something.’

‘Not much.’

‘No, I’m sorry.’

I said goodbye and left with my eye drops, and it was his turn at the counter.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • Chris Lintott on A Meteor in the Saturnian Sky: I'm not sure it's true that Cassini could have been solar powered - no mission relying on solar power has operated so far from the Sun. Technology is ...
    • IPFreely on ‘Herr Müller wants to talk to you’: An AfD leader, Gauland, is now saying that Germans have nothing to do with the Nazi era and that it is time to move on - quite what he wants to move o...
    • vanini on A Meteor in the Saturnian Sky: While it's appropriate to celebrate Cassini's amazing scientific discoveries, there should be a mention of Cassini's dark side: it carried 72 lb of th...
    • Stu Bry on In Praise of Process: While I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments in the blog I find it strange that there is no consideration of Process in terms of EU accountability...
    • UncleShoutingSmut on At the Norwegian Embassy: The underlying question here - who votes? - turns out to be more complex than it seems. In the UK, leaving the EU was not a ‘British’ decision, wh...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement Advertisement