The following story is not necessarily mine to tell and the views in the following paragraphs might not be shared by others. However, these views are mine. These are my thoughts about a night back in the month of what I believe was September in 1987. This is a story about an elderly woman named Mary. She was known as Crazy Mary, which is an unkind thing to say but facts are facts and the truth is history is unconcerned with our feelings or opinion.
Mary was known around the town. She had a home that was cluttered to say the least. She was somewhat of a bag lady. Mary was old and alone and worse, she was the brunt of teenage jokes and teased by a few of the local hoodlums.
Mary’s life was not something that everyone knew about. No one really talked about her husband who died or the family she had, if any, to help Mary or be there whenever Mary needed. Mary was interesting, indeed. She was kind. She would ask, “Pennies for Mary?” She would say “Mary loves you.” And sadly, Mary was killed by a hit and run driver, who allegedly killed Mary without ever being brought to justice. And yet, everyone supposedly knew about this but yet, nothing ever happened.
See, I lived in a normal, everyday, dysfunctional town. We were middle income. No one was overly rich or exceptionally poor. We were a typical suburban town with our list of crazy people. We took on all the different shapes, sizes and flavors of our time. We were all part of the fashion tragedies and the fads of the 80’s. And for one, I am glad that our technology did not have the bells and whistles that we have now. Otherwise, there would be more proof of this.
To set the scene, our town had places like supermarkets with names that are no longer around. There was the Waldbaum’s on Merrick Avenue near my house. There was the Pathmark and the stores inside like the video arcade known as The Wiz. There were the parking lots and vacant lots and different alleys where we’d hide and pretend we knew what we were doing. But hey, we were just kids, right?
This was my town. I had my share of troubles too. I have both good and bad memories. I had both fortunate and unfortunate times in my town. I had good times on the roofs of a few different schools in the neighborhood. There are a few hazy moments that were taken over by hallucinogens and psychedelics. There were times that certainly went mad.
I was one of the longhaired kids. I was a social reject to be honest and to the best of my ability, I was just trying to survive.
Of course, we were all young and the world was a different place back then. I say “We” as if to include my other friends who shall remain nameless to protect the less than innocent. Some of us were crazy too. Some of us were just trying to find our place in the sandbox . And we did this so we could be cool, right?
I mean, isn’t this what it meant to be a kid back then? To be cool? To be wanted? Or but wait, how about to just be included or invited?
So what does this mean?
This means you had to find your little pod or group of people to be friends with. This meant you found your clique to coincide with to keep from being alone. You had to find your place in the social circles. Otherwise, this meant you needed to find a way to beat the fears of loneliness or worse, of being uncool or unpopular and picked on.
You did what you could to survive. You did what you could to fit in or go along to get along. You found a way to strike your best pose in whichever way you could. This way, you find yourself in a groove and life sort of happens around you. Quite seriously, you’re in the trenches of battle between popularity and being unknown.
No one wants to lose to the cruelties of the crowd or the unrelenting peer pressures. So you try to pull it off like you couldn’t care less (but deep down, you know the truth).
Maybe you take on your best pose like James Dean and now you’re the new rebel without a cause. You lit your smoke. You held your beer a certain way. You dressed the style and fit the part.
Meanwhile, this was all an act. It’s like a game of chicken to see who flinches first. And God forbid, it’s you that flinches because if you flinch, then everyone knows your weakness and the next day, everyone’s talking about this like you were on the front page of the newspaper.
Everything we did was a presentation. Let’s not pretend that it wasn’t. You had to find your way in the crowds or else you faced the worried ideas about being “The one.”
And no one wants to be the one.
No one wants to be rejected or bullied. No one wants to be the one who bleeds in the water to attract the social piranhas and start a feeding frenzy.
No one wants the meat of their existence to be picked to the bone and ripped apart. But trust me, this is real.
You do your best to keep a careful grip on a fake reality. You do what you can to keep from being pulled into the gossip mills and the rumor factories. Rather than face the screws, you become part of the machine.
You feed the factories to keep from being persecuted from the social turmoils because hey, it’s better they talk about someone else than you. Am I right?
This means our lives were a contest.
Some were able to compete. And some couldn’t compete at all. Some people became the favorite social flavors, which caused them to be the targets of cruelty and bullying. I tell you this without any uncertainty whatsoever. We were all an act and just trying to keep from the social persecutions and character assassinations.
Some had to “Act” tough to find an edge. Some people, like say, perhaps the alleged driver of a hit and run, for example. He was an act too. There was a science to his behavior, in which case, the alleged killer had his own pathology.
If the story is true and if the alleged name did, in fact, hit Mary that night; then the truth is he was never anything much more than an act.
He was an image and purely smoke and mirrors. He was all show and crazy enough to put on a display that fooled people to believe he was as tough as he pretended to be.
The alleged driver was just a posture of a so-called madman, and yet, the sad fact about the crowd is no one had the balls to stand up or do something about this. He was the so-called tough guy in the town. Then again, a person’s image can be misleading. He wasn’t tough. He was just an actor. No different from the rest of us.
I can say that I have met different people in my life. I have held programs in jails, homeless shelters and in different facilities. And the saying holds true. Real gangsters move in silence and violence. They don’t brag or talk about things like murdering an elderly woman that literally had her life taken away. The alleged killer was no gangster.
In this case, yes, Mary had a challenged life. Perhaps she had a challenged sanity. Her home was torched and her life was eventually taken.
And again, if the alleged driver is in fact the one that killed her and if everyone knew about this, then my only question is wouldn’t this mean we were all accountable too? Forget about being a rat or all that bullshit.
Everyone likes to condemn and point fingers but no one likes to look inwards.. And there is a social media blitz about this which is brewing and as a result, I will soon be acting as a co-host in a podcast that discusses Mary, Crazy or Not.
Either way, the question remains and the fact is this; accountability begins within. I took this spot to hold myself accountable for my part in this tragedy.
I didn’t do anything when I saw the bullying happen. More honestly, I was one of those social piranhas too. I was also afraid to be picked apart, or worse, to be home alone and never be regarded or included in the social phenomenon we call popularity.
The one thing I’m not sure you ever knew is how warmly you were regarded by so many others. I know I was part of the gossip machine. I know who I was. And I’m sorry.
I hope the show gives a different light to who you were and appropriately talks about what it means to be “Crazy” because that wasn’t you. Not at all.
You were just Mary. It was us that were crazy.
With humble regards, sleep well.