The woman outside the window

She paces the sidewalk a few feet beyond our kitchen window, talking loudly to someone who’s not there, smoking a joint to calm her down, moving in sudden jolts as though someone has driven a spike through her less than cogent mind.

I watch and wonder who she is, this neighbor who lives behind us still three weeks after being served by the authorities with an eviction notice following the psychic “break” when she tore loose two towel bars and poked holes in the bathroom wall as uninvited as the screams of rage that harmonized with the spikes in the wall.

The police at the time of the incident told the owners there was little they could do without pressing charges, which they declined to do. She is a guest in their house, the girlfriend “of sorts” of their 35-year old son, a young man of consummate compassionate who had taken pity on her homelessness and invited her in.

Responding to the 911 call, the police had been greeted by an altogether sane young woman who presented a calm, cool, and collected self who came downstairs wondering what the fuss was all about. The 50-something year-old homeowners and the police agreed to call it a night on the “domestic dispute,” the young woman in question going peacefully upstairs to lock herself in her room, the three squad cars driving back to the police station where the officers would write up their incident reports, the husband and wife homeowners sitting in the living room staring past each other into blank space, and their generous adult son who lives in denial stepping outside for a much-needed smoke of something.

His invited houseguest had been institutionalized a number of times but he doesn’t know why or for what. Her father, he says, is some sort of pentecostal preacher. She’s badly scarred by her home experience – the “black sheep” of the family of Christian sheep wounded by the ram who rules the household.

A lamb spiked by the ram in her old sheep-fold, she looks for other pastures and sheep-folds where her damaged soul might find repose beyond a 911 call. But the spikes of terror keep coming, as they will, until, by some process of grace and merciful intervention, her reality breaks open the self that now wanders in torment outside our kitchen window.

Until then, she walks in the valley of the shadow of her own kind of death, as do the members of the family which has given her temporary shelter, crying out for green pastures and still waters that would restore their wounded souls.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 21, 2017.




10 thoughts on “The woman outside the window

  1. How does one comment on a story like this? It was back in the sixties when the movements focussed on freedom for everyone, and it was true that “Just because you paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” Many caring people, some of my colleagues among them, argued for release from the imprisonment of hospitalization and the establishment of effective mental health services instead. The first part was accomplished. (After all, what level of government doesn’t like to save money?”) But the second part was ignored. (What level of government doesn’t resist spending money?) So we have this horrible human suffering, and much more expense — considering all the ramifications — than effective hospitals and treatment could provide. It makes one sick. Well, it makes me sick, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mona, thanks for sharing the back story to this sorrow. There was and is no place for her to go. She will be back on the street talking to people who aren’t there in a matter of days. And the family who opened their home will be left to suffer a sense of guilt for having removed what shelter they’d graciously provided. Life is so messy, and the anti-government sentiment that opposes public expenditures on mental health care continue to leave us all the poorer.


  2. It’s heartbreaking when we encounter a soul so lost. We just do not know how to help. And it’s so hard to just do nothing. God be with them all, the young woman and the family who shelter her. And you Gordon.


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