Estoy freezada, she said in Spanglish. I am frozen. She was speaking to herself. Off her rocker, though more likely high. On something that would render her inmobile and at the same time make the paralysis seem amusing. She was giggling. On the corner of 96th and Broadway on a winter night last year, too stoned to cross at the WALK hieroglyphic, and that was very funny. It was hard to tell how much of her freeze was due to the weather and how much to her head, but she was bundled up enough. Internally freezada. And that made her giggle. Or added to her giggles, which seemed to have started earlier.
In New York I got used to mentally altered people talking to themselves in public places. Once, not far from where years later I would see and hear the frozen girl, a middle aged man stood on a corner and yelled into the street that crossed Broadway, toward the west, ¡Roosevelt era un comemierda!, roughly "Roosevelt was an asshole!", though I doubt the speaker was old enough to have lived in FDR's time, except maybe as a very small child.
It might seem that all the solitary speakers I hear rant or muse out loud in Spanish. It's true that to me New York is an hispanoparlante city, but its mad speakers use many languages. Once on the subway I saw one such person signing to herself. This torrent of uncensored discourse does not even need sound. Of course, since I don't know sign language I don't know what she was saying. But when it's English or Spanish or a conflation of both I not only know what they're saying, I know.
I can follow their reasoning, and, most troubling, I agree. Well, I don't think Roosevelt, either Franklin Delano or Teddy, was a comemierda, but I generally think what they're saying makes perfect sense. I understand why the young Latina was freezada by a combination of the cold weather and the chemicals roiling in her brain. And, most importantly, I understand why it made her laugh. At face value, her situation was pathetic. But to her, and to me, her partner in madness, it was a cosmic joke, albeit one of diminutive proportions.
I talk to myself sometimes. Yes, I know, cosa de locos, though people I've 'fessed up to admit that they do too. My favorite place is the car when I'm by myself. To sing along with the radio is commonplace, but what about making bombastic speeches? They argue no point, but are merely a series of high-flung rhetorical devices strung together as they occur to me. It's very satisfying.
Sometimes I've made the mistake of doing this not while driving but walking. In public spaces. Once strolling through a park near my home I was having an interesting conversation with myself out loud when I was spotted and overheard by a couple of people I knew and was working with on a project. "Why, he talks to himself", one of them said. Quickly I said no, no, I was singing -- which doing out loud to oneself struck me as saner. They didn't believe me.
And here is the variable that I don't understand. I only talk to myself in Spanish. Could it be that I'm sane in my second language but quite nuts in my first? Did I become fluent in English in order to escape the madman who spoke Spanish? I'm incapable of talking to myself in English, the very notion seems ridiculous. But in Spanish I let it rip. Mercy. Or rather, misericordia.