Why the Desperate Talk to Aliens

Roger Goodell was on ESPN saying that he was gonna fix what was wrong with the NFL. “It’s my job to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Referring to Ray Rice.

Outside the pizza shop a woman stood just off the lip of the sidewalk. She was skinny and wore a yellow tank top and shorts. She was talking to someone but nobody was standing next to her.

She could have passed for normal, or whatever normal passes for these days.

Except that she stood there talking to aliens. I can’t remember what she said exactly.

And then my husband said, “Remember there was that other guy, when we got on the bus? He was talking to aliens too.”

The other guy, about a mile back, was having a very animated conversation with outer space. We cut him a wide circumference before ultimately stepping aboard and paying our fare.

Back at the pizza place a small crowd had gathered just outside the tattoo parlor-slash-souvenir shop one door down. A young man in a wheelchair, with several nose rings and tattoos, held a few small dogs on their leashes as they spoke.

“Hey Chris,” (not the name I heard), “how are you?” “What’s going on?”

He smiled and bantered with them. The dogs yapped and strained this way and that.

My attention went back to the ESPN, which apparently has a deal with every pizza place in Ft. Lauderdale. Everything is sports down here.

Now they were showing outtakes from an NFL video on domestic violence.

“This is going to sound bad,” I said to my husband. “But I don’t think the NFL should get so far into people’s business.”

“They have to do something,” he replied. “Corporate sponsors can’t enable domestic violence.”

I took a bite out of my watermelon ices. “That’s why we have the police.”

Am I an idiot? I thought. Attention on these issues is good for women. I really must be.

Outside, the small crowd had dispersed. The woman in the yellow tank top was still there. It was almost as though she were looking at me, though I knew she was just looking in the window.

We stood up to leave. “Thank you,” we said to the pizza shop owner, and threw our paper plates and stuff in the trash.

Thank you for charging us $6 for a slice of pizza and a cup of frozen sugar-water, in a flavor I didn’t even want, but thought was cherry and then got stuck with. Oh well.

The air was hot but the wind was cool. We stood there briefly and inhaled.

A heavyset older man walked up to the woman in the yellow tank top. He wore a beard but no mustache, long denim shorts, a denim vest and sunglasses.

He grabbed her in a great big tight bear hug. “How you doing, Sarah? (Also not the name I heard.) “What’s going on?”

She looked at him and gave a real smile. Not fake, not tired, just beautiful and bright. So much for the aliens.

We think some people are mad and others sane.

But maybe the distinction is different – and those who “talk to aliens” have wandered, or been thrown, so far outside the social system that there is no real way back.

In short they are alone.

So that “recovery” begins with something simple like “Hello.”

The sky had suddenly grown darker, and the nighttime clouds edged over us. The remaining sunlight shone through behind them.

Waves have a consistent way of moving in the water. I watched them and as many times before, felt my busy mind go still.

“Want to go hear some music?” I said.


I took my husband’s hand, and felt grateful for all the time I’d been granted with him. The temporary escape from the essential loneliness that is this world.


Disclaimer: This blog is written by Dannielle Blumenthal in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the National Archives and Records Administration, or the United States government. Photo by lilivanili via Flickr.

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