I’ve got this friend diagnosed schizophrenic. He lives alone, drives a Volkswagen bug, has long gray hair and collects disability checks. He spent ten years in a German prison on a drug bust and twenty in American prisons for a string of nickel-and-dime drunken infractions. He’s 55 and spent 30 of those years behind bars.

He talks non-stop free association that makes Neal Cassady look tongue-tied, 80% of it pure poetry, 10% deep-welled insight, the rest free radical stuff, all of it knitted together with a total-recall memory.

“People are afraid of me,” he said the other night when he was leaving my place. “People won’t talk to me. People are afraid to touch me. I don’t know what it feels like to be touched.”

I put my arms around him and held him tight, and when I turned him loose again, he had tears in his eyes.

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