My first glimpse of Lily was when she was walking down the street, ranting and raving. I couldn't understand what she was saying, but she was obviously swearing and carrying on to an imaginary party. I could tell that she had some kind of mental illness. I assumed that she was just "gone", and that there was no use trying to talk to her. I assumed wrong.
The next time I saw Lily was when I was walking down the street, and she passed me. When she caught a glimpse of me, she called out, "Halloooo!" I smiled and waved and said hello back. A few days later I got on the bus to go to a shopping center not too far away. To my surprise, I saw her there! This time I made the first effort and said hello to her. She looked at me with surprise and said hello back. Later, when I returned home, I saw her again as I was walking home from the bus stop. She called out in Chinese, "How are you?" I said, "I'm good, just going home. How about you?" She replied, "I'm going home too." That was the extent of the conversation, but I felt pleased that we had a normal conversation without any ranting and raving on her part.
About a week ago I took an American friend to a different neighborhood to buy yarn. There is a family that sells yarn out of their house. I had to take her there in person to show her how to get there. We were looking at yarn when in walked Lily! She asked us what we were doing, and I told her we were buying yarn. Then she had a dozen different questions for us. She also made sure to tell us that when we found what we wanted, we had to give the money to the owner. I assured her that we would. Then as we made our purchases and left, she followed us.
I should explain here about something that I learned as a missionary in Taiwan many years ago. There is a fine line between genius and insanity, and most "crazy" people in Asia have very good English. I saw this time and time again. Those most mentally ill seemed to have the best English abilities. And with Lily it is no different. She spoke some English to us, and I was surprised at how good her accent is.
I don't know too much about Lily. Her name in Chinese is Li Li, so she naturally picked Lily as an English name. She is probably in her late 20's, and I seem to remember my cleaning lady telling me that her illness came on as she got older. That is quite common with mental illness. She spends her days wandering around the district and seems to know most people.
After we left the yarn store, she continued to follow us. I stopped to buy some clementines, and she politely asked, "Could I have one of those?" Of course I shared with her. I began to wonder if she would follow us all the way home. As we neared the bus stop I said, "Lily, are you going back with us?" She said she wouldn't. I said, "Well, okay, then we will see you again later. Bye!" She seemed content with that and left us.
Today I was at a neighborhood grocery store and in came Lily. She saw me and said, "I know you, you are the one who came and bought yarn. Where is your daughter?" I said, "She wasn't my daughter, she was my friend. She is at home." Then she proceeded to examine every item that I was buying. lol She left the store with me, and as we walked she continually said, "Foreigners have a lot of money. You bought a lot of good things to eat." I said, "Well, everyone is different, not everyone has money." Then she asked me to tell her again what all I bought.
I have to confess that I was starting to worry that she would follow me home. I am happy to be friends with her, but I think if she finds out where I live, she will show up at all hours of the day, and it might be a problem. But as luck would have it, as we passed a restaurant she stopped to ask them to do something for her. I think she might have been asking them to fill up a water bottle for her. I quickly said, "Well, goodbye then!", and I continued on alone.
As synchronicity would have it, I ran across a quote today that made me think of my encounters with Lily. I hope I can learn to do this well.