What happens in my head is usually much more dramatic and interesting than what happens in real life. I'm intensely nosy and I have a horrible habit of eavesdropping, prying and just in general taking far too much interest in other people's business. I can't help myself. The couple at the next table having a whispered, furious exchange? I have to know what it's about.
I am a beacon to crazy people. I had a fantastic exchange once on a city bus with a small, purple clad homeless woman who insisted she was the goddess Venus. She was haranguing the men on the bus, informing them that they should fear her, worship her and kneel before her. They were terrified, averting their eyes, huddling away from her, helpless under the intense gaze of a 95 pound old woman wearing three coats. It was awesome.
The man sitting next to me chastised me after the woman addressed me, telling me that she was the goddess Venus and I responded, "It's so cool to finally meet you. It indeed is an honor." She was very pleased and moved on, the man next to me whispering that I shouldn't encourage her. I whispered back, "But what if she is Venus?" He switched seats.
I think we all have the potential of crossing the line between acceptable quirks of behavior and crazy. A woman who has two cats, no one blinks an eye. Four, maybe an eyebrow is raised. Six? Crazy cat lady. Some people allow good intentions to become their own madness. Animal rescuers who can't stand the thought of a creature suffering so they take one after another in until they cross the line into hoarder and are a detriment to the very animals they strive to save. They cross the line.
Or someone who can't get over the loss of a lover. They send flowers, write letters, call... refusing to give up. In "Say Anything" the scene where John Cusack stands in his love's yard holding up a radio....romantic on screen. Real life? Call the cops. At one point does relentless love become stalking? Sometimes it's a matter of perspective.
Most of the characters in my stories are strange and usually have crossed that line. I have a sad sack who is convinced a flock of crows is out to get him, a quiet woman who launches a vendetta against a laundromat that she feels offers sub par service. I have a pyromaniac obsessed with a local fireman, a woman bullied into consuming friendships with people she actively dislikes or fears. For the most part they manage to function in a "normal" life. Their struggles are hidden from the outside world. Eventually, their craziness is exposed when it goes too far.
I can connect with my characters because I have those elements within myself. I check to see if I have locked my door at least twice before I walk away. Two times is acceptable. What if it became five then ten? We all have the capability of spinning out of control.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not afraid this will happen to me. I just recognize it's there. So when the socially stunted man plops down next to me at a diner and launches into a thirty minute monologue about flea markets, his downstairs neighbor and vintage Beatles albums, I don't have the heart to shut him off. He's just trying not to cross that line.