jilted

they were neither looking at each
other nor were they looking
away.
they sat in many chairs in the tiny
glass office
there must have been
13 or 14 of them
men and women
they looked neither
comfortable nor uncomfortable
and
I stood there
waiting for one of them
to speak to me
because
I didn’t know which one
was in charge.
they were all in civilian clothes
and finally I spoke:
“pardon me, but could somebody tell
me what room Betty Winters is in?”
“Betty Winters?” asked a man
dressed completely in brown.
I noticed he had some keys
on his belt.
“yes,” I answered, “I’ve come to
visit her.   these are visiting hours,
aren’t they?”
there was no answer.
the man in brown got
out of his chair.   he looked at
a piece of paper on the wall.
“Betty Winters is in 303 only she’s
not there.   she took leave, restricted
leave.”
the man in brown walked
back to his chair and
sat down.
the other people had remained
still and soundless.
I almost asked, “is she coming
back?” but I already knew what
the man in brown knew:
if she didn’t return she was
too insane to know she wasn’t
sane enough
and if she did return she was
sane enough to know that she was
insane.

Betty Winters had asked me
to come to see her that day.
like many other afternoons
it was a wasted afternoon
for me.

I walked along down the hall
and a man ran down the hall
in front of me.   he jumped
as he ran along
slapping at paintings on the
wall with his hands.   he
never missed.   then he
ran into a room and
slammed the door.