Every day after lunch, we file past Guard Bettie, adjusting mouse brown hair, painting puckered lips with a twisted tube of “Orange Fire” Revlon, smiling with her new teeth. Guard Roy waits at the window, arms crossed, recounting a grocery list in his mind.
Bettie stands and scans our bleak, medicated eyes. Most are cast down, watching our own feet shuffle across grey linoleum.
Not mine, Bettie. Mine were watching you.
It’s exactly 36 steps from the cold, green, concrete lunchroom to the guard post, the entrance to the Psych Ward. Two minutes past five, every day, Roy goes on break, fifty-two echoing steps in the other direction.
Opportunity pleads, “Take hold of Bettie and her wrinkled smile”.
Bettie thinks nothing of me, again. I am just another dull jumpsuit moving in a single file line. So, today, I did not eat my roll. And I asked for another. They line the elastic waist of my pants. We file past the bulletproof security window, then to our rooms.
“Step, step, step, step, step, step…,”Roy’s shoes yell. “Now’s your chance,”
The second roll fits into Bettie’s mouth like the last part of a puzzle.
Bettie shoes are tight on my desperate feet, her pants a little short.
At the opposite end of Queensboro Bridge, a golden-orange Haldol melts into the night.