Anna Lee Walters
My name is Buffalo Wallow Woman. This is my real name. I live on the sixth floor of the whiteman hospital, in the mental ward. This is not the first time I have been in a mental ward, I know these places well. I wander through this one like a ghost in my wrinkled gown. My feet barely brush over the white tile floor. The long windows reflect the ghost that I have become: I am all bones and long coarse white hair. Nevertheless, there are slender black iron bars on the windows to prevent my shadow from leaving here. Bars on sixth-story windows puzzle me. On the other side of the bars, the city lays safely beyond my reach, the wrath of the ghost of Buffalo Wallow Woman.
Bars or not, I plan to leave this ward tonight. I’ve already been here too long. This place makes me ill, makes my heart pause and flutter. Sometimes it makes me really crazy. I told that to those in white, but they refused to listen, with the exception of one. I said, “Hospitals make me sick! Here my strong heart is weak.” In response, one of them shrugged, another frowned suspiciously. A nurse replied, “Now, Mrs. Smith, you don’t want to hurt our feelings, do you?”
Well, that made me grab her arm and dig my long fingernails into it. I wanted to scream, but I controlled this urge and said calmly, “What’s that you called me? My name is Buffalo Wallow Woman.” She and I stared each other in the eyes for five minutes before we separated: she to her mindless patients, and me to my room to locate the clothes I ought to wear when I escape from here.
My clothes are missing. Why would someone take a ghost’s clothing? My possessions are so old. My moccasin soles consist only of patches by now, but I don’t care. They take me where I want to go. I look at my feet stuffed into polyfoam and I hunger for beautiful things that are no more.
The closet is empty. Perhaps my clothes were never there. Perhaps I really am a ghost now. Perhaps I did not live at all. I look in the window to reassure myself—my spirit shimmers and fades, shimmers and fades. Am I deceased or alive? At this moment I really don’t know.