Sunday, September 9, 2012

Going Nowhere

Mike had long hair, ripped jeans, was several years younger than me but looked like he had lived in the 70's. He was easygoing, and loved to play guitar.

There was an old guitar on the ward, but it only had two strings. Mike would sing (he had a good voice), and play the tune on two strings as best he could. He obviously had talent.

"Man," he said at dinner, "I wish they'd let me have my axe. Or at least send that piece of shit out to be restrung."

Now, I know how to string a guitar. I would play one while doing children's programs at the library. I did so many, I had to restring my "axe" up to four times a year.

I spoke to the nurses. They told me to talk to the Occupational Therapist, because music therapy was her field.

I took a deep breath, calmed myself, and spoke with her.

"I could restring that guitar. I think it would be helpful for some of us musicians to have an instrument."

"Why, that would be lovely! Tell me what you need."

I told her the type of strings to buy, and what kind of pliers and cutters I would require. She frowned at that, but I could see that she had decided I was not a high risk of using the cutters and pliers for mischief.

"I'll get you the things you need tomorrow."

Tomorrow came, and she came through - sort of. She provided pliers, cutters, and...the wrong kind of strings. They had the wrong end, and wouldn't fit.

I'm good at making things work. About an hour later I had rigged the guitar up and tuned it so it was playable. I handed it to Mike.

"Right on, man!" He started to play right away. It sounded good.

Day by day, he seemed to improve. It was great hearing the guitar Then one morning, he came to breakfast excited.

"I heard the nurses talking. Holy shit - I think I get to go home! It's damn well about time - I've been here for six weeks." Everyone around the table gave him a high five.

A half hour later, we saw him being escorted through the elevator with two nurses and his belongings. I was surprised he hadn't said goodbye. I glanced down at the sign out sheet.

Under where it said "Name" I saw "Mike." Under where it said "Destination" I saw an angry scrawl that said "Fucking Nowhere."

"Where's Mike gone?" I asked the nurse.

"Riverview," she sighed. "He hasn't improved enough, and we need the bed."

Riverview is the long-term psychiatric hospital in British Columbia (despite what you may have heard, it is still open - just downsized). Compared to an average hospitalization of two to three weeks, patients in Riverview stay an average of a year and a half.

I couldn't remember how long I had been on the ward, but it felt like it had been a long time. I felt bad for Mike, and then a deep panick set in - was I getting better fast enough?

I didn't want to go "fucking nowhere."

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