Open Locked Doors
My Gig at the State Hospital
~ Jonathan Fleig
Needles to say, this did not calm my nerves and I had no clue what to expect. We finally made our way to a huge open room. The first thing I saw upon entering was a banner spread out across a horizontal beam that stated, "What I cannot say with words, I will try to say with colors."
There were only a handful of patients in the room. I was introduced and I sat down with them. I told them a little bit about myself. I informed them that I had been on the road for several months. I explained that I played music for strangers and that today they were the strangers.
There was a young man there that stood out from the rest. For some reason I was immediately drawn to him. It appeared as though being in his own skin was all he could muster. His internal struggle was manifested in a slight and steady trembling. The wheels were turning in his head and I could see that he wanted to say something. I locked eyes with him and said, "how you doing?" It was all he could do keep it together. Tears began to stream down his face as he spoke in small subtle bursts, "...thanks so much for coming....do you know any Pearl Jam?"
His eyes were full of pain and his voice was just above a whisper. A lump had formed in my throat. I fought back my own tears. I didn't know what to say. I unlatched my guitar case and I pulled out my guitar and began singing Pearl Jam's "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town." His tears were much heavier now. He closed his eyes and suddenly I saw this calm come over him. The trembling stopped and a look of bliss came over his face. I hadn't quite made it to the second chorus when suddenly I realized tears were streaming down my face. For the briefest of moments he and I were One. I felt better because he felt better.
What a strange time to realize what my music is for?
When I finished checking in at the security desk a guard said he would escort me to the room I would be playing. He unlocked the outer door and I followed him down long hallways and through more interior doors that each required the turn of a key to get through. Each door led us further inside. I started feeling claustrophobic. The guard looked back at me. In the midst of an awkward silence I said, "so what kind of hospital is this?" He chuckled to himself and over his shoulder said, "it's not the hittin' and the kickin' that bother me...it's the bitin' and the spittin' that I don't like."