When I was 14, I got my first job as a waitress for a catering company. Hoisting fully-stacked trays of wedding dishes every weekend took its toll on my young frame. I spent years doing yoga, magnetic therapy and chiropractic.
In my 30’s, my back took further hits as a new mother of two very sweet and well behaved children I like to call “The Bull” and “The Wild Boar.” The level of noise they create rivals the entire Animal Planet network, even "Living with the Wolfman" and "Jessica The Hippo." Needless to say, I was really looking forward to escaping it all with massage.
In reflection, that first massage now qualifies as a sweaty flashback. Very much in charge was Halfrida, a beefy German woman who seemed to have an abundance of pent-up rage. She kept smacking her fist into her other hand before we got started, explaining that the only kind of massage she does is “deep tissue.” She emphasized the word “deep” with an intensity I’ve never experienced in the healing arts.
Ten minutes in and the “deep tissue” was more like a “removal of tissue.”
Lodging her knuckles into my neck, she mumbled, “Hmmm.”
Then she stopped.
“Haff you been tested for da AIDS virus?”
“Yes, of course.” I hissed, her neck clamp cutting off my vocal cords.
“Well, your lymph nodes ahh inflamed. I’d get anudda test if I were you.”
I spent the rest of the massage planning my funeral and thinking it might be hastened by the flattening effect of the massage.
Several AIDS tests later and sporting a clean bill of health, I opted for “Earlene” at the chiropractor’s office. Earlene didn’t sound like a German name, and that alone made me feel safe. I was relieved to see her emaciated body in the doorway.
It wasn’t long into the kneading and compression when my feel-good moment was eclipsed by:
“I’m, like, getting married in a few weeks,” she reported.
[Oh no. She’s talking. This was not in the brochure.]
“Ya, like, we met at this camp that my parents sent me to, you know, like,
for teens who don’t listen? Ya, it was, like, so military. So I saw this guy there, like, washing dishes in the cafeteria. So we, like, chatted and he was all, “Hey can I see your scar?”
[Who doesn’t love a good scar story?]
“So, like, he’s all, ‘What happened?’ and so I told him about the accident and how I was, like, driving my Grandma’s Buick and, like, texting, because I don’t like to keep people hanging. That’s not, like, who I am.
[Of course not. You were raised right.]
“So, like, I don’t remember seeing a construction sign and so, like, I drove off this, like, cliff-thing and landed in, like, a lake. That’s how I, like, cut my chin and got stitches. And you know what he said?”
[Waiting for the gem.]
“He was all, ‘Hey, no judgment. It’s all good.’ And that was, like, the beginning of our romance.”
[What’s not to love about a man who wants to know more about your chin?]
“And you know, he has, like, really big goals, you know what I mean? Like, he loves parrots and hopes to get a job, like, in a parrot store.”
[Men and parrots? I’m there.]
“So, like, we’re planning our big day. And there are, like, boocoo decisions to make.”
[The French would kill her for me.]
“You know, like flowers and booze and, like, should I smash the cake in his face or not. And since my grandmother’s Buick is in the lake, we can’t borrow that to take us, like, from the chapel to the reception. So we’re thinking of, like, riding our horses there. Then we thought, like, maybe all the guests could, like, come to the wedding on horses. Like a stampede, you know?”
[This is why deaf people look happy.]
Suddenly, she paused.
I felt my body decomposing.
She was gulping, refueling.
“But, like, I’m stumped on the food.”
[Just take me, Jesus. I’m ready to come home.]
“My dad wants us to have, like, red mullet or beef cheeks. Like, he loves that crap.”
The buzzer rang.
[I’ve come to the conclusion that Earlene could be used in law enforcement as a crime deterrent.]
“Sit up but, like, go slowly. You need to, like, wake up before you drive home.”
Wake up? Did she say, “wake up?”
Oh, I was awake all right. I was so awake I bit a hole in my lip and was about to call an attorney.
Years later, I flirted with the idea of massage again. Time has a sneaky way of making you forget mental torture. I told myself there would never be another Halfrida or Earlene. With that assumption, I made my appointment.
In walked Rodge with an eager smile and a bouncy gait. No men, I had said emphatically. This instantly evoked a host of neuroses I didn’t even know I had.
It was too late. I was naked under a sheet and Rodge was ready.
“So, have you had a massage before?”
[I had a plan.]
“Do you live nearby?”
“So…do you have kids?”
“What kind of massage do you want? Do you like deep tissue?”
“No.” (Halfrida flashback comes forth with a vengeance.)
“A lighter touch?”
“Are you warm enough?
“Do you want me to turn up the heat?”
My plan is a success!
No is the ticket!
I’m hearing the wind chimes.
I’m feeling the gentle breeze.
The record scratches.
“So…did you go to Comic Con this year?”
“Oh, you missed a good one.”
[I can only imagine the thrill of grown men in Vulcan costumes]
“I go in character every year. There’s no other way to do it.”
[Yes, there is. You could stay home with people who are not insane.]
“Ya, last year I was a Cling-on. The year before I was Rebi, a former Borg drone. Then I was Worf another year.”
[Perhaps I’ll go next year as the homicidal massage therapy patient.]
“Okay…so I like to think of massage as a vehicle that will transport you out of your body.”
[I’d like to think of it that way, too. First you would need to shut your pie-hole.]
“So let’s count backwards. Ten, nine, eight…”
[This man does not know where Captain Kirk ends and he begins.]
“Now picture yourself blasting off. Seven, six, five, four…”
I spent the entire massage wanting to blast off out the door.
Three massages, three strikes. I bought myself one of those home massage chairs.
Best part about it: it doesn’t beat me into a pizza and it shuts the hell up.