Saturday, October 4, 2008
The Horrible Massage, ca. 02-04
A few years ago, I decided to treat myself to a massage on my birthday. Anticipating that I may be going through one of those depressive moods that seem to strike around the date, I wanted to do something preventive that would soothe me into my next age. So I called one of the local Massage schools. The student assigned to me, they assured me, would be a senior soon to graduate. I gathered up my courage (I hadn't done this before) and made an appointment. This was going to be a special birthday.
By the time I got to the Massage school for my appointment in the late afternoon of my birthday, I felt tense and harried. I was wearing black. The day hadn't gone so well and a massage was just what I needed. I felt secretly pleased with myself for anticipating my needs.
I went in the school building and was directed to the upstairs waiting room where my student was waiting for me. A tall, lumbering man holding a towel stood at the top of the stairs. I looked around and realized that this had to be my student. Here I was expecting a perhaps bookish, but nevertheless efficient young woman, and I got a lumberjack! My heart sank. He led me to a large gym in which other students were busy providing massages to people lying down on their backs or stomachs on foam mats directly on the wooden floor. I was increasingly apprehensive.
The big guy, -a giant, really, took me to a corner of the room. I set my things down on the floor, took my shoes off and eased myself down on the mat. The student gave me a small hand towel to place on my chest over my sweater. I closed my eyes and ordered myself to relax. The massage was nondescript and clumsy. I was surprised that a senior student could be that ineffective. I was resigned to get through the session and be done with it.
But as time went on, I felt myself pulled out of my self-induced semi-meditative state by some grunts and panting sounds that became increasingly loud. I opened on eye, to see what was going on. The student was now working on my legs through my clothes. He looked uncomfortable, his bovine face looked grey and pasty, and large beads of perspiration were forming on his forehead. I was alarmed. The man may have a heart condition, I suddenly thought. What would I do if he fell on top of me, like a great tree falls in a primeval forest? He kept on kneading my legs, working his way upward in an erratic manner. Through my half open eyes, I could see him strain to keep on task. What a stupid way to die, I told myself, crushed to death, and on my birthday of all days possible! I was frozen by fear, with visions of myself squashed, flattened like a bug on the floor, blood pooling under me.
I kept hoping that, perhaps, he would move aside, and give himself s few minutes to recover. Not so. He was now directly over my head, massaging my shoulders, then my neck. I quickly opened an eye again. There he was, haggard, breathing like a bull charging through a field, sweating away, right over my face. I closed my eye shut quickly. I felt a drop of sweat splash on my face, right under my right eye. Paralyzed with horror, all I could think was "Body fluid!" I could feel every hair on my body stand straight. What if it had fallen in my eye! I tried to calm myself down; there was no need to panic; there was no reason to overreact. I carefully wiped the wetness off my fingers. I was busy thinking up an excuse to stop the ordeal, when I felt the towel being picked off my chest. What was he doing this time? I opened both eyes at once, to see him rolling the towel in a ball, wiping his forehead with it, and, once done, placing the wet towel back over my chest.
To this day, I still wonder why on earth, I didn't simply put an end to the séance the instant I saw that things were off, but too often, my reaction to something weird going has been one of surprise, disbelief, then magical thinking: if I close my eyes, it'll disappear or pass eventually. Of course, nothing ever does.
In any case, the drawing was done a few minutes after leaving the school with encouraging words to the inept clod who inadvertently made this birthday one I'll always remember.