So I’m laying face down on a table, at a massage clinic in SOMA.
It’s a rainy Saturday morning, a little after 10. The light in the massage room is gray. There are no himalayan salt lamps, no zen waterfalls, no statues of buddha in the corner beckoning me to the land of relaxation. There’s no aromatherapy shit either. The massage room smells more like the DMV—of waiting lines, busted pens, and ink stampers. But what kind of ambiance do you expect of a $30.00 massage groupon, I ask you? Perspective helps.
“So, I have a statement, and a request,” says Jeff, the massage therapist, clearing his throat.
“Sure,” I say.
“The statement is…. I don’t like new age music, so I’m going to play Andrew Bird.”
“Okay,” I say trying to mask my slight disappointment. Though I would never buy New Age music, and make fun of Yanni whenever I have the opportunity, I always hope for some enya or tibetan bells up in that bitch.
But I like Andrew Bird too. And believe it or not, I’m really good at just being quiet and listening to music. So, that is what I decide to do. Just remain silent, enjoy the music, and get ready for some deeply relaxing moments.
“Thanks,” says Jeff. “So the request is…Since we had a bit of a late start (it was me that was late, y’all!) I’d like you to get dressed quick like a bunny, after the massage.”
“Like a bunny…”
Maybe it was the half-slurred, rusty delivery of the words “like a bunny”, but I was reminded, suddenly of Bobby Peru, the deranged criminal character in the movie Wild At Heart (Played by the brilliant Willem Dafoe). His scene with Laura Dern in the motel room where he says to her, in a husky voice while licking his giant rotting gums “I bet you can fuck like a bunny, huh?” is pretty much the skeeviest scene in a movie EVER.)
Speaking of creepers. Yesterday, I had a big work event. As our office event coordinator, it’s my job to make sure all of our speakers are rounded up and the program runs smoothly. In the span of about 15 minutes, at least two different guys, both of them high-ranking (and married!) public officials, got all weird-ass on me. One guy held a hug with me for a little too long, and said I inspired him to play the trombone. (ruh?) The other guy, after negging me hard about not having an official podium for the speakers, tossed his head at the jazz band, and said “So which one of those guys over there is your boyfriend?”
I’d like to say I’m a an awesome feminist, and have a breezy way of asserting my boundaries and letting a guy know when he’s crossed the line with me. But I often am so surprised when it happens I have no response other than to laugh nervously, maybe spit something generic. Then, I go home and disinfect the fingernail gouge wounds in the middle of my hand—born from the death-grip fist that is so often my trademark in situations like that.
“I’ve got another request,” says Jeff. “Or, more like an observation than a request.”
I brace myself for something like “Did you know you’re kind of a chunkmeister? Or
“There appears to be a necrotic pinky toe growing out of your shoulder. FYI.”
“So, it appears that you actually didn’t get between the two sheets. ” Says Jeff.
“You’re just under one sheet.”
“Oh. I see. So I am.”
“So, I’m going to leave for a few minutes, and you can just readjust yourself.”
Seems a simple enough task. Get between two sheets. Readjust. But as I feel my way around the massage table, I discover that, THERE ARE NOT TWO SHEETS. Just one really craaaaazy sheet with multiple corners. How is this possible?
After about a minute, Jeff knocks at the door. “Hi. Are you ready in there?”
“Uh…just a moment,” I shout. Panic sweats break out on my forehead. Must solve problem! The next 10 seconds whip by in a white blur as I wrestle, punch, throttle and thrash the sheet, willing it through the sheer force of my sudden insanity, to become two sheets. Then, I wind my body around the sheet, and flop back down on my stomach, in defeat.
“Okay…ready.” I say.
Jeff is silent for a moment when he walks in. This is because I’m probably looking less like a massage client, and more like a hysteria patient from the 1800’s. (Or a really badly wrapped burrito—pick your metaphor.)
He tries, ever so gingerly, to help me get free of the tangled mess I’ve created out of whatever was left of the sheet. But it’s no use. After a few minor adjustments, I’m back to where I started five minutes ago: Under the big weird sheet.
“Let’s just, uh…move on from here,” he says.
“Sounds good,” I say.
Once again, I try to relax, as Jeff starts kneading the area between my shoulder blades, where my sad lumps are the most abundant.
“You know…” says Jeff, pressing on my back. “I saw Andrew Bird once at the blah blah club in New York.”
“Hmm.” I say.
“Yeah. I even got to meet him once, at the something something festival. He’s cousins with my friends niece.”
I’m hoping that Jeff’s slow gravelly voice will soon fall silent. I want peace. I came here for peace. PEACE!
Instead, Jeff starts talking about his dad’s newly diagnosed lactose intolerance. It’s all too, too much.
“So…how about you? Do you have any allergies or anything?” He asks.
I clear my throat, and say, into the pillow “Is it okay if I don’t talk during the massage? I’ve had kind of a rough week.” (which is no lie.)
“Oh, sure. Whatever you want. Sorry about that…”
I manage to relax just slightly, after Jeff shuts up. The only thing he says to me, for the rest of the massage, is this (as he’s holding both of my feet): “Oh, Arlene. You have no idea all the good things that are coming your way.” Which is kinda weird, but hey, I’ll take my blessings from wherever they are flung, thank you.
When Jeff exits, I leap off the massage table, and grab for my clothes so I can get dressed (quick like a bunny,!) but before I do, I notice clumps of black flakey stuff all over my upper body.
My mind, it doesn’t whir so fast sometimes. Black crud? What could it be? Could it be…some sort of herbal concoction that Jeff added to his massage lotion? If so, why wouldn’t he ask me if it’s okay to use his freaky herbs on me? Black crud…. Was it something I had on me before I came to the clinic? Did I black out and roll in an ashtray at some point? Am I sprouting some kind of fungus? IS IT LEECHES?!”
I take a piece of the crud off my shoulder, and examine it carefully in the light. I conclude, it’s definitely synthetic, and not vegetable or root based. Vinyl.
I look back where I’d been laying for the last hour, and see, aha! The black vinyl massage table is disintegrating. So….. Disintegrating vinyl, plus bare skin, plus massage lotion, equals me.
When I go to pay Jeff his tip for the massage, I notice he has an enormous booger hanging out of his nose. Damn. That’s the icing on the awkwardness cake right there.
And with these savory thoughts, and images in my skull, I set out to the ferry building for some lunch.