I know this is something I desperately need when the tinkling sound from the probably-purchased-at-Pier-1 waterfall makes me want to hurl the thing clear across the room.
Yes: I get that they're going for a mood – that they're trying to create an experience. So I'll listen patiently as I'm told by a very serene woman to disrobe and I'll pull the way-too-big-for-me robe around my body that's now only clad in boy shorts and I'll stick my feet into the slippers they provide. I'll leave my phone in the locker and I'll lock it with a key and I’ll place the key into the oversize pocket of the oversize robe and then I'll walk through the door that was pointed out to me twice and I'll enter the waiting area. And I’ll realize immediately that the reason the doorway was pointed out twice was so I didn’t accidentally walk through the other door, the one that leads back to the entrance, because then I’ll be confronted by a cash register and that sight will ruin the Zen that everyone is going for in this scenario.
It's dim, this room I enter, the one I’m supposed to be inside of now. There are comfortable chairs in colors like mushroom and beige and there is a tray across the room that holds a selection of teas and mini bags of sugar and there’s also a pitcher of water that's been infused with lemons and limes and I think there might be some orange floating around in there, but the sight of infused water makes my mind race to thoughts of a man who infused his water on a daily basis, even when he was not about to get a spa treatment. And it takes me more than a moment to remind myself that the long packets of Splenda are something I don’t need to pocket anymore – that I won’t be seeing him later – and the days of my stealing Splenda for someone I care about have passed.
I thought I was over all that, I think, and in a lot of ways I am. But the amount of times I find myself staring hard at that pitcher of infused water suggests otherwise. I try not to even look at it, but when a relaxed woman who smells of essential lavender drifts through the doorway and helps herself to a glass of it, I realize that I am a girl with quite a lot of feelings and they don’t always line up like maybe they should.
Are you going to write about this?
A guy asked me that question recently when I told him about this blog. He looked more hopeful than nervous, and about that I was certain because I studied the moment and his expression closely.
Maybe in some fashion, maybe someday, I responded with a shrug, but I knew that most of it would never become a story. There needs to be something vivid, something that grips onto my heart or palms my brain or squeezes my soul to extract a story – and the night was all perhaps too normal to become a story. Sentences didn’t slide into my mind; phrases didn’t form.
Perhaps sometimes that’s a good thing. I don't want my entire life to be a story.
I'm called then to follow a woman up some stairs and into a dark room and I'm told to lie face down with my head in that hole at the top of the table. She leaves for a minute so I can be naked in private and I slide onto the table-bed and I put my face where it needs to be and I already feel the questions that still spin from spotting that water pitcher fading as I feel against my bare skin that the sheets on the table have been warmed.
There's a knock on the door a few minutes later, about two minutes longer than was necessary. Can it really take anyone that long to fling off a robe and hop onto a table? Come in, I say loudly through the hole in which my face is resting.
I hear her rather than see her. I listen to the sound of pumping oil from some kind of canister and then I feel the kneading of my shoulders, usually the tightest part of me besides the tender underside of my feet. I abuse my feet pretty badly with those stilts I insist on wearing for at least twelve hours a day, but I can never understand why my shoulders are so tense. It's like the weight of my world and those fears I try to pretend I don't have hide between my shoulder blades.
Then I remind myself of something that I know now is true: I’m not afraid of anything anymore. There are things I don’t wish to have happen – to me or to those I love – but as far as fear? All of my fear is dead now.
This year will go down as the year I killed the fear, I think to myself, and maybe that’s a thing to be really proud of.
Is the pressure okay, she asks me, and I stop talking to myself so I can nod and then I also say yesbecause I'm not sure she can see my head move when half of it is in the hole. You're very tight, she says then, and I sort of just shrug because that's what they all say and I'm here for a remedy, not to provide an explanation.
It will be ninety minutes, this massage. I realized a few years ago that sixty minutes would never be enough for me. I need more, and even when the ninety minutes are up, I have to stop myself from asking the masseuse, is there any chance you can just play with my hair for a while? It seems inappropriate to request such a thing so I never do, but it makes me remember that my friend Alli once wanted to open a business where you could get your hair played with for a while, and though I'd have to be living in a flimsy box to ever work in a place where I'd have to touch someone potentially icky, I'd frequent the place in a heartbeat. And really, one of my greatest skills is making nice to someone's head – running my fingers through hair and raking my nails lightly across a scalp – and it's really too bad I've got an aversion to touching random people because I could make a fortune.
It's right around this thought – can I touch people for profit? – that I tell myself to quiet my mind and just enjoy the massage that was quite expensive. Think about nothing, I hear part of me say to the rest of me. For once, give yourself a break and think about nothing.
The resolve lasts a mere moment, during which the woman applies a hot stone to the top of my feet and the feeling is exquisite and I try to just go with the sensation of it all, but then the undulating thought process amps up like I'm on some form of speed and my mind is veering from thought to random thought like I’m on a train driven by a madman:
I wish I had some lip balm, that strawberry one in the round tin. Is that in my purse or in my work bag?
I want that purse I saw at Nordstrom. In blue – or do I maybe want it in burgundy?
I haven't checked my book sales today. Maybe my royalties will help me buy that bag without feeling guilty.
My blog hit 30.2k hits this week. I'm a nice girl, but I don't have 30.2k friends – so who are these people?
It's actually a good thing I don't know who the readers are. I'd end up sending every last one of them packages of cookies to say thank you and I try to spend the least amount of time at the post office as possible.
My ex-boyfriend just texted that he bought my book, the one he's mentioned in a few times. The whole thing makes me so uncomfortable that I can't even create a fantasy that my book will be shoved into his wife's stocking as a joke gift that she can unwrap on Christmas morning and then spend the rest of day planning his demise. Or my demise, though I don't think the book even mentions her. Does it? Maybe it does. Who knows – I haven't read it since editing the whole thing, knowing that it was done and that it was good. I hope you like the writing, is what I texted back to him. It’s all that matters to me. And I love that what I said to him was true.
And speaking of books, I'm loving Andy Cohen's new book, the one given to me with his signature inside. How can I contact Andy Cohen? Should I just stake out Morandi? Perhaps I'll wait until spring when waiting outside will look natural and not like I’m a stalker.
Stop thinking! You can think about Andy Cohen and royalties and all of this later.
I breathe deeply and I feel the masseuse rubbing my back. You have a beautiful back, she tells me, and I mumble a thank you from my head-hole and I think the compliment is rather sweet and it reminds me that I have a great backless shirt I haven’t worn in a while. And she’s pushing her elbows so far into my back that I worry it might come out the front of me and I can hear things pop inside and I breathe like I learned to in yoga.
My eyes are closed the entire time, even when I’m face up, and so I feel rather than see everything that is happening to me. I feel some kind of rough brush move across my skin that I guess is for an exfoliation and I know that hot stones are laid on top of me a bunch of times. There is a mask over my eyes that is blocking my sight, but it’s all so relaxing that if the masseuse whipped me, I think I might be okay with it. I mean, should I bruise, I’m sure there’s some aloe in the room.
The music is what I’m trying to focus on – that plingy-plangy music that has to be Enya or Enya-inspired, and I’m trying to let my scattered thoughts ride the notes so that I can return to the nothingness I’m actually seeking. I let my brain climb the notes and then I let myself descend with them – but then the music stops. I feel the masseuse stop for a moment too.
The stop in the music was not a part of the plan.
I hear her walk towards where the music is coming from and I hear a light fiddle and a click and the music starts up again but after a few bars it shudders to a stop. As the silence descends, I realize that I have been thinking about how to emulate what her fingers are doing to my feet so that I can bring someone I care about this kind of perfect comfort. Slide your fingers around the ball of the foot, I am reminding myself when the music stops again, this time for good.
In all of my years of doing this, the music has never stopped before, the masseuse says to me, breaking the spell of writing the foot thing down in my subconscious so I can break it out for a lucky recipient. I just smile and tell her that it’s okay, and I think about joking that if she would like, I can sing, but this is not about me being on or making a situation better for anyone but myself. I decide to just settle in and enjoy the silence.
Are you a teacher, angel? She asks me this, and I almost shiver because only one person in the world has ever called me angel before and it was a woman who was close to someone I cared for, someone I thought would end up mattering in my life too. It all throws me for a bit – the stopping of the music, the eye mask that now feels blinding, the being-called-angel – and I breathe again and this time I smell something minty that is probably being rubbed across some part of my body and I tell her that yes, I am a teacher.
I could tell, angel, she says to me, and this time I decide to just smile.
When the time is up, when my entire body has been dug into and pushed and pulled and covered with enough hydrating lotion that I could just slide home, she taps me lightly on the back and tells me to take a minute and that I should put my robe back on and meet her downstairs. She puts the lights up a little bit and I sit up slowly. I feel both cold as the air hits my naked body that had gotten perfectly used to the warmth of the sheets and I feel dazed. It doesn’t seem like an entire ninety minutes have passed, but I decide to believe that they have and that time maybe moves more quickly when you’re comfortable and being called an angel who has a beautiful back.
I meet her downstairs in what I call the Zen Room in my head and she serves me a glass of that infused water. I can taste the lemon through the coldness and I finish the glass before I put my clothing back on my body and I head out again into the rain.