Allow me to take you on a journey of that time a couple of years ago, when a very kind and well-meaning Chinese massage ‘expert’ fixed my achy woes in ways that should only be reserved for infidels.
It was my birthday. I hate surprises and in the lead up to special occasions I spend a disproportionate amount of time ensuring I don’t get caught off guard. I had sleuthed my stuff like a pro, and found out that someone – who shall remain nameless – (*cough-my sister-cough*) purchased a massage for me. At my very loose suggestion, no less! At the time of my hint-dropping foray into birthday preparedness I didn’t realise that ‘massage’ was actually Chinese for ‘you will almost die alone and in agony’. I knew it was coming, so I had plenty of time to think about it and had prepared for it for ages. Meaning, I thought about it, swooned over the very idea of it, day dreamed about the wondrous, knowing, soothing touch of another human. That was before I knew it wasn’t going to be a fun thing.
I walk into the store. Yes, store. Let’s discuss this. Many times in my life I have casually remarked that I’m going to the store for milk, bread, nappies, even, once I went out for, wine. But I’ve never said “oh hey, I’m just popping out to the store for a massage. If I don’t come back you can safely assume I’ve been tortured for national secrets, and I need some time off the grid for all our safety.” Massages should be done in places of serene beauty and calm, by people who aren’t trying to kill you, with oil that washes off your skin after the first shower.
Anyway, I enter the shop and approach the desk. In my calm-I’m-not-yelling-at-children voice I say, “Hi, I’m Cath. I have a 2pm appointment.” A very attractive, kind looking lady smiles, and dramatically waves her arm in the direction of the red velvet curtains. I assume she’s just showing me the way, but she follows me in and steps towards me, her pretty face now void of all expression, and she exclaims louder than necessary, “TAKE CLOTHES OFF!!! LIE DOWN!” It’s then that I should have detected her extensive military training and just politely excused myself, but my back was legitimately sore and I obeyed. She pops her head back throughthe curtain and without warning and says “LEAVE PANTIES ON!!” Yep, thanks Xena Warrior Princess, I’ve had ‘massages’ before, I know the drill. Sheesh.
I’m lying on my tummy, with the feeling that my face isn’t quite aligned in the face hole properly. I’m wiggling my head up and down to adjust myself when she walks back in. She wastes no time, and unlike other massages I’ve had, doesn’t bother to ask if I have any trouble spots, or pressure preference (DING DING DING, WARNING, WARNING, GET OUT, GET OUT NOW!). She lays a towel over me and starts to rock me from side to side, I wonder if I’m not in the right position on the bed but get the feeling she’s not going to communicate what she needs, so I just lie there, being shoved back and forth across the bed, thinking that her concern about leaving panties on was irrelevant because one of my lady lumps is going to bust out from my armpit at any second. Soon the rocking stops and the assault begins.
I hear a clicking sound, and later realised it was at that point that she removed the fleshy fingers she was born with, and replaced them for butter knife-cross-knitting needle droid fingers that she would later insert into the skin of my back for supposed therapeutic benefit. It felt like acupuncture with chopsticks. She’s working her ‘fingers’ up and down my upper back, around my shoulder blades (which used to actually be attached to my body), and watching me closely for the spot where I wince the most so she can start drilling into me. I can’t breathe, I’m gripping the end of the bed and my eyes are shut so tight that I’m seeing stars. I hear the squoop squoop of oil being dispensed and I’m immediately relieved that at least her hands might glide over my skin. WRONG!
I’m only about ten minutes into it, and already I have that feeling of intense labour, where you’re sure that in the next breath you’re going to say ‘ok guys, really, I’ve seriously tried my best, I promise I have, but I just can’t do it anymore, I need drugs or Jesus or Chris Hemsworth’. At this point of labour with my children I was actually vomiting with pain, it was real and foul, but strangely liberating that I could allow my body to be so awesome. However, at this point of the massage, my teeth are hurting from clamping my screams in and HOLY MOTHER OF PETE SHE’S STANDING ON ME WITH FOOTY BOOTS!
She hasn’t even hit the really freaking sore part of my lower back yet, so any pain I’ve felt thus far has been purely from her choice to hurt me, and I’m actually scared. My eyes fly open in terror, and wildly flit around in trapped animal style. I can see the bottom of the bed, there is someone else's dribble marks underneath the massage table/torture chamber and I immediately want to know what kind of mutant could find this relaxing enough to actually lose muscular/facial control. Or perhaps that person died during treatment. More believable.
I think I have internal bleeding.
For some reason, she’s standing at my head, leaning right over me, working on my hips (the really sore area). Her little body is ploughing my face into the wrong shaped hole, and her freakishly pointy elbow is boring a hole in my pelvis and in extreme pain my upper body shoots off the bed and I’m almost at a 90 degree angle, my top half naked and in a cold sweat, at her eye level. She jumps back. I slam myself back down, too fearful to speak, she’s obviously stronger than me and really wants me to be feeling the revenge of whatever crime I have committed against humanity.
Then, she stops abruptly, puts the towel back over me and starts hitting me so loud that the sound hurts my ears. Her hands are cupped and she’s thwack-thwacking me in what I can only assume is to encourage the now deadened blood cells to jump back into life. Suddenly, she bends down to my face and shouts “YOU OKAY!!!!” It didn’t sound like a question, more like a ‘tell no one you were here’ threat, but I couldn't answer anyway, because she'd massaged my voice box into my sinus cavity. I try to flex my muscles enough to nod my head, but only a pathetic squeak of air comes out. “DRESSED NOW!” she commands. “TAKE TIME” she adds with her jack in the box trick through the curtain.
She’s gone, and my relief is tangible, but I can’t move. All of a sudden I’m freezing cold and I’m shaking, and I decide that that this is how it feels to fall off a mountain and land on a stair case made of lego, sakata rice crackers and pizza crusts. Very slowly, I get up and put my clothes back. I hobble out of the curtained room and make my way out.
She meets me outside the curtain with a cup of water, and I freeze, fully expecting her to throw it at me. But she bows a little, and presents it to me with both hands, smiling sweetly. “Ooh, you have sore back!” she says with surprise. Really? It is? I hadn’t really noticed you CRAZY SADIST PIECE OF MASSAGE ARSEHOLE! “Please drink lots of water today, you feel better soon” she kindly says. I look around for her evil twin, assuming she’ll be peering at me through the velvet with sharpened teeth, but we’re alone. I can see she means it, she WANTS me to feel better, she wants my back to feel better, but she needs psychiatric assessment.
I walk out, a little away from the store, and weep. I catch a glimpse of myself in the window and my face is possibly permanently disfigured rom the ill fitting face-hole. What just happened? Where’s my car? Did I even drive here? What’s my name? Every nerve ending in my body is screaming ‘HERE I AM!’ and I need all the wine from all the lands.
It’s taken me almost two years to forget enough of the horror to be able to remember this experience. Needless to say I’ve never been back to the massage store, although, in her defence, my back did feel amazing for a couple of weeks post-torture. Still not worth it.