One of the best of the birthday gifts, which I received from some of the best people, was a gift certificate for an hour and a half massage. It seemed extravagant, incredibly generous, and was so exciting I almost burst into tears when they told me about it…and the tip was paid for; all I had to do was show up.
I scheduled my appointment as close to immediately as I could, and stood outside the place for 30 minutes, wondering why everything was closed and if I was dumb. I found out where I was supposed to have gone, rescheduled for an evening after work, and raced there as soon as it hit 6 p.m. and I was free and clear and ready to be pummeled for ninety minutes by a stranger.
The table was tiny, and not very long, and it was a surprise, for a
moment, when I got on it and it didn’t creak, when my body fit,
stretched out flat. And it was a surprise, the whole time, that I did
not feel absurd and grotesque, being naked in front of a stranger.
Every time I think I’ve gotten over my body issues, that I’ve fully
swapped out those snags and tics that came from growing up fat, for the
ones that come from being flabby and having weird skin, I stumble over
them again and I am left sad, all over again, for the unhappy girl I
was, angry that I wasted so much time on things that were unimportant,
and angry still that they still haven’t left me, those hiccups in my
head that tell me I’m too big, too ugly, untouchable.
She made me comfortable, the massage therapist—she had a demeanor and a
way about her that reminded me of my beautiful friend Karen. A kindness
that lets you relax into her hands, lets her dig as deep into your
muscles as she needs to go. Metaphorically speaking for Karen, of
course. The therapist, though, was digging, prying her fingers through
the knots and loosening them. She’d press and press and press and there
would be a moment where the ache that is always present would flare and
burn bright, and then suddenly, it subsided, and all the years I had
carried that tension were gone. She moved from my neck and down my
back, down one side of my body and the other, and I kept my eyes closed
and drifted, and didn’t feel self-conscious or flabby, strange in my
body at all. I remembered how much I need to be touched, how absolutely
vital it is for me.
Let me curl up next to you and I will drift off while you stroke my
hair and read, and when I wake and stretch and yawn, I will tell you
that I haven’t been that happy in a long time. It is all I can do to
not ask people to pet me. Sometimes I think I will develop a purr. It’s
probably better if I don’t, because that might be a little weird.
She finished, and told me to take a moment to relax, before I got up
and got dressed. She shut the door behind her. I rolled over on the
table, in the dark room, and pulled the sheet up to my chin, and I
could have fallen asleep right there. I wished I could fall asleep,
that I didn’t have to wear pants or climb on a train or head all the
way home before I could lie back down again. All that time, and the
euphoria would dissipate, that feeling of being perfectly content,
absolutely blissful, strangely safe and oddly cared for would vanish,
and then that feeling underneath my skin would start to build again,
that need to be touched that never quite goes away.