Back in July, one of my friends got me a voucher to get a massage, a half-hour shoulder rub to ease the stresses of a busy life. It took me until November to redeem it, which I can only assume means I pass the test of being busy enough to deserve it.
I was seven minutes early to the day spa, which is definitely not my style. I prefer to rush into appointments a minute after they are supposed to start, my life a tangled mess of earphones and sunglasses and bags and effusive apologies. So it was with some confusion that I said “Um, I’m Kate? I’m here for an appointment… soon?”
The receptionist took my name then gestured towards a chair with an exaggerated swoop, a motion that used her entire wrist, and that could have passed for an OSH exercise.
After a moment a petite woman came to get me, introducing herself as Priya. She led me through a maze of corridors to a little room that smelled like a rose garden bathed in oil. The blinds were down and soft music was being piped in from somewhere. It was immediately relaxing on every level, and I let out a full-body sigh. I’ve seen drug-addicts in the movies who relax in a similar way, their shoulders dropping all the way down as a grin spreads across their face, and I am now of the firm belief that the right kind of lighting and aroma is the equivalent of a… snort of… meth. Or whatever it is you’re supposed to do with it.
“Please take your clothes off and get under the sheet”, Priya said. “You can leave your underwear on”.
She was barely through her sentence before I was wriggling my shirt over my head, putting this five-foot-tall woman at the eye-level of my turquoise bra. “Um, I will be back in a minute?!” she said, and I realised that I was probably supposed to wait until she left, not enthusiastically disrobe for an audience.
She stepped outside and I took off the rest of my clothes and scooched under the sheet covering the table, laying face down. I smashed my toe into the table in my attempt to rearrange my legs, but aside from that, I was in heaven. The attention to detail was amazing – not only was the hole in the table cushioned with a little towel-donut, they had put frangipani flowers on the floor underneath the table. Just in case my eyeballs got bored, I guess.
She came back in and asked if I was ready. “Yush” I mumbled into the face towel donut and she began.
I think it was probably only two minutes in when I had the surprising realisation that I was definitely in love with Priya. But why? Was it her fingertips deftly prodding my spine? Her dainty hands cupping my love handles? I mean, they must be called that for a reason, right?
My thoughts were interrupted. “Is the pressure ok?” she whispered, breathily. I guess it was part of the whole schtick of making this room a quiet sanctuary, but it felt like Priya was definitely flirting. “Mmmm” I murmured, and it accidentally came out a little too groany. I guess I was a bit dopey already from the smells and the sensations, but I honestly didn’t intend to be quite so… guttural. Priya can now count herself amongst the handful (or two, but who’s counting?) of people who have heard that noise while my top’s off.
Our relationship was obviously progressing quickly, and so I started making plans.
Priya could spend her days massaging out the stresses of my difficult life, and I could, well, I dunno. Bear her children? Maybe? I guess her brother could get involved for donation purposes, is that how it works nowadays?
We could probably go back to her home country, if she would like. I’m not sure where it is, but I can only assume the food there is great. I will get really fat because I will insist on only eating whatever national dish has the most amount of butter in it. Don’t worry though, because the extra padding will be good for the baby.
Privya started on my lower back, shifting the towel down to get better access. Much better access. She shuffled my knickers down too, giving her a view that only a handful (or two, but who’s counting?) have experienced.
We’d call it a “plumber’s crack”, but I remember saying that once in high school and being reprimanded by a classmate. She was a blonde American, sweet an innocent as apple pie (the food kind, not the euphemism kind), and her big blue eyes widened when she heard me say it. “Naw, Katie!” she said. “Women don’t have plumber’s cracks. Call it a ladies split!”
Priya was now squirting oil on me, dangerously close to the aforementioned ladies split. I suddenly wondered if I needed to fart, and if I did, what would happen? My new potential romance was now the furthest thing from my mind. Imagine farting, basically into someone’s hand, as they rubbed frangipani oil into your tramp-stamp-spot. Oh god. I blushed from the idea of it alone. There’d be no way Priya would marry me then. Unless it was one of those situations where the awkwardness would bring us closer together? Like in Sex and the City, when Charlotte and Harry vomited together all night?
Priya abandoned my back and started squeezing her fingers down my arm, reaching my hand. I tried to think about something else, because it didn’t seem appropriate to think about farts while my future wife stroked my fingers.
I relaxed my hand but I wasn’t sure if that was the right response. Should I keep each finger stiff, to show that I am strong? That I will take care of her? That I will weather the difficulties of the world and will remain steadfast in adversity? Well, maybe. But the music sounded like happy whales sighing happily about how great the ocean is, and there’s no way I can ask my muscles to do anything other than ‘slump’.
After Priya tended to my limp digits she asked me to flip over. “Mrhhhm” I managed to gurgle, doped up in a haze of aroma and blissful orca chatter. With concern she asked “are you ok?”, perhaps worried that she’d accidentally massaged my spinal cord into the wrong place.
“Oh, yes. Just very, um, happy” I said, immediately regretting my choice of words. Ugh. “Very happy?” You couldn’t have picked more impressive words, Kate? Dazzled her with some vocabularic trickery?
She held the sheet up and turned her face away, and I wriggled myself over on the table. I imagine the effect was not dissimilar to flipping an upside-down car back onto its wheels. After my awkward flop from belly to back, she placed a perfumed wheat bag over my eyes and started massaging my head, her fingers kneading oil into my scalp.
“Massage all done” she announced, after what was probably half an hour, but what had felt like five minutes.
“Oh, oh… ok” I said forlornly, as she took the wheat bag off and my eyes adjusted to the light in the room.
I looked over at Priya and was alarmed to discover she was a real person. With a crash I was back to reality. We’d never work. What was I thinking? The height difference was considerable, the language barrier was problematic, I was straight, and—most traumatic of all—our names weren’t easily meshable to form a catchy portmanteau. Kiya? Priy…ate? The options were grim.
“I leave now, ok?” she said, and I just nodded mutely, feeling myself blush. I wanted to thank her, but I felt like If I started talking I’d end up confessing that while only half an hour ago I was in love with her, I had since fallen back out of it. And while I’ve never experienced it, I get the feeling that being removed by security from a day spa is probably not the best way to get closure after a turbulent love affair.