I’m lying supine on a massage table in a dark room. There’s new age music playing, but not the kind that screams “hey, look at me, I’m new age music.” Instead, it’s the ponderous ambient kind. Music that has a way of combing your mind into straight rows when you’re least expecting it. Helping you work the kinks out.
That’s what the massage therapist is doing.
“I’m really sorry about my neck,” I say. “That’s where I carry all of my stress. Large breasts and a desk job.”
Since she’s a professional, she only echoes the second half. “Oh yeah, desk jobs. I see that every day.”
She works on my neck for a while. I can tell it’s difficult for her.
“Sorry about my neck,” I say. “I know it’s basically a solid wall of knots.”
“I could probably spend an entire hour on your neck,” she concedes.
But she doesn’t. She moves down my body. Massaging my pecs, moving across me in a way that almost feels like a hug. It’s incredibly comforting. Not at all what I expected. I feel resistance within me crumbling. A force that pushes other people away. The one that is always giving people an out. The one that says, “It’s okay if you don’t want to pay attention to me. I know I’m a lot of work. That I’m not perfect. Give me a couple years, or decades, of self-denial and maybe I can carve myself into something presentable.”
But here this stranger is, touching me like I’m not annoying or hideous. She doesn’t seem distracted or like she’s watching the clock. She’s present. Trying to help me.
And honestly, the way she’s touching me feels downright affectionate in a completely nonsexual way.
It feels like acceptance, and I don’t know what to do with that. Especially since she looks like one of those perfect people who are always put together. Like the snobby girls who laughed at other girls in gym class.
And when she gets to my hand and starts to massage my palms, I burst into tears.
It scares the crap out of me when this happens. I apologize.
“It’s okay,” she tells me. “I’ve actually cried on the table before myself.”
“I guess other tension gets released when you’re working muscles,” I say.
“Mmhmm,” she says. And then adds, “Relax.”
So I do. I surrender to the moment, to mindfulness. It’s a radical departure from everyday life, where I feel I always have to be doing something. That if I’m not being productive I’m being lazy.
On the table, I’m passive. An object, but a beloved one. Just drinking in my own thoughts. And feeling the emotional poison I didn’t even know I was carrying leave my body, as she works out every knot.