When you're presented a gift certificate for a massage, essentially what you're given is an obligation to see a stranger and have them fondle you in a dimly lit room.
In college I was given one such certificate after a friend learned I had never had a professional massage before. After thanking her I made sure to mention I had never piloted an F-16 or owned my own monster truck. I have yet to receive either, which goes to show you the kind of horrible friends I hang out with.
I was skeptical of the entire thing, but it was a nice gesture and free, so I figured what the heck.
The place was called Bodywork by Rochelle. "Great," I thought. "The last thing my body needs is MORE work." I decided I would open up one of these places next door and call it "Body Sits In Beanbag Chair While Being Fed Skittles." I'd make millions.
In the center of the reception area sat some kind of shrine, leading me to wonder if a sacrifice was needed, and here I was on the ONE DAY I forget my ox.
I approached the counter and was given a waiver form and questionnaire, which instantly made me suspicious.
Q: List your emergency contact.
A: WHY?! What are you people planning?!
Q: Do you have any goals in mind?
A: To not have to use my emergency contact. Also, to be taller and win a Grammy.
Q: Do you spend long hours sitting and looking at a screen?
A: What are you, my mom? I'm GOING to go outside, my program is almost over. Jeez. Quit smothering me. I hate you. Please don't ground me.
For the "Do you have any of the following conditions" section under "Eating Disorders" I listed Keebler fudge stripe cookies because I can't look at one without eating it. It gave me hope that they would see this and give me one or 20.
"How does a masseuse knead someone that has diabetes differently than someone that has insomnia?" I asked the receptionist.
"We need you to remove all your jewelry," she said, like this was part of our conversation.
To my knowledge I didn't enter the place dressed like a rapper OR 15th century English Queen.
Question unanswered, she led me to a dimly lit room that looked EXACTLY like a place where I always imagined people would be conducting sances.
"Do you have a scented oil preference?" she asked. I contemplated this.
"We don't have that."
"Then put on whatever doesn't make me smell like a lady," I replied, quickly adding, "not that there's anything wrong with that." Saved!
She checked, "Summer Lilac Moon Blossom de Femme Pansy." Super.
As she exited, I was told to undress and get under the sheet, leaving me to ponder just whom my masseuse would be. After the questionnaire I pictured her warming up by crushing carbon into diamonds and parts of me decided to hightail it northward to a more secure location.
Gazing about the place, I deduced the theme of the room as "Nighttime Asian Jungle" as bamboo appeared to be the primary building material, which made me wonder if my masseur was a panda.
As I began to undress, looking out for spirits, cameras, tigers and anything else that might be peering at me from behind the forest, I decided to keep my hat on, for reasons I can't really explain. I guess I felt less naked that way.
Three glowing seashells sat atop the bed like they weren't purposefully placed there just to confuse me. Not knowing their purpose, I tried squeezing in under the covers beside them, but there wasn't enough room and I promptly fell off. This was, of course, the time the masseuse chose to appear.
"Ohmygoodness," she said, apologetically before quickly exiting. I scrambled to reach my feet, only succeeding in losing a wrestling match with the sheet.
"When you are able, please lay down," she requested from the other side of the door, suppressing a very unprofessional laugh.
"There are glowing shells," I stated, unwrapping myself. "I don't know what's going on."
"They are for decoration. Go ahead and place them on the floor."
After tossing the seashells aside and scurrying under the covers, the masseuse re-entered with a sheepish smile and introduced herself as Abby. She was in her mid-30s, slender and had the forearms of a lumberjack.
Before I had a chance to escape, she gripped my back in the same gentle way an eagle caresses a piece of fish from a stream. To that point I'd never felt my spleen, so that was a fun discovery. As I was wondering if her hands were actual talons I began thinking of all the people I've wronged and if I ever made it out of here I would call them and apologize.
Suddenly the pain got so acute that my muscles got all confused and gave up, making a sound like someone just punctured a truck tire with an axe. I melted.
"Are you okay?" Abby my new girlfriend asked.
"Aaaarrrggghaaaaa," I replied. "Why do you ask?"
"You were hissing."
"I don't think so."
Our first fight. How cute.
Soon I found myself transported to another world. This is not a metaphor. I literally remember flying over Seattle with my spirit guide, Snuggly Bear, in search of enlightenment and grilled cheese sandwiches. I doubt I could've felt more relaxed if stuck in the neck with a rhino tranquilizer. I felt at One with Mother Earth.
Following the massage I floated into a room filled with grapes. I think they were grapes. They may have been erasers. Or rocks. I didn't care. I ate them. I was given a glass of water that I was told to drink slowly because it "purged the toxins." I was so gone by this point I couldn't even rage at her for releasing dormant toxins I never even knew existed.
I thanked Abby and felt obligated to tip her, and also take her to breakfast and meet my parents.
After this experience I now have no issues asking strangers to rub me.