There are a couple of things that you need to know about me to allow this story to make any sense. First, I’m pretty cheap. Now, I’m not adverse to spending money (just ask Mack!). I’ll spend it on lots of stuff, but I do like to get a good value. Secondly, I really (I mean r-e-a-l-l-y) like a massage. Which, frankly, is a little weird, since I’m not much of a touchy, feely kind of gal.
My love of massage is probably genetic. Back in the 1950s, before they had spas and such in rural East Texas, my paternal grandmother would go to Hot Springs for the baths and massage (which was appalling to my very Baptist and really cheap mother, her daughter-in-law). My dad also loved a massage and my sisters and I spent much of our childhoods walking, barefoot, on his back as a follow-up to the shoulder massage that my mother would give him after a long business trip.
So, it’s in the DNA.
When our boys were young teenagers, we moved from our 100-year-old farmhouse in the country into the city of Fort Worth for the boys to attend prep school. I drove almost an hour each way, back to our little rural town where I was the elementary school principal. Now, anybody who has raised a passel of boys knows that even when they are good (which ours were), it’s a challenge! Add to that the challenge of a couple of hours’ drive each day and being the “boss” of 65 female teachers and 800+ four, five, and six year olds, and you have a recipe for stress!
Well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
One of the joys of moving from a rural area into a city is the excitement of finding all sorts of new stuff to see and do. There were museums, theaters, restaurants, and wonderful libraries! But, the first thing that I did was to join the downtown Fort Worth YMCA. They had an indoor pool for water aerobics, Jazzercise classes, racquet ball, and yes…massage! I felt like I had hit the jackpot.
In those days, I carried a ball of stress in my neck that rivaled the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Because of my miserly ways, which I have already discussed (not to mention the tuition at that prep school – times three), I hated to spend money on myself (well, unless a cute pair of shoes was involved). But, the price of $20 for a 50-minute massage at the Y was a treat that I could hardly pass up.
I guess you need to know that those were my pre-Lasix days. I read constantly when not sleeping or driving, and the prescription my “Number One readers” had been increased to about a Number Four. This is important information, which will explain the next part of my sad, sad tale.
Early in the week, I called the Y to make a massage appointment for first thing Saturday morning, while Mack and the boys were still asleep. I got there pretty early, and had to sit in the musty locker room for about 45 minutes before my appointment time. Of course, I brought a book, donned my Number 4’s and spent a good time reading The Education of Little Tree. I was so engrossed in my book that I didn’t even hear my name being called the first time. “Melanie Wallace,” the somewhat irritated masseuse called out for the second time. So, I quickly stashed my book and glasses in my backpack, and expectantly headed toward the open door of the “treatment room.”
It was dark. Dark carpet, dark walls, with a single lamp in the corner, 30-watt bulb dimmed. My eyes were blurry from the reading and from the lack of my Number 4’s. It was not my fault!
Surprisingly to me, the room held two massage tables. The table which would support me for my massage was empty: clean, starched sheet and pillow case at the ready. However, there was a woman on the other table, mere inches from mine, obviously recovering from her recent massage – covered in a light pink blanket and projecting just the tiniest little whiffle, letting me know that she was asleep.
Hmmmmmm. That was not good Undressing in front of the female masseuse was horrifying enough. But, this woman….would she remain in the room during my massage? Oh well….20 bucks!
So, I took a deep breath, and started across the quiet, darkened room. Now remember, the carpet was dark, the room was dark…and especially remember – this was not my fault.
A couple of feet from the table, I tripped over a big, black German Shepherd, who was not at all happy to be stepped on. He started barking, growling, and chasing me. I started screaming and running, the masseuse (who, I would find out later was BLIND – this was her seeing eye dog!), started fumbling around, trying to call the dog, and the woman on the other table, who had been dreamily “baking” under her blanket, let out a squeal and jumped up, naked as a jaybird, and ran out of the room.
Not a good start for a “relaxing” massage (and I assume, not a relaxing end to one for the naked woman).
Well, it was a pretty good massage for 20 dollars, but there was no way that I could ever show back up. On a magnanimous note, I did feel happy that my masseuse had found the perfect profession for a sight-impaired person. But, they should have warned me about that dog!
So, several months went by; my hunchback returned with a vengeance, and I started thinking about that cheap massage. I could use my maiden name to make the appointment – the masseuse was blind – she’d never know. Brilliant! Sometimes I amaze myself with how smart I really am.
So, I called in and made another appointment, using my middle name and maiden surname. That Saturday morning, I was a little hesitant, but I couldn’t imagine how my plan might fail. Just to be sure, I didn’t even read before the appointment, so that my reading glasses wouldn’t cause me to have blurry vision as I entered the lair.
“Carol Waltman,” the masseuse called at the appointed hour. That time, I was ready. I jumped up and hustled into the treatment room. There was nobody “baking” on the other table – a good sign.
This time, I was careful to walk around the dog, who surprised me by uttering a low, guttural growl as I entered the room. “I’m sorry about him,” the masseuse apologized. “He never growls at people.”
Well, the dog and I both knew the story…lucky he couldn’t talk.
I undressed and climbed onto the table, ready to let the stress be massaged away by those strong, knowing hands. The masseuse poured a little warmed oil into her palms and went in to attack the stress ball on the back of my neck.
As she made contact with my skin, she murmured the only words spoken in that darkened cave that morning…”I know you, don’t I?”