Oh, my god, the pain.
The excruciatingly horrible pain.
The pain that makes you wonder just what the hell *really* is deeply wrong with dungeon-dwelling masochists. The pain that makes you want to bolt and run for the door.
But, you don't because, you know, this is goooood for you.
Plus, you can't get up. No, really. You can't get up.
Welcome to Foot Massage Hell.
I've had reflexology before. Many times. My preferred foot-rubbing spot? Elaj Aveda Day Spa in King Farm, up in Rockville. There is a wonderful massage therapist there by the name of Christine, and she is amazing. I don't know what deal she made with otherworldly powers to get those healing hands, but the woman has a gift.
Unfortunately, I can't really afford her services very often. Let's just say this: it's not cheap, and the likelihood I'll be snagging myself a sweet sugar daddy anytime soon (or ever) is somewhere between zero and nil.
So, I save my pennies and go once every blue moon for 30 minutes of pedi-rapture.
I cheated on my massage therapist.
The local coupon clipper circular came in the mail, and there was a discount screaming my name. Big bucks off reflexology in a spot just a hop, skip, and a jump from Chez Merde! And let's face it, Ms. Empty Pockets cannot pass up a bargain - especially a bargain that promised happy tootsies and a general sense of well-being.
I mean, after all, that's the feeling I always had leaving my regular-when-I-can-afford-it foot fiesta.
I guess the truth is, I've never really had serious, bad-ass, Chinese sports trainer-style reflexology before. My spa massages were, well, spa-like. Mellow. Gentle.
Screw that today.
My reflexologist met me at the door, and before he'd even ushered me to the big comfy recliner, he'd offered to come do any future appointments at my home. "You take a hot shower, you stretch out, we do full body massage and reflexology. Then, you sleep." I just smiled and made one of those noncommittal mumbles we all do when faced with friendly uncertainty and the desire to not be openly rude. ("Oh, Merujo, we just love your company! I'm making a headcheese coffee cake next Saturday. Never had one? Oh, well you'll adore it! You *must* come!" Mumble smile mumble.)
Today was just gonna be a shake down cruise. We'd see how the first session went. The price could not be beat, that much was certain.
The lights were turned off, and just the ambient light filtered through the windows. Chinese pan flute muzak played from a small boombox - I couldn't tell after a while if it was just one continuous track or actual separate songs. Soon, though, you'll understand why I couldn't give a crap.
He started by massaging my face. I told him I had pain in my shoulder and wrist from a car accident, but I think he didn't understand me. What he got out of what I said was, apparently, please dig your fingers deep into my left shoulder and right wrist until I shriek in agony.
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
He managed to dip his thumb directly into the hollow of my right wrist, just at the point where the bone had snapped and, despite the high loft ceilings, I made one hell of a leap toward the rafters.
That hurt. A lot.
Small tears drifted down my face.
"It's good, yeah? How you feeling?"
"I think that's enough on my hands and shoulders, thank you," I told him, gulping for air. "Please, you must be gentle. Car accident injuries." Then I pointed out the rusty nail injury to my left foot, the result of a No Good Deed Goes Unpunished moment when I stepped onto a remarkably long, rusty nail while on a healthy morning walk a few weeks ago. "You have to work around that," I said. "Don't touch that area, please!"
What the hell was I thinking?
What proceeded to happen was thirty minutes of paralyzing pain, percussive hits to feet, legs, and knees (yes, god, knees!), and something that went far beyond deep tissue massage into the realm of instrument-free surgery. My legs had locked up and my glutes were clenched like I'd been trapped in some Rube Goldberg mix of bear trap and ThighMaster. Literally, I couldn't catch my breath enough to complain.
I had started out with my deep breathing work before his hands hit my body, but soon, those deep breaths would turn ragged, and eventually turn into something rhythmic that would make any Lamaze instructor proud. Seriously, I went from "deep cleansing breaths" to "hee hee hooo, hee hee hooooooo" and thoughts ran through my head that this was probably fairly close to what labor felt like, just a few inches to the north.
It's kinda, sorta funny now, but then the words "women go through labor every day all around the planet, I can hack this" went through my skull over and over and over again, all while that goddamn Zamfir-meets-Crouching-Tiger bullshit calming music played like a sick joke in the background. I was nearing some sort of out of body state when I suddenly realized he had stopped the assault on my limbs and had started clipping my toenails.
"What are you doing?!?" I wheezed at him.
"Pedicure now?" He smiled from what felt like a thousand miles away.
"Jesus, no," I panted. "No pedicure. We're done, right?"
He stopped and said, "Okay, how you feeling?"
I didn't have words. I mean, literally, I didn't have words. And, for the love of Pete, all of you know that's about as rare as an albino panda.
I just wanted the room to stop spinning, my hand to stop throbbing, and the linguini that used to be my legs and feet to regain solidity.
As I regained my senses, the guy told me in broken English that he had been a trainer with a national sports team in China. And before that, he was a doctor.
And yet, here he was, sitting at the feet of some random fat broad in the DC suburbs, downstairs from a nail salon.
He did this to support his daughter and her dreams in America. That's dedication. And love. And, despite the pain he'd just unloaded on me, inspiring.
But, dear lord, I wish he and I could have understood each other a little better. My right wrist is still screaming at me 12 hours later, my left shoulder would leave town if it could, and my previously rusty-nail injured foot has won Most Likely to Keep Merujo Awake Tonight.
Will I go back for more? Oh, hell no! Right now, I need gentle. Nothing world-class. Just something soothing, please. When my penny pile rises to the level that I can visit my sweet-handed masseuse in Rockville, I'll be there.
Now, here's the deal: had I known I would be getting pretty much an Olympic-class sports massage, I would have been mentally prepared for it. When I traveled in Central Asia on business, I often stopped at the national sports stadiums in the capital cities. Many of the trainers had previously worked for various Soviet Olympic teams, and they were thrown to the wolves when the Soviet Union collapsed. For a ridiculously low fee (but one that was more than a month's salary there), you could get a fantastic sports massage designed for a world class athlete.
But this morning, all Ms. Wimptastica wanted was a gentle, toxin-cleansing foot rub. I was not mentally prepared to be twisted into a bloated pretzel in an overstuffed armchair.
If any of you are looking for a really fierce, skin-twisting massage (or you're just into pain), let me know, and I'll give you the specifics of this morning's location. But you won't find me there, gorked out on a bizarre high of some shaman-ish elemental pain.
I'll be drinking tea and listening to seagulls at the spa, thanks.