For the past three weeks I have had a dull-aching pain that emanated from my upper back with an unknown origin. When it comes to pain I typically enroll in two schools of thought—either it was muscle soreness and thus a good pain due to positive physical activity or I as usual injured myself doing something random mundane (or stupid) , and my body would soon be returned anew with rest and a lesson learned. Entrenched in my ways and of course being a smart Indian male with highly specialized education I followed the natural protocol—completely ignored the issue like a billable hour audit in a consulting meeting.
While it wasn’t a completely debilitating injury, much to the relief of the Indian National Football Team, but like that one guy who keeps on saying “that’s what she said” at increasingly inappropriate events (such as bar mitzvahs or dance recitals), it became rather annoying. I first turned to the wide regions of the internet to “self-diagnose” myself but eventually lost interest and started sending snapchats of puppies to my contact list. Hours later and with a twist of my torso, I was quickly reminded of the cantankerous monkey on my back and sought professional help from anyone willing to give a hand…over gchat.
This presented mixed results
me: my back hurts, think I pulled/pushed/action-verbed something there. I don’t feel good when I back that thing up.
me: and on another note, I can’t find my pants
me: Give me your medical advice, oh doctor as of 2 weeks ago.
t****: take advil
Others weren’t as productive
me: My back hurts—what can i do?
M***: I’m a lawyer man, what do you want me to do? Litigate your back?
me: Nah, then my liver or genitals might counter sue for abuse/neglect.
I tried “lifestyle” changes such as sleeping in an array of different positions that would make Tetris jealous, or continuing to not work-out.
But nothing really worked—and now the slight annoyance turned into a significant “man my back really hurts”.
Finally when visiting a married couple friend and squirming on the floor with their high density foam roller, as if trying to make love to a pool noodle, they suggested that I get a massage, since I most likely had a knot lodged somewhere in my back.
I was skeptical and apprehensive at first.
Discounting highly-creative yet disturbing foreplay, I have only had one massage in my life and it took place in the Chicago airport after a weekend of drinking/drugs/debauchery at Lollpalooza.
I always imagined a beautiful brunette female masseuse who was also a yoga instructor and would ultimately fall in love with me after establishing a mind-body-soul-boob connection with my nubile flesh.
Instead I was greeted by Artyom, a bald and burly mass of muscle who spoke with a thick Russian accent. His leathery face was marked with the invetibale wrinkles of aging and I could tell by his cold-jaded eyes that he emigrated from some Eastern-Block county where potatoes were used as legal tender. Perhaps he was a retired Spetnatz agent who found massaging others as the only catharsis from years of war-torn horror—or maybe he just was a gentle giant, looking to make an honest living.
After squatting down in the massage chair, imported from the Spanish Inquisition my Russian Lennie proceeded to massage the pigment off my back. At first I swallowed my pride and adopted the mantra “no pain-no gain” but five minutes later Lennie shifted to “ze real deep teeshue massage”, and fresh tears dewed my eyes—my massage experience and back were scarred for life.
Needless to say I was a bit reluctant to sign myself up for another massage but ultimately relented when I struggled to tie my shoes.
A quick Google search turned up a list of various establishments and I ultimately chose one called “Massage Envy” for combining equals parts practicality/function with an essential seven deadly sin, which could also be a cologne line by Calvin Klein. While I’m not the most socially smooth individual, I figured I would call ahead to make an appointment—I’m pretty sure showing up announced and demanding to be touched was a social faux pas.
Now keep in my past experience with massages up until this point was surviving a Soviet onslaught on my western lines, so needless to say I was quite overwhelmed with the sheer variety of different massages one can get. There are trigger point massages, deep tissue, something called reflexology (which I think might also be a smoothie)—literally from cradle (Prenatal massage) to grave (geriatric massage—too soon?) a myriad of ways in which you can pay someone to touch you.
Not wanting to screw this up (can one get pregnant from a prenatal massage???), I elected for the run of the mill therapeutic massage. The day of my massage I showered extensively and used enough body wash to clean the make up off Joan Rivers. Hygiene and grooming was very important to me and I figure that if one’s job was to touch your alive-breathing flesh, it can’t help if you smell pretty.
I debated whether to use body butter to help lighten the mood for my would-be-hand-to-hand-escort, but ultimately decided not to.
It was lunch time anyway.
Massage Envy has a four-step process for a first time patient/customer. The first step involves a “meet and greet” which is sort of an interview on why exactly you decided to show up in the first place. The bubbly new-age-health coordinator/girl-who-probably-has-Whole-Food-brand-yoga pants took ample time to go over my medical history and the origins for my visit.
Chica: So Mr. Shah
me: (assuming I was going to be half naked in a little bit)—you can call me Neil
Chica: Ok Neil why are you here for your massage
me: Well I have this strange pain in my back that I think a massage would alleviate
Chica: Definitely, that’s why we are here! Anything else?
me: (in my head—I’m also stressed and yearn for human touch)
me: (under my breath)Well my prostate sort of hurts
me: Nothing! Just a massage!
Next I was led by my masseuse Gene, to a small room with a cushioned table draped with towels—and was instructed to “get comfortable”. Now in the dating world this would translate to “get naked because we are about to get it on” but 1) this wasn’t that type of massage parlor and 2) even if it was #1, I paid for a full hour and it would feel strange asking Gene to cuddle with me for the remaining 58 minutes. Massage Envy guidelines ensure that a top-sheet would be present to preserve modesty and that only a single of my body would be uncovered at a time, as if playing BlackJack with my brown body. Inherently I wasn’t sure what my comfort level would be and what would be the implications if I stripped naked and became too comfortable? I mean granted my endowment rivals Harvard so there was nothing to be ashamed about but still, with the thought of any awkwardness that might occur with a misinterpreted sigh of relief , I elected to keep my boxer-briefs on.
Ladies—please, I’m a gentleman not a piece of meat!
On a side note-, I’d like to fully endorse Hanes’s boxer briefs—they are like freaking yoga pants for guys.
And your junk.
After getting “comfortable”, Gene, got straight to work, transforming her small yet surprisingly a deft hands into rolling pins, knives, spatula and other cooking instruments as she tenderized my body. She started with my neck, rubbing my brown blanket of meat/flesh/bone, periodically pausing to name various muscle-groups and connections, as if she was going to kill me after and collect my parts. Soon her hands founds her way to my troubled back, alerted by a groan and sudden shiver.
“I think you got a knot here, Neil”
Bingo Gene, that’s why you are touching me and I’m not hitting on you.
For the rest of the session Gene zero-ed in on this so called knot, my brown Moby Dick, that had evaded me for so long. Others have described massages as straddling, like Gene with her elbows in my back, the thin line between pleasure and pain—and I firmly agree. At first the I shifted in pain and almost went into shell shock, remember by Russian Roulette from a year ago—yet towards the ends of the session there was a sudden ‘Eureka” and inflection point. The dull-ache slowly melted away with Gene’s rhythmic kneading.
“I think we it out, Neil”
Myself—trying to be calm and suave tried to say “That was great—you rub my back, I rub yours” but all that came out was the least sexiest groan and a half muttered “yeaaaaaaah”.
At the end of session Gene left me on the table, half naked and a flabby yet relaxed mess of soothing groans and sighs. I quickly clothed myself and proceeded to the final step in the process—check out where we added my wallet to the mind-body-soul connection. I paid Gene her fair penny for rectifying my back and tipped my hat (she was me in my boxers at the very least) and bid her a good day.
And then banged my knee on a coffee table on the way out.
It’s been hurting for days…