I had a massage last night in a weird little Thai parlor in Koreatown. The place is on the second floor of an ugly strip mall, right above the Very Very Rice Cake Studio and just past a pool hall. The pool hall is always open and reeks of smoke. The lights are bright, even in the middle of the afternoon, and the place is filled with Korean men. I like to watch them when I walk by, watch them chalking their cue sticks, watch them line up the balls on the green velvet. I played pool sometimes back in college, back when you could bend over the table and be certain someone was looking at you, at your ass, in that way.
These days, just to get through them, I fantasize about running away, being another person. A
famous designer, Kate Spade, my age, died by suicide this week. She hung herself on her bedroom
doorknob. I thought about this off and on, all day yesterday. Then this morning I woke to read that beloved Anthony Bourdain had hung himself, too. I met him once in New York when I worked on the line of a famous restaurant. Life as a line cook in New York City in the early nineties was exactly how he described it. Today I don't know what to think, but I know how to feel, and I feel sad. Utterly sad. The whys and the hows and the rest of it. All the stuff about connection and love and staying kind.
I don’t ever fantasize about killing myself, but I do wish I could disappear. Walk away, start over, be free. I’m aware that this is ridiculous, that if I were to end up somewhere in, let’s say, New Zealand, I’d rue what I’d done. I’m not trying to minimize Kate Spade's despair. Or Anthony Bourdain's. It’d be obscene to say that I relate.
Outside the massage parlor is a little plastic stool. On top is a paper plate that has an orange, a cookie and a small glass of water with a flower in it. I thought maybe someone had left their snack there, but Carl said that it was an offering. Cool, I thought, and I automatically felt more peaceful. We walked in, got settled into the blue lounge chairs, put our feet into the plastic buckets of warm water that two women placed in front of us. I took off my glasses and closed my eyes. Despite the strip mall, the place is peaceful. The massage therapists are all Asian, both male and female, but they range in age. One time I was pummeled by an ancient crone who seemed to know all my secret places. There’s a place on my arm, the part that sags, that I know is soft because my Italian grandmother's was as well, that place where I ran my hand as a child just to feel it sway, and when the Thai masseuse touches mine, I can feel my throat back up with tears.
It was a grueling week with Sophie. She had wisdom teeth surgery last Friday which
triggered an unbelievable number of seizures. She can’t talk or express herself or tell me if she’s
in pain, but she can seize. One night she had more than seven of them, in a row, and it’s one of
my secrets that while most people would have taken her to the hospital or at least called the
neurologist, I toughed it out. It’s a secret because it sounds crazy, maybe even irresponsible.
Caretakers of children with seizure disorders have these kinds of secrets. Sometimes we count
only on ourselves.
There’s something about massage, like acupuncture, that gets me going. I have a routine when I
go – what I’m going to think and whom I’ll think about, in a certain order. If I were writing an
essay, I’d title it Dreaming About Sex During Acupuncture. My mind just goes there. The doctor has no idea that after she finishes putting all the needles in, asks me whether I want music and puts it on, walks away and shuts the door behind her, I’ll lie very still on the table and start thinking about my past. I lie very still because when I move, the needles hurt. Actually, the needles don’t hurt, but whatever they’re doing hurts. Actually, it doesn’t hurt as much as it feels uncomfortable. I'd edit the whole paragraph to just that last sentence, but somehow the progression is necessary. I try not to move once the needles are in because I feel like I'm impeding the flow.
That's what's so hard about all of it. Seeking help. Being still. Feeling. Not impeding the flow.
to be continued