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    Sunday, May 29, 2005


    I have a confession to make. I am a massage junkie. I am totally into paying a complete stranger to rub my body for money. I've had massages on cruise ships, in hotel rooms, at spas where writer's conferences were being held, and once there were even these lovely Balinese twins who massaged in perfect synch, every motion of one mirroring the other. (Hey, get your minds out of the gutter! This was in a legitimate world class spa on a cruise ship!) After a long day of sitting at the computer, my shoulders, neck and back are usually tied up in fist-like knots so I have no problem indulging myself in the luxury of a massage at least once a month.

    For over a year, I had the best masseuse on the planet. Jenny had the tender, healing hands of an angel and best of all, only charged $45/hour. But alas--she was forced to give up the business after being sidelined by a nasty car wreck. I can assure you that her suffering has been NOTHING compared to my own. (Just kidding, Jenny!)

    After three months of suffering in silence, I finally decided to pay her replacement a visit. She was a small woman with short arms, but the long blonde braids should have tipped me off to her torrid past as a Soviet gymnast. From this moment forward, we will simply call her...Helga. Before she began, I told her that I knew I was "knotty", but she didn't really have to apply pressure point therapy because I was more into relaxation than pain.

    Apparently in her language, this translated into, "Hurt me, mama. I like it rough."
    This was a not a massage. It was a mugging. She attacked each body part with equal ferocity and soon I found myself silently praying, "Please, Lord. Just don't let me be paralyzed from the neck down when I leave here!" I struggled to muffle my whimpers of pain and cries for mercy by biting the face rest. While she was pounding my glutes, she informed me that "she had a lot more male clients than females." I could only assume that this was because she had killed most of her female clients.

    My dread grew when she wrapped a towel around each extremity in turn and began to tug with all of her strength, telling me that "one of my clients was 3/4 of an inch taller after I finished with her." I silently began to give thanks that at least she wasn't going to try to stretch my neck. That was right before she came around the table and said cheerfully, "Could you lift up your head?" and proceeded to wrap the towel around my throat.

    After I had limped home, iced various body parts, and made sure I could still wiggle all of my fingers and toes, I related the full extent of my suffering to my husband. He simply blinked at me and said, "Why didn't you just get up and leave?"

    "Leave?" I sputtered. "Are you out of your mind? I was just trying to survive!"

    Later, it occurred to me that it was a valid question. Why didn't I leave? Was I afraid of being rude or embarrassed? Did I think Helga might chase me down and put me in a headlock? I finally decided that there's just something about lying on a massage table wearing nothing but a sheet and your underoos that makes you weirdly passive.

    If you don't hear from me again, you'll know that "Helga" has internet access.