I have no sense of direction.
As in none.
So, it was not a surprise to me when I heard snickers while navigating my way out of a maze, just after a chair massage, which had taken place in an upstairs office. It was behind some offices and then I had to take a right, or perhaps it had been a left.
I've always been leery of massages. I don't like awkward.
But, I've been sitting in front of a computer day after day, year after year, for years and it seems in the last decade that I have begun to turn into stone.
So sometimes for the greater good I just have to get past myself and let a little bit of awkward into my life.
That is why about five years ago I accepted a gift of a massage.
"You're going to love it," she said.
I was all butterflies on my way to the appointment, but the thought of somebody kneading my aching shoulders for ten solid minutes with no strings attached, got me to it.
My instincts had been right. It was awkward. But once we got past the introductions and I was all situated in the chair, things did start to improve for awhile.
At first it felt beyond words wonderful. But then the guy's hands went below my shoulders and they were nearing my ribs. I am so freaking ticklish. Alarms started going off. All my brother used to do have to do was point to my side and I would run out of the room screaming. If I were holding a baby in my arms and someone poked me in the ribs that baby would go flying.
Panic set in. I didn't know what to do. Do people laugh during massages? I mean, what exactly is massage etiquette?
Every muscle in my body was locked and ready to leap out of that chair and run on command.
I wished with all my might for those hands of his to get back on the very shoulders that were screaming, "OVER HERE you bastard OVER HERE!"
It was like being at the dentist. You know, when you're trying not to swallow or God forbid cough while they have all that shit piled inside your mouth? I didn't think I was going to make it. I held my breath. And then finally, thankfully, his hands went back to my shoulders for another minute and then it was over.
So, I was against massages after that.
Then a couple of years later, I received a full body massage while in Jamaica and it was all Sven's fault.
Pearlina played me like a fiddle, just like they all did in that Caribbean paradise, located on the seven mile stretch. The white beach that holds more stories in one grain of it's sand than I have in all the years of my life.
I got into a lot of trouble on that beach.
Not the kind of trouble that landed me in jail.
The kind of trouble that had me apologizing to the guy who was just trying to patrol our half-inclusive resort from being run over by bad asses, or rather, by the locals, the very people that I found very interesting to talk to.
The beach patrol guy was Michael. He called me Wisconsin from the minute I arrived wearing a Wisconsin T-Shirt until the minute I left wearing a new one that said Jamaica.
Michael watched over our beach like a hawk. He handed me my sandals when I'd wandered away barefoot for half the day and left them behind. He dug up a chaise lounge chair for me when there were none to be had. He gave me back the beach bag that I'd deserted under an umbrella and couldn't find hours later. But when Michael wasn't babysitting he spent his time chasing away all the people who were working his beach. There would be no pestering of Michael's allotted guests, unless he said so.
My all time favorite local vendor was The Fruit Lady. You could hear her song coming for a long time and then you could hear her song leaving for a long time.
"FROOOOOOOOOT! BAN - NA - NA! PA - PY - YA! PINE - APP - LE! CO - CO - NUT! FROOOOOOOOOOOT!" she would sing up and down the seemingly endless beach, enlessly.
And there was the cute cigarette guy with Red and White boxes of Marlboros in a fishnet bag that he swung over his shoulder. "CIGARETTAY. CIGARETTAY."
And lots of girls with coconut and beaded jewelry, "LOOK AT THIS BRACELETTE MOHN."
And that tall, skinny, kid, the one who just walks silently by with a pile of bananas on his head.
And so many fun traveling musicians.
"DOAN WORRY. BE HAPPY,"
they would sing with missing and gold teeth.
Then there was crazy David. He walks up and down the invisible border between our beach and the beach of the closed restaurant next door. He never stops walking. He never stops talking. He never stops ranting. I never make eye contact. I watch him through the filter of my sandy toes and my sunglasses from the chaise lounge. The water is clear blue on the other side of my toes and Crazy David. Here comes that skinny banana guy. He sees me looking at him. His sad eyes and mine lock for a split second and he knows that I will now buy those stupid bananas. They are little and they probably have spiders and now they are mine.
Here come the girls with their coconut jewelry again, a personal weakness. Close lids now. I slam them shut and listen to the water and a horse trot past with a bikini clad girl riding bareback.
They all know how to work me here in this country. The women with their jewelry, the guy with the scabs on his legs, begging for cocaine money, the kid making a sign in the sand, Patrick the shop guy, Winty- the girl at the table at the dead end of the beach up by Negril, Gem-the bead lady who just lost her mother and inherited a bunch of my stuff. (By the way, I met a lot of people who just lost their mother), Hopeton- my friend for life (who I can't afford to be friends with anymore) and many, many, musicians, I've the got the CDs to prove it, mohn.
Okay, so I'm a flirt. So what.
And then along came Pearlina.
"Massage today?" says the tall, slim, gorgeous, black woman as I swirl my foot around in the warm aqua-blue water.
I say. "No thanks."
And then my dear, sweet Sven says, "Millie, what about your shoulders?"
Okay, Sven is Norwegian. I shoot him a look that only the Norwegian that I have been married to for twenty-five years at that point, couldn't read.
Pearlina takes her cue. "You come with me."
Sven says, "Go ahead Millie. I'll buy."
Just for the record, Sven never has more than five dollars in his pocket in Jamaica. He thinks this will safe guard him from being swindled into buying anything he doesn't want to buy. And just for the record, the Jamaica Negril Beach is fine with that. They just say, "Take it now. I trust you mohn. You pay me tomorrow." And just for the record, this is the fourth day and we are not sure who we owe money to on this beach, but don't worry, they know.
"No thanks," I say to Pearlina. "Not today."
That was stupid. I knew as soon as I said it. I'd left it open for negotiation.
"Okay, tomorrow then, Mohn. What time?" Pearlina demands.
Pearlina was not going to go away and Michael was not going to save Wisconsin this time.
"Um, nine o'clock," I stutter.
"Okay, Mohn. Nine o'clock, you come. I am right over there," she points at nothing, "Bring forty dollars."
"Okay," I say. "Nine o'clock, forty dollars."
She walks away and Sven pats himself on the back.
I wished that Pearlina would forget about it. But that would be like the Godfather forgetting that he'd been cheated. I'm not saying that I would find a horse head in my bed, if I didn't show. But I would have to avoid Pearlina for the rest of my vacation on that tiny beach and that would be awkward. And I don't like awkward.
The next morning I was up bright and early. It was yet another perfect day in Jamaica. We had breakfast cooked by Mama.
We ate it among the well fed, feral cat regulars, weaving in and of the tables at the outside cafe.
And then we sprang for the beach.
I had an entire hour to relax, read my book and agonize over that looming massage
But I didn't even get my book open and Pearlina was standing there. She took my hand and said, "Come with me."
Pearlina led me to her office, which was what looked like an ironing board set up in the sand. She took my purse and hung it from a branch. Then she motioned for me to climb onto that ironing board.
Did I mention that Pearlina was beautiful?
She says, "Do you like deep?"
I say, "I don't know."
She says, "Okay."
I say, "I am very ticklish."
She says, "You don't have to tell me that Mohn. I am the best."
So, I climbed onto on the board. She snapped a tentacle of an Aloe plant and rubbed the clear gel in her hands.
"Relax Mohn," she said.
And then she began her magic.
Again, I felt like I was in the dentist chair. But this was like that time they gave me nitrous-oxide when I had a root canal.
My eyes closed and I floated away.
I heard the rhythm of the waves and then a dog barking in the distance and then a man laugh, and then a child's voice, and then,
"FROOOOOT! BA-NA-NA! PA-PY-YA! PINE-APP-LE! CO-CO-NUT! FROOOOOOOOOT."
"No woman. No Cry."
"Frooooooooot. Ba-na-na. Pa-pa-ya. Pine-app-le. Co-co-nut. Froooooooooot."
Laughter, chatter, dishes clatter, waves, dogs, waves, laughter, "Froooooooot."
I could smell sausage frying, cannabis, coconut lotion, aloe, Pearlina, salt.
[one_half]"Just a little song I wrote."[/one_half]
"Froooooot. Ba-na-na. Pa-py-ya. Pine-app-le. Co-co-nut. Froooooooot."
"I hope you like jammin' too."
"Look at the pretty beads mohn."
"Jet ski here."
[one_half_last]"Gonna sing it note for note."[/one_half_last]
"Froooooooooooot. Ba-na-na. Pa-py-ya. Pine-app-le. Co-co-nut. Frooooooooooot."
Laughter, chatter, waves, dogs, waves, horse go by, laughter, "Frooooooot."
[one_half]"Doan worry. Be happy. [/one_half]
"Lobster. Fresh lobster, Mohn."
Froooooooot! Ba-na-na! Pa-py-ya! Pine-app-le! Co-co-nut! Frooooooooot!
Waves. Chatter. Warm breeze. Salt. "Cigarettay. Cigarettay."
"Whooo, hoooo-a-woo, wooo-a-wooo, woo-a-woo."
"Whooo, hoooo-a-woo, wooo-a-wooo, woo-a-woo, woo-a-woo."
Forty-five minutes later I slid off that ironing board. I paid Peralina and I strolled back to my chaise lounge.
"Well?" says Sven.
"Well, I would leave you in a minute for Pearlina," I said.
But we couldn't stay in Jamaica forever. And I didn't marry Pearlina.
And Michael actually said, "I'm going to miss you, Wisconsin," on our last morning while Sven was off clearing his debts.
Back here in the U.S. life went on and this website was created.
Again, severe shoulder lock set in.
I knew that eventually I was going to have to overcome awkward again and seek out another massage. But from who? From where?
And then one day it happened. An email arrived at work, " Onsite chair massages available ."
Do I dare? I thought remembering the tickle man.
Being the highly unsuccessful blogger that I am takes hours and hours of hard work, sitting in front of a computer.
I knew I had to take the chance. Look, it's Saturday morning and instead of vacuuming the hell hole behind me, where am I? See what I mean?
So, I took the chance and I scheduled an appointment.
Again I was all butterflies as I watched my feet take me to that office that was upstairs. It was behind some offices and then I had to take a right, or perhaps it had been a left.
There stood Joe.
He wasn't as good looking as Pearlina. But then nobody is, so that's not his fault.
There was no ironing board, white sand, or Fruit Lady, but he couldn't help that either.
He was just, Joe.
Well, thank God I got past myself for the greater good that day and let a little awkward into my life.
I now look forward to a massage every month.
If you are in the market, I would recommend Joe.
I think Joe is the best.