The agony could strike at any moment. Daggering pains in my lower back demanded correction. Not just painkillers, I needed a permanent cure. “Thai massage” suggested the internet, so I hobbled across a tangle of east London streets and found a doorway beneath a pink neon sign. A receptionist of south Asian appearance, bundled in a white winter coat, nodded at me unsmilingly. “Massage?” I asked. “Forty,” she said tersely. I counted eight fivers out into her small pink hand. “A receipt?” “No receipt,” she said. “Room Two.”
She gestured behind her at a line of numbered doors. Room Two was a narrow, sweet-smelling nook with silvery wallpaper, piped Burmese music and a tiny shower cubicle. Center-stage was a treatment couch spread with a roll of gray tissue about the length of an adult male corpse. The door swung open and there stood the receptionist, now dressed in a matronly black nurse’s outfit that clung to her petite buxom figure. She frowned. Something was wrong. I was wrong.
Then she vaulted on top of me, straddling my thighs, and got down to the serious business
“Clothes,” she ordered, pointing at a stool. “Two minute!” She closed the door and I hastened to meet her deadline, removing my entire costume except for my brand-new fake boxers by “Kalvin Klein,” When she returned, I lay on the couch and explained my spinal trouble in detail but she showed little interest. “You sigh,” she said with a wonky smile. What did that mean? Perhaps she mistook me for another patient named Simon or Si. “I’m Lloyd,” I said. She introduced herself as “Linda from Hong Kong.”
She set to work on me with her warm strong hands, kneading my bones and probing my squishy lumbar muscles with her questing fingers. The treatment hurt terribly but I didn’t cry out or gasp. Instead I felt a curious urge to praise her, as if I were marveling at a honey bear crayoned by a small child. “Wonderful. That’s great,” I purred. Then she vaulted on top of me, straddling my thighs, and got down to the serious business of digging her elbows into my flesh and trying to force all the air from my lungs. We continued to banter as she pummeled my ribcage. She asked me which local sauna I usually visit and I told her that I’d never had a massage before. “Oh my God. First time massage,” she yelped in disbelief. I was curious about her medical pedigree and I rattled off a string of synonyms to get my meaning across. “You studied? You learned? At college? You trained? Training?” She responded to “training” in the affirmative. “How long?” I asked. “Ten year,” she said.
Her brutal approach was softening now and she began to ply my skin with friendly, gentle strokes. Ticklish almost. She played a few arpeggios with her fingers on my lower back, then gathered the waistband of my underwear and tugged it down an inch or two. “Take off,” she said. This wasn’t a question but an instruction. Having been raised from earliest childhood to obey medics without a murmur, I did as she ordered and removed my KKs instantly. Then I lay back on the couch, as naked as Adam, staring at the ceiling. At this point my eyes wandered towards an advisory sign on the wall: “Our trained therapists give massage treatments and DO NOT offer sensual or sexual services. Anyone making such a request will be removed immediately.” This was printed on wipe-clean vinyl, for some reason. However, the temptations of Aphrodite were far from my mind, and I felt relieved that the house rules would be adhered to faithfully during my visit.
Her brutal approach was softening now and she began to ply my skin with friendly, gentle strokes. Ticklish almost
At that moment, a power cut struck. In the semi-darkness I could see Hong Kong Linda gazing at me, but with no sign of alarm or surprise. Had she flicked an invisible switch beneath the couch? “More?” she asked. I watched in puzzlement as she used a manual gesture to indicate that a supplementary form of treatment was necessary before my cure would be complete. This placed me in a tight spot. Her proposal involved a clear violation of her ethical code as set out on the wipe-clean notice. Such a transgression might even jeopardize the professional diploma that she’d spent ten years acquiring.
So I made my excuses and left. Or I tried to. But my excuses failed to impress Hong Kong Linda who, like any dedicated healthcare professional, was keen to deliver the treatment in full. She mentioned that a gratuity was expected. “How much?” I asked. She shrugged mildly. “How much you pay?” Reluctant to starve the medical profession of funds, I offered to double the original fee and she accepted my philanthropy with a nod.
I put my clothes back on and counted out the cash. “Lot of five pound note,” she said as I pressed the loot into her palm. “You have nice body,” she added. “So do you,” I said, automatically returning the compliment, as one does, even though I could barely see her silhouette in the gloaming. “You sigh,” she said again, with the same wonky smile. Sigh? The word evidently meant something to her and she sought help from Google Translate. She meant “shy.” And yes I am shy. But not as shy as I used to be. Pain’s gone too.