Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Moral Bankrupt Man Massage

Sometimes, when a man is lonely, living at home, sleeping in the bunk bed of his youth, busy regressing, he makes bad choices.

I am the man referenced in the sentence above.

I was young, I was drinking, and I was driving home on a Sunday afternoon when I passed an Asian massage parlor.

When I opened the door, three older looking Chinese women greeted me.

The place was very dark.

"You have pointment?"


"Ok, fifty dollars."

I pulled out my credit card.

Her eyes narrowed in disgust and she let out a hiss.

"Cash only. No prastic."

With one long, emerald green fingernail, she stabbed at a little sign written by pen-wielding field mice.

"See sign?!?"

I want to tell you that I can't read your sign, it's too tiny, but I am scared.

"I don't have any cash," I mumbled.

"Get cash, come back," her face split in a wide grin. "Ok?"

Wherefore art thou nerve, which so emboldened me to enter here?
Gone with the ladies, gone with the sign, gone with hush of the parlor in late afternoon.

But something, some strange compulsion compulsed me.

Yes. I will go get cash.

I will see this through, wherever it may lead.

I will have an Asian massage.

Now at this time, I had no cash card, nor even a bank account.

But I did have a drawer full of money, in my bedroom, the bedroom of my youth, in the upstairs of my parents' home.

This must happen, I told myself.


The twenty minute drive home was done in a state of mental shutoff.

When on a course that is ethically dubious, I find it beneficial to power down most higher brain function.

It shuts up all those little voices that try to urge us away from stupid choices quite nicely.

Simple plan: leave car running, jump out with a cool move, sprint inside with cursory hellos, grab wads of money, peel out down the driveway, and don't come back till body has been asian massaged.

Sure are a lot of cars here. Strange.

I opened the door to see all kinds of grandpas aunts and uncles.

"Hey how are you?"

"There he is!"

'Just in time for dinner!"

No no, no time...not for this.

I can't dinner, I can't there he is.


I wonder now if my intent was scrawled somewhere across my psychic visage; if I had the aura of a man on a dirty mission.

The little crowd of relatives parted.

The drawer with my money was decorated long ago with garbage pail kid stickers, their obscenely chubby faces covered in boogers or vividly drawn pimples.

Robot toys teetered on bookshelves alongside a hodgepodge of figures kept from my youth: M.U.S.C.L.E.S., Battle Beasts, Ultraman.

I would like to say they held some totemic power over my innocence, but not one of those little plastic bastards yelled out, "Hey! Massage parlors and drunk driving are two of the stupidest things in the world! Take your shoes off and play with us awhile....hum dramatic music and talk in bad english accents like you used to do when having us all kill each other!"

No, they just sat there, mute, while I stuffed my pockets full of cash.

"There he is again!"

"No sorry grandpa can't talk now..."

"There's food here-"

"Sorry gotta get back out there, back to what I do"

"Got a job yet?"

"No heh still looking though-"

When I was younger, the push of familial love felt like the claustrophobic pressure of nurses holding me down. 

I would get queasy and so uncomfortable I could've peeled myself like a banana.

Maybe it's because when I was a baby some nurses had to restrain me while a doctor repeatedly lanced an infection in my neck; the soundtrack to the drama only my pathetic screaming and my mother in my ear, shooshing me and telling me it was all okay in a voice that had not convinced itself.

Could be unrelated though.

Regardless, I turned on them and announced, "Listen, I love all of you in my own awkward way, but right now I need to go because I am paying for a naked massage from a Chinese lady that I hope is not one of the three old ones who were manning the door. Goodnight."

I made that part up, but I did find myself back in my car, speeding towards destiny.

"You back?"

"I am," I intoned with solemnity.

She took my little mash of bills and barked behind her in Chinese.

"This Sandra, she take care of you".

Oh beauty, in what strange corners you hide, in what shadow you disguise yourself
Not for any eye to find, but only to him that pays
do you reveal yourself

Sandra entered the room.

She might have been fifty; squat, thick limbed, and wearing what looked like a bathing costume from the early 1900s.

Without  a word, she gestured for me to follow her.

Sandra paused in front of a shower room scavenged from a YMCA. 

She pulled a towel from a stack and tossed it to me.

Was I supposed to take off my clothes? Was she going to take off her....bathing apron?

Sandra turned on a jet of hot water and pointed at me.

"Clothes?" It was strangely a question, as if some of her clients did indeed prefer to shower in their clothing.

I mumbled something and undressed myself.

There was no embarrassment whatsoever.
Sandra was so matronly she could have been my wet nurse.

She halfheartedly squirted what looked like bubble bath solution on the floor.

At the very perimeter of my feet, tiny bubbles collected.

"Soap", she said.

With that, Sandra retreated to the darkness of the hallway.

Was she watching me from out there? I couldn't tell. 

It was all a heady mixture of creepy sexuality and a visit to the doctor.

Let me take a moment here to tangent.

Sure, sure, I knew the reputation of the Asian massage; several of my less wholesome friends had boasted about the secret pleasures they had salvaged from visits to such places.

I was not so naive and so ignorant of my own impulses to fail to recognize an element of sexual desire present in my choice to be here.

Hence the shame, the hesitation. 

But the greater need at work, the greater force, was my terrible loneliness. 

I longed for the distinct warmth and pressure of human touch.

That is why I paid fifty dollars to shower myself in someone else's bathroom.

"You done?" Sandra was back.

She shut the water off and pantomimed drying herself with a towel.

"You" she urged.

I dried off and wrapped the towel around myself.

Sandra handed me a blue plastic crate.

"For clothes" she said.

I packed up my things, careful to keep my towel in place, and followed her down the hallway.

There probably were other men there, uh, showering themselves and stuff, but I did not see them.

If I had, I wondered: would we make eye contact? Maybe high-five? I hope not that; I am an awkward high-fiver anyways, and between the hand holding up the towel and the hand holding the crate, there would have to be some serious shuffling before I could give a good and non-naked five.

As we neared the room, my heart began to pound.

What was going to happen?

A massage, sure, but back rubs in high school were just lead ins to making out. What was a massage, anyways? 

Was Sandra going to try and make out with me?

 I looked hard for a part of me that would want that, but couldn't find any.

The open doorway beckoned; I crossed the threshhold into the room of Forbidden Destiny.

"Put down," Sandra said, pointing to my crate.


I laid face down on the bed, the towel still around me.

The pillow case smelled like someone had tried to Febreze an ashtray. They forgot to turn the nozzle fully onto 'Spray', so just a little bit of Strawmelon Puffmist had dribbled out.

With an unceremonious heave, Sandra was astride me.

The weight of her body on the back of my legs threatened to hyperextend my knees.

My skin ached for that first moment of contact, and it was not disappointed.

Living Brazil nuts began to play my back like a piano with stubborn keys.

There was an amazing urgency to her technique.

This was no massage, but a race between her fingers and any knots she found.

They ran and hid from her, and she poked and smacked away until she chased them out of their little nests. 

I would not say it felt good, or that it was even particularly effective, but I will say that my aches and pains were certainly not in the same places they had been when we had started out.

Though Sandra could have used a lesson in variety; after awhile it went from being distracting to just plain odd.

Given awkward silence, you can pretty much bet I am going to try and fill it, skillfully or not.

"So...where are you from Sandra?"

"Same as you."

I thought hard.

"Uh...what kind of food do you like?"

"Fried chicken."


I recognized the song on the radio and began to softly sing along.

"You sing?" Sandra asked, her voice a little breathless from exertion.

"Yeah, all the time. What about you?"

"Not lilly."

She kept on working.

I wanted it all to feel good, to be what I had been looking for, but it wasn't.

Sandra had begun on my feet right as a knock sounded on the door.

"OK, time up."

She leapt off of me and stood in the middle of the room, smiling.

"You like it?"

My smile sat very stiff and insincere upon my face.

"Yes, it felt so good."

I quickly dressed myself, wondering how exactly to feel about the whole thing.

Confused, of course; but what after? Guilt? Shame? Sleepy?

Only when I was almost out the front door of the parlor did anything even remotely sexual take place: 

Sandra cocked her formidable arm back and gave my bottom a hearty smack.

"You be back?" She said, in a robotic echo of a tone normally considered "hopeful".

"Yes!" I said.

But I never did go back.

I lied to you that day, Sandra, and years later, when I read in the paper how the police had raided your massage parlor, how they had rounded up the employees and deported them, I hung my head and let one tear drip slowly down my cheek.

It splatted on the open newspaper, turning the solid black lines of a Marmaduke comic into a dull grey. 


  1. I can't take the pressure of possibly being the first comment...maybe I need an Asian massage? No, on second thought. I'll pass.

    This was beautifully poetic and painfully awkward.

    1. thanks! Though I did not think of it as poetic....

  2. "Ask for hug from mom... or Asian massage" -- now there's a t-shirt!

    I expected to see a turtleneck sweater here somewhere.

    1. turtleneck? But this was not in any way meant to be serious! Really! I fail at funny....

  3. "Not lilly."

    Oh you got me with that one. Laughed against my own will. I had a strangely intimate massage once in India. Long, uncomfortable story.

  4. This is the first time i've heard of an Asian massage with an awkward, unfulfilling ending. Although I am much more comfortable with that than I would be knowing you got jerked off by a middle aged Chinese woman.

    1. If this event had gone any other way, I can guarantee I would NOT be blogging about it....

  5. i once had a similar experience, reading in the newspaper about a place being shut down by the police. only, i had been a former employee. and i didn't know we were supposed to be giving out happy endings. maybe that's why my tips weren't very good.

  6. Be thankful there wasn't a burly monosyllabic Russian man and ten scorching hot rocks in this story. I hope that eventually you got a proper groping.

    1. Nah, no groping-which is fine by me-scorching rocks might have been good though

  7. Is it wrong that now I'm hungry for Chinese food?

  8. I guess you probably should have made an appointment. Seems like Sandra was reserved for the walk-ins with no cash. I think though if it were me, I would have had to jerk off or something to at least feel like I got something for my money.

  9. oh, classic! love this post, especially "I'm quackers for massage."


  10. It is too awkward to comment... thumbs up... :) Love Elle xo

    1. Yep, I pretty much did not realize this was an awkward story until people wrote about "jerking off" in my comment box.
      Then shame and awkwardness flooded in...

  11. Sandra looks like my old school dinner lady, Mrs Tierney.

    I remember distinctly my first massage. It was the summer of 89 and Guido and I, a young circus midget...oops gotta go, phone's ringing...

    1. How did you go from being a circus midget to... whatever it is you are now?

    2. A middle-aged circus midget blog commentor?

  12. This is just brill. As per blinking usual.

    Seeing as you never went back, where did you go instead?

    1. I figured out that scratching my back on the rough bark of a tree was infinitely more pleasurable. And the world never saw me again.
      Because I was a bear.
      I became one.
      You make me uncomfortable.

  13. I always wondered what the protocol was in a place like that. A braver man than I, are you, who took the pubescent steps to finding out.

    1. Let me say, if anything sexual had really happened, I would hate this memory, but since nothing did, it just ended up stupid and kind of funny

  14. "I would get queasy and uncomfortable and could've peeled myself like a banana" is some of the best imagery I've read anywhere in a long time. I am cringing and crying and smiling and feeling an overwhelming urge to give someone a great big hug. Brilliant.

    1. Yes, the banana line was great!

    2. Thank you-I would not have imagined that reaction to this post...its kind of funny

  15. All my massages are robotic .... We have one of thOse chairs ... It is nice when you need kneading.

    1. Cool-I love those things-thanks for your generosity by the way! You are such a nice person esb

  16. Awkward.

    Just... awkward.

    After reading this I felt the same way I do in dreams where I find myself back in high school, pants-less.

    As a licensed massage therapist, I wonder if this is why I've had wayyyyyyyyyy more female clients than male. Men are looking for something sexual, whereas women want their backs and shoulders to stop aching.

    Now I know.

    Ummm... thank you?

    1. Probably not true of all men seeking massage; only partially true about my state of mind that day.

      But yes, awkward is a good summation of it, Killer Cupcake.

  17. Gorgeous Gweenbrick, I really thought that it was going to...ah doesn't matter.

    1. Thanks Julie, I would not have written it if it was....

  18. Hahhahaha wow. I was certain it was going to the filthy place. The last line was great, though.

    1. No way! Gia, I would not do that to you! I keep it CLEAN on here....right? RIGHT???
      thanks for reading for as long as you have by the way

  19. "Living Brazil nuts began to play my back like a piano with stubborn keys." That is an awesome line right there. So you were in a no-win situation. You didn't get a happy ending, but on the other hand, you really didn't want her to give you a happy ending.

    1. Thank you! Um no, it is best for all involved, including the people who read my blog, that happy endings of any kind were not on the menu

  20. Though our journey together, G, began with me laughing (not out loud all the time, but definitely many times) at your hilarious comics and stories about your students, you've swiftly risen to the top of my favorite...writers? I know this is just a blog, but you have an immense talent for verbal imagery and your vocabulary and turn of phrase keep me hungry.
    Write more. You have a gift.

    1. WOW! Thank you Olga-you made me swoon....too flattering! Ego exploding! But you're just in time for my next post, or series of posts, which is an experiment with all comics-hopefully the lack of straight writing won't turn you off!

    2. I like both! You cant be serious all the time.

  21. Did you ever spill your guts to the fam?

    1. Ha heh funny you should say that, Heather-I didn't really think about the fact that my family reads this blog until after I posted it...sooooo, some awkward family dinners coming fun

  22. This was a rather exciting piece. I can't help but ask - did you stay lying face-down the whole time?

    1. Yes Bozo, there were no flip over shenanigans. You pervert.

    2. Lol, something else came to mind but I better keep it to myself.

  23. I've always wanted to go to one of the many Asian massage parlors they advertise in the papers. Of course, all the women are beautiful. Of course, they are just models. I am a heterosexual female with absolutely no desire to engage in some 'adult fun' with the employees. But their rates are fantastic. $39.00 for an hour!?! How can they afford to stay open. Don't tell me! I already know. Human trafficking.

    1. HA HA awesome comment, Nellie. I would say, PASS on all Asian massages. Just my opinion

  24. Aaaaaaaaand there's a fantasy I think I will be avoiding now.

    Thank you for helping me see the light!

  25. YES AVOID IT! This was meant to be a humorous, cautionary tale....don't do it, Dorsey!

  26. Great humor in the awkwardness of the situation. I couldn't stop laughing after the picture of the family with "ASIAN MASSAGE" all over the place because the phrase sounded kinda like the GI Joe parody where the dude says "Body Massage"

  27. The appointment booked filled up fast during the two hour launch so I'd book your appointments now ladies for your next big occasion! I'm already down for my spray tan and brows! Massage Prague