An awkward dinner: The only woman traveling with all men in a foreign country, attempting to interpret a menu of unknown, expensive items which all appeared to contain some form of strange, fatty meat and/or tentacled sea creature, both things she does not eat. An unspoken pressure to drink heavily, oddly mixed with an intimidating impression of being assessed on her decision whether or not to imbibe – regardless of which way she went. Surrounded by a culture of misogyny and repression, served by waitresses who don’t speak their language, delivering food and drink to the privileged.
An hour into the meal, and she was beginning to wear thin. The conversation empty and dull; all the food served, a mystery. Afraid to order much, the resultant plate had been decorated with $60 worth of four trim legs of a small animal. Confused, hungry, tired, and completely uninterested in her companions’ intentions for the rest of the evening, she excused herself with her own plans to get a massage. In that country, it is easy to find them cheap, and she had remembered her experience during her last trip to this place positively.
Fortunately, she could walk just next door to find this service. Extricating herself from the stifling company, she walked quickly across the compound and found her way into a small room. In it, a real estate advertisement repeated on the TV, with the volume up. No music, dimmed lights, and a small table filled with pamphlets she couldn’t read. One wall of glass doors open to the humid evening. Two pedicure chairs in the center, a table in between with a glass of ice water and a slice of lemon. It was as relaxing as she was going to get for the night.
She slipped off her shoes and got comfortable. It was not long before a small woman entered. She gestured briskly this way and that, instructing her to move into position, communicating without words. Once satisfied, the woman set in.
She started by rubbing her feet. The first few kneads were innocuous. And then…PAIN. Sharp, intrusive, intensive pain. She realized she couldn’t communicate easily with the woman and felt trapped. She thought she could grin and bear it, telling herself it couldn’t go on the whole time. But, it did and got worse. She was struck by the remarkable ability of this tiny woman to inflict such horror. Her fingers dug, poked, transformed into ten tiny knives cutting into her muscles, crushing her bones.
She winced; she tensed up. She heard herself making noises like a house pet that’s been stepped on. The woman giggled, and continued. Continued to tear apart her body like the one of the small animal she’d been served at dinner.
She giggled again and again. To the question, “Ouch?” the reply, “Yes! Ouch!” made no difference. A tiny torturer, propelled by a desire to inflict pain on her victim. It kept going – up the legs, up the back; the petite woman took hold of her full body and cracked her neck and back by pulling and tugging. It was terrifying; she had visions of not making it out alive. But somehow, she did.
Beaten and bruised when she left that night, she was asked in subsequent days if she had gotten a massage, as they were so wonderful. “Yes, one of the worst experiences of my life,” she’d confirmed and been given a confused look in return. She was apparently alone in the desire to avoid being hacked into bits.
Truthfully, though, she couldn’t decide which had been worse – the awkward dinner, or the unbelievable strength of the tiny woman with an agenda.
Next time, she decides, she’ll pass on both.