Sunday, October 7, 2007


For a certain period last week I was unable to move my neck and shoulders, due in part to some sort of stress-induced problem with my occipital. I found out my problems stemmed from that region in my neck when I made an emergency appointment with a massage therapist recommended by one of my students who, after seeing me writhing in pain during our three hour night class said, "You know, there's this really great day spa in town." I perked up, took note, and made an appointment two days later when I no longer could back out of a parking spot without disintegrating into tears because my neck would just not move.

Before I could be massaged, though, I had to fill out paperwork. I had to provide information on family health history, on allergies, on known afflictions, on sexual health, on stress levels. There were some blank lines underneath the question Why did you come in today? I wrote, I've been getting headaches. Bad, bad headaches. This underneath the question that asked me to rank my stress level, the question that had me circling a seven out of ten and thinking, That's being generous.

After the massage therapist--a kind, wonderful, magic-handed woman--was done with me, she gave me a careful once-over. "No wonder you've been getting headaches," she said. "A girl your age and size should not be carrying that much in her shoulders. Your occipital just wouldn't let go, no matter what I did. We're going to have to re-train it to relax. It's going to take awhile." She wanted to know if I'd been under any ridiculous amounts of stress lately. When I told her I'd just moved, just started a new job, just left all my friends and family behind, she nodded and said, "Yeah, that'll do it."

Oh, it did it alright.

She told me to sit still and relax. Then she disappeared for a few moments. I slipped back into my clothes and slumped into a chair, wishing that the massage had been a cure-all. It was clear it hadn't done what I'd hoped it would. My neck was just as stiff as it had been when I went in. The rest of my body was in pure bliss--my feet and calves especially--but my neck was still aching.

When my massage therapist reappeared, she was holding a giant goblet of water. "Here," she said. "Drink this."

I drank. I wasn't very thirsty, but I drank it anyway.

"You're going to need to drink a ton of water tonight," she said. "Loads and loads of water, okay? If you don't, you'll feel like hell tomorrow. You'll feel like you woke up with the worst flu you've ever known."

"How come?" I asked. I'd gotten massages before, but no one had made a big deal about drinking so much water.

"Trust me," she said. "I just released so many toxins that were caught up in those coiled muscles, you'll just get re-clogged if you don't filter it all out. Please tell me you're going to drink a lot of water."

I said sure, I was going to drink a lot of water. And I did just what I said I was going to do: I went home and poured myself glass after glass after glass after glass. I was sick of drinking water, but I kept on. I had things to accomplish that weekend, and I couldn't wake up the next morning feeling like a bowling pin had fallen on my head during the night.

But, sadly, that's exactly how I woke up feeling. Maybe I didn't drink enough water. Maybe when my massage therapist said, Drink water, she really meant, Funnel water until 2 AM and pray that was enough.

My God, that Saturday morning was ugly. I tried to get up. I really did. But there was nothing in the world that would've been able to motivate me to leave my very nice, very expensive bed. I spent the day feverish. I spent the day tossing and turning. I spent the day producing noises that were of the type likely to come out of an impaled cow. I wanted nothing to do with food, with polite society, with the stack of papers and quizzes I had to grade.

Eventually, I got better. It was not Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, but eventually I came out of the painful, toxin-clogged cloud I lived in post-massage. But I didn't leave the cloud unscathed. During my feverish nights, I was caught up in strange dreams. Dreams of the sort that had me waking up the next day and thinking, What the fuck was that all about?

The worst of these dreams featured one of my best boys from grad school, who was, at different points in the dream, played by himself, by Danny Devito, and by my friend Becky's Packers-loving husband.

This dream also featured my boyfriend, The Boy from Work, and a gaggle of horny, perverted cops.

It was an intricate dream, but the major plot thrust was this: my grad school friend had teamed up with my boyfriend, and they'd pulled off some major caper, something fiendish and foul and bad, something that had the cops hot on their tails. Eventually, when the cops caught up to them, the head cop--a saucy girl with the mouth of a sailor--demanded that to pay their debt to society by having sex with each other.

Yes, yes, that's right--I dreamed that my boyfriend and friend from grad school were forced to have sex with each other as they stood in the middle of a kitchen so the girl cop could watch.

And then a set of male cops came up the back stairs and made me take my pants off and parade around wearing only fishnet and pink panties. Later in the dream, when I caught a glance of myself in a mirror, I saw that I had the hairiest butt in the history of the world. I was positively monkey-like.

And that's when I woke up, the view of the monkey-fur tangled in fishnets still hanging in my mind. I was sweating. I was disoriented. I felt like I might throw up, like my head might explode, like my neck might snap at the base and send my skull tumbling into the fireplace.

I tugged my hair out of my face, tried to breathe and find my way back to a world where I wasn't half ape, where my boyfriend wasn't making love to a guy who likes to discuss his at-work bowel movements, where some cop wasn't saying, You think you can be dirty boys? Let's see how dirty you really are!

If someone would've told me it was going to be like that, I would've gone to drastic measures to stop it. I would've scoured the internet for an at-home IV kit that I could load with water, water that would pump through my veins all night long, cleansing all the stuff I had loaded inside me, all the weird toxic gunk that came gushing up into my brain at the same time and sent me spinning into murky, murky worlds for a stretch of four days.

I'm still sore, of course. I'm going to need to go to the chiropractor soon. I'm going to need someone to put my shoulders and neck and head back the way it used to be. I can only imagine what might spill out when they next crack me open.

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