Elena Filipova — Massage on 29th St.

Massage on 29th St.

Pale green, lavender smells
Thick heavy russian accent
I walk in and the room feels clinical.
That's why they play soothing music,
to tone down the plain
and increase the zen.
Cash only, card minimum, many obstacles.
Determination forgives the details.

A moment of hesitation
before I commit.
"Take everything off and lie on your stomach."
I wonder how many people have lain here
if all the tools are sterile
or how often they wash the sheets.
She starts rubbing.
Rubbing and gliding and pushing
the smoothness through
Sometimes pinching--ow
on purpose--ow
Is it supposed to hurt?
I make sure she hears my pain
"You need to listen to your body."
I'm being lectured
on my poor routine
the shackles of which
cost much more
than she realizes.

moving down to my lower back
the questions begin
"do you have a boyfriend?"
I had dozed off
"make him give you massage"
hot stones on hot skin
heated internal debate
on whether to continue

pressing into the shoulders
forceful as the river sounds darken
more lessons
nutmeg will help with the vitamin D deficiency
with which I am now diagnosed.
And suddenly
I am a subject.
Painted ill and must be fixed
a patient--
labeled as such, and now I become such
as Foucault would argue.
Chronically stiff,
definitely overworked,
perpetually stationary
which is bad for your back.

Expert hands slide down my thigh
stretching through the inside and squeezing.
Steadying into the feeling
of blood vessels dispersing,
the slippery contact reminds me of
the last time I've been touched there.
My skin remembers it well;
it's fooled into being familiar.

"Marijuana oil is what you need."
More rubbing,
the good kind.
"It relaxes the muscles."
All the advice
wrapped in caution tape.

"Do you have allergies?"
"I can tell. It's all in the feet"
My body
Her crystal ball

I don't dare to voice
my mounting skepticism
despite hollowed pain splints
rising still.

Instead I marvel
at the crashing forces
in a human body
and ancient wisdom sprouting
from a midtown spa.