This sort of shit always happens right before I go on vacation.
“Hey! Did you get my call earlier? Oh, okay, no problem. I just want to know if it’s OK with you that my work buddy takes my appointment. I know I’m in again in two weeks, I’m fine. He’s a mess. We’ve been working on the Ebola outbreak and how to protect our volunteers in West Africa and he’s been here late every night and his neck has locked up.”
They arrived together about an hour later, my client of twenty-plus years and Scott, his co-worker, the latter broadcasting a creepily grinning Joker-like risus sardonicus which I suspect he fondly thought of as an attempt to smile through the pain. It made every individual hair on my body twitch and flutter like prairie grass in the wind.
“What have you been doing for it so far?” I asked.
“Well I saw a couple other people for massage.”
“But I know you can do a better job,” chimed in my regular client.
Oh, no pressure, then.
He couldn’t lie flat on his back. He couldn’t lie on a slant cushion. I had to put him over on his face. Thank God; it took away the spectacle of that spastic rictus.
I talked while I worked. I talked about the nonsurgical therapies that had worked for one client and another with a neck disc problem. I talked about the unlikeliness of dorsal angina (I’ve seen it once and it didn’t go away when she changed position). I talked about the muscles I was working on and why they could create awful pain just by seizing up. I pressed here and asked him to breathe, then pressed there and asked him to breathe again. Deep. Now blow.
In some ways I think the most relaxing thing I did was answer his remarks about all my body books; yes, I’ve had some of them since I was four years old; yeah, I had that Visible Woman model with the transparent exterior and all the lungs and kidneys and things that you painted and snapped into place. It was quaint and reminiscent and had nothing to do with Ebola. Here’s your diaphragm. Here’s your stuck rib. Inhale and blow out as I compress it.
I didn’t think he’d be able to take an hour’s work, but when I looked up at the clock I had overshot by five minutes.
That awful grin was off his face. “It feels better than it has in a week,” he said.
I hope it stayed that way.
It’s flattering when my long-time clients think I can square the circle, but, well, scary.