Last week while I was visiting two of my client at a Home, my Muslim friend, who also resides there, called out to me saying that he would like to have massages done also. I told him that he had to advise his son who will then permit me to do so. We have had an on-again off-again business relationship depending on the financial constraints of the family, and it has indeed been a while since we worked together. I understand. His son had paid a Physiotherapist to work with him whose fee was (naturally) higher than mine (though I was advised that the person might a Physiotherapist’s Assistant as Physiotherapists do more consultation that anything else and have someone else do the labouring) so a decision had to be made on cutting my service to accommodate his. On a few occasions while I was there he had visited and I could hear his patience being greatly tested as Mr. Muslim is not the most cooperative client. He prefers massage because there are few instructions to follow as I do most of the work. As I wheeled my client to his room Mr. Muslim shouted to me that he is the one talking to me about therapy, not his son. I told him that he is in no position to talk business, besides his son has to give the permission. He was angered.
I remember passing through the market on my way somewhere and stopping to buy oranges. They looked like tangerine, but when I tried to peel one with my hand the skin did not budge. The vendor then told me they were oranges. I bought them anyway. I then sat in a maxi, took out my keys and used one to peel an orange. The driver looked at me a few times, and when he could bear it no longer he told me that he had a knife in the glove compartment that I could use. I smiled. Nice of him to think I needed help. I told him it was okay. What I was doing was a whole meditation. I was back somewhere at age 5 watching my father pick up an orange from the fruit basket on the dining table and using his key to peel it. For the entire time I was fighting to do the same I was locked into that memory and it was a very pleasant one. I have no idea what memory Mr. Muslim is locked into as it pertains to his son, but all the residents lament his treatment of his son and some have openly said that they which they had a son who was so attentive. His son even got him one of those pedaling machines from A. A. Laquis which is now relegated to a position under the bed because he claims that the Nurse does not want to help him put his feet into it. I told him to ask. Each new day is an opportunity to ask for help despite his conviction of their unwillingness. I did not volunteer to help him use it. Just like I did not need the driver’s help, maybe he does not need help with it. Sometimes, help is interference.
Thursday night his son called and asked if he could drop off some money for me to do massage for his Dad. I told him I would not be able to work with him until this week, so he could leave it with the Matron. He agreed to do so. So your girl went strutting off to massage Mr. Muslim bright and early. He was sleeping on himself in his wheelchair. I woke him and told him that his son had called me regarding massage so I would be doing so until I am advised differently. He told me it is not his son, but his niece who is paying for the massage. I told him I was not there to discuss family or finance with him, but to do a massage. He got upset, saying I don’t understand anything. I told him maybe he should start giving his son some credit for the attention he pays to him. Oops! I was out of place to say that. His voice went up a few octaves as he bemoaned my ignorance. I told him he is concerning himself with things that others have already take responsibility for and that he should just be thankful to Allah that he is so blessed. Oops! again. Allah? You telling me about Allah? You imposing your philosophy on me? Not at all, Sir. The last time I worked with him he was a Muslim and I advised him that it was from that perspective that I used the word Allah. He said well I don’t know if he is still a Muslim. I told him no one advised me differently, and if he is not, then the first thing he should have told me is that his name has changed.
I was properly informed that what his name is is none of my business, just don’t impose my religion on him. I told him he is speculating that I even have one. I said I am thankful for Mohammed, Jesus, Gandhi, Haile Selassie, and all those who not only braved this walk on earth, but did so well enough to have been initiated into another existence, and while I continue to learn from their examples, I have no obsession to impose their teachings on anyone. He rebutted saying I am being paid to do a massage and I am only talking. You want the wok or not? I told him I came prepared to do a massage, but we seemed to have gotten off on the wrong foot. He said I don’t understand that he has provided the opportunity for me to get some money. I asked him to open his eyes and look at me. Yes, all this time he was taking with his eyes closed. Of course, I had to say it again. He raised his head and looked at me. I said look at me carefully. Every opportunity that I got, get, and will get existed the moment I came into this world. There is nothing that you are providing for me. Whoever created me took care of that, and maybe just as you see that you are providing me with an opportunity, I could see that it is I who is doing so for you. So, unless you want this opportunity to go wasted, we can talk all morning I would still be paid for my time. He went silent.
The other men in the living room started laughing and he got more upset saying that I am making him a laughing-stock. A Nurse came and asked if I wanted him on the bed. I told her no, I could work with him in the chair. She turned around the chair and I asked if him if I could remove his jersey to work on his back. He said there was no need for that as the fingers on his right hand were the ones that needed to be massaged, so I should focus my attention there. I told him if we are to stem the problem of debris at the mouth of the river then we need to start working upstream where it comes from, and his spine happens to be upstream. He agreed to have the jersey removed. As I did so he mumbled that his niece left money with the Matron for me so I could collect it when I was through. I told him okay. Then he continued saying that she is the financier, the source of his funds. I told him he might want to be cautious about saying such, for as far as I am aware, our Creator is our Source and everyone else facilitates what is already allotted to us. He said if I met his niece I would know that she is the one with the money. I told him for all I know his niece does not exist apart from in his imagination. What I have seen is his son visiting and lifting him out to the car when he has to visit the Doctor and bringing him things. I have never heard or seen his niece. He did not respond because the massage had started and he had fallen asleep.
When I was finished with him, I washed my hands and went to another room to see the next client. One of his former workmates came to see him and the time was spent in a more relaxed manner as we laughed and talked. Miss Therapist! We looked at each other. It was Mr. Muslim calling. Miss Therapist! What is the massage lady name? I can’t remember, call her for me. I did not respond. My client shouted back asking him what he wanted. He said he wanted the Therapist. My client said she is not there. He said he heard her voice. My client told him when he had me there he was abusing me, now I am gone he wants me. He told my client that is none of his business. Ms. Therapist! I refused to answer. Then he said, I want to know if she is finished with me. No response. Is she coming to finish with me? No response. When I was finished with my client I went to see him and enquired why it is that he felt I was not finished with him. He said I did not do his arms, or his legs. I told him to look at his skin, if there is no oil, then maybe I did not do those parts. He looked. There was oil. He then looked at me and asked if he slept through the massage. No, unless he was conscious in his sleep. He stretched out his arms and legs when I needed to massage them, so I would not say that he slept through. He cannot recall any of it. I wanted to ask if he recalled bellowing at me, but that might have started another session…of denial maybe. Needless to say, his son called me that night to say his father was not pleased with his massage so the sessions are on halt again.
After working with three of them back to back I told myself I am going home and rest, not out of physical need, but wisdom. I did not feel tired in the moment because the last guy was the ‘lightest’ of the three and the most pleasant person to work with. He is the guy who had a stroke and recovered. Then one day a friend was going to Toco and he decided to go for the drive and have a sea bath. He enjoyed himself. When he returned home he slept like a log. Next morning, he could not move. The stroke was back. He has returned to the moment before the Toco bath a million times in his mind, and it frustrates him greatly that he cannot return physically and make a decision not to go to Toco. I told him to consider that he might have awoken in the same position anyway and could consider that he was given the opportunity to have a ball before he got reined in again. And had he not gone and the stroke had returned, he might have been wishing for the opposite and swearing that the sea bath would have prevented his relapse. Our half-empty glass always has something in the other half, and in time, after we would have made ourselves depressed over the emptiness, an appreciation begins to mushroom as we let ourselves see how we could benefit from the half-full part of the glass.
On my way home I was on the bus route by the traffic lights when I bumped into a past client. She was watching my approach smiling. She said she realized that though I looked at her, I did not see her. Indeed. My mind was home. We greeted each other and crossed the road together and stood by the lights on the main road talking. As we did a man approached us with a large plastic bag with shelled coconuts in it. It had to have weighed about 20lbs. She speculated that he might be going to make coconut oil with it. I thought it would be good to take some of that home. We stopped him when he got close. I inquired how much he was willing to sell me. He laughed and said it was for someone. I told him I could understand that, but they don’t have to get all, if he sold me some he would still be making money. He said he cannot do that, he was helping out someone. We refused to let him go. My client said she has a plastic bag and suggested that he transferred some into the bag. He began laughing. Then she pointed out a maxi driver to me. You see that man? I looked across the road. It was a man in his 60s at least who seemed disgruntled with one of the passengers who had disembarked. I confirmed that I saw him. She said she will tell me about him just now. We returned our attention to the coconut man. It was only then that we understood that a lady had given him the bad to carry somewhere, and the coconut was hers not his, so he could not give or sell any as she would know some is missing when she arrives at the destination to which he is going. Oooooh! Okay. We let him go.
A few years ‘aback’ the maxi driver was ‘tracking’ her. Okay. He used to drive a taxi then and it was quite convenient for her that he started work early in the morning so she could always rely on him to be there when she needed to get to work for 6am. Eventually, talk led to talk and tracking thing started. She learnt that he is a ‘Baptist’ minister and he was always trying to impress her with his spirituality…what he sees and could see, and does and could do. One day he told her that he had received instruction from the ‘Lord’ to use olive oil to massage her vagina and anus, then he was to put him mouth on them and they would become ‘pure’ and he could do what he wanted after that. Look, I doubled over. I cried, but that was through the laughter. Only recently I was saying that roadside conversations are the best. I’m always going somewhere when I’d meet someone and lose my focus because the conversation gets more and more interesting. When you plan to meet someone to discuss something, it does not always turn out to be fulfilling, but the impromptu conversations win the day any day. She leaned over and asked what happened to me. I told her I was in stitches. Stitches? You had surgery? Noooo…my side…it’s paining. I had severe cramping in the oblique muscles. I eventually straightened up, and she continued the conversation. I wanted to clarify the part about him doing what he wanted after. Well, the Lord’s instruction was meticulous up to what he should do with his mouth, after that, the Lord basically gave him leverage to proceed as he pleased.
Time passed and he was not given the opportunity to do the massage. During this time she learnt that a few teenagers had gotten pregnant for him. She could not understand how a young woman would ‘put herself’ with a man of his age. There was no physical appeal. Anyway, one morning while she was preparing for work he called and said the Lord told him to pray for her. She said as he started to pray she removed the phone from her ear as it had suddenly dawned on her that this was how he gained access to the young women, by speaking to their unconscious mind. She said when she put the phone to her ear again, he was asking if she agreed with the prayer. Having not heard it, she told him it was a good prayer. She dressed and left the house. She said when she turned the corner she saw his taxi. She immediately felt to pull the scarf that she had around her neck over her head. She tied it. They greeted each other and she got into the taxi. She said he was restless for the entire trip. He wanted to know why she tied her head and why she chose to use that colour. It was a yellow scarf and she really could not explain why she decided to put it on her head, or why he was making a fuss of it. He insisted that if she did not know why she put it on she should take it off. She felt that since it ruffled his feathers she should keep it on. And she did. And that was the last of the tracking, he was turned off. Curious, given that he preached spirituality. He was probably so locked into his intentions to create memories with her that he forgot that tying of the head is among the very basic of spiritual practices.