Tender Touch

When our travels would take us into Asia, Jean would often have a massage.  In that part of the world, they are readily available and reasonably priced.  After one of those manipulations, she always had a wide smile on her face and was very energetic.

I was not keen on having such a thing.  We did not have massages in my small hometown in Oklahoma.  We had an old guy in town who claimed to be a chiropractor.  He was referred to as the “feeling doctor” and if he had any patients, they kept it quiet.

Soon after I retired in 1984, we joined four friends for a three-week tour of the Orient.  I insisted that we spend a few days in Tokyo where I had been stationed in the occupation immediately after WW11.  I was excited to stay at the beautiful Imperial Hotel that had replaced the old Frank Lloyd Wright hotel that was two blocks from where I had been billeted.

When we checked in, we were advised that they offered an hour-long massage, which would be done in our room at a ridiculously low price.  Jean jumped at the offer and insisted that I have my first massage.  I reluctantly agreed.

I returned from my shopping spree on the Ginza and was in my room at the designated time.  Soon there was a knock on the door and in came a lovely, dainty Japanese young lady dressed in a very plain kimono.

Dressed in my pajamas, I was told to lie down on my bed and she covered me with a sheet.  She gently ran her dainty fingers up and down my muscles and joints cautiously avoiding the stomach and groin areas.  After half an hour, I turned over and she repeated the gentle movements on my backside.

When the process was over I was relaxed.  I thought I now knew what was meant in the old song about being rubbed down with a velvet glove.  I told my friends that I could get the same effect with a couple of martinis and it would cost less and take less time.

In our travels thereafter, Jean would often get a massage but not me.  I felt that tub baths relaxed me as much as a massage and they took less time and money.

About ten years went by and we were in India on our way around the world.  We had just come from a few rigorous days in Nepal and Tibet including two two-hour elephant rides in Tiger Tops.  We were staying in an old Victorian Age Palace that had been turned into a resort.  Our room was extremely large with antique furniture and heavy flowing drapes.  Everything in the room must have been there since the palace was built.  The large campus contained many buildings. Some contained activities in which we could participate.

Again, Jean decided to have a massage and this time I decided to have one also.  I found my way to the building where men’s sporting activities were held.  The building appeared to be deserted but I found a door that was marked “Massage”.  I entered and met my masseur.  He was a tall muscular man who reminded me of Punjab of the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, minus the turban and fancy garb.  He said that I could call him Rudie.

I was instructed to strip to my under-shorts and lie down on the table in a nearby room.  I laid down on my stomach with my face in a padded hole.  Rudie poured oil on my body and spread it all over my backside with much enthusiasm. With his strong fingers, he went up and down my body from my toes up to and including my neck.  He seriously rubbed, kneaded and manipulated every muscle and joint he could reach.

He asked me to turn over and he repeated his poking and rubbing.  He was careful to avoid my stomach and groin area.  After the initial shock, I relaxed and it seemed to be over too soon.  I tipped Rudie and bounced back to my room feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the trip.

I now knew what a real massage felt like and wondered how the one I had in Tokyo could have been called a massage.

Three years later, we were in Malaysia on the island of Borneo.  We spent two nights at a fancy resort on a beach on the South China Sea.  The previous day we visited an orangutan sanctuary.  While walking down a wooden pathway, one of the playful animals grabbed Jean’s left leg and almost pulled her off of the walkway.  We scatted him away, but were very tense and cautious the remainder of the day.

The orangutan that grabbed Jean's leg.

The orangutan that grabbed Jean’s leg.

We both were ready for rest and relaxation when we arrived at the sumptuous resort.  I complained to Jean about a sore and stiff neck.  She said that I needed a massage since we were to be in the islands for three more weeks.  That was all the coaxing I needed.

I went to the massage office and requested a masseur who could dig deeply into my neck area.  I was told to return in an hour when the guy I needed would be back on the job.

When I returned, I found that the promised masseur was still not there.  I was told that they had a masseuse who was very good for necks and was ready to go to work.  I found out that that masseuse meant a female massage giver but I agreed to let her have the job and proceeded to the waiting room.

My masseuse introduced herself as Valou.  She instructed me to go into one of the dressing rooms and take off my clothes.  I went into the assigned room and removed everything but my jockey shorts and my wedding ring.

Valou soon returned and sternly told me to take off those and pointed to my shorts.  There was not anything for me to do but to do as she ordered.  I grabbed a towel and carried it with me into the massage room.

I quickly lay down on the table and placed my face into the hole.  She threw my towel into a corner and started to rub using a small amount of oil.

The first thing she uttered was “ I am divorced”.  I was speechless.  How was I to reply to such a statement.  After some deliberation, I uttered “I’m married.  Do you have any children”?  Her answer was “I have two children and they are with my mother in Kuala Lampur”.

I do not remember if there was any conversation for a while after that or not.  Soon, she was on her all-fours on my back digging into my neck area with all of her strength.  It appeared to me that she was doing a great job.

Then, Valou jumped off the table and told me to turn over.  With my small town Oklahoma Methodist background, I was too startled to do anything.  If I turned over, I would be completely exposed.  She saw my reluctance and folded a towel until it was about eight inches wide and gave it to me.  I carefully turned over placing the towel over the groin area.  She continued working on my frontside for another quarter of an hour with little conversation.

Then I had another electrifying shock.  Valou reached over and tapped on the middle of the towel and whispered “Would you like that massaged”? I was completely dumbfounded.   All sorts of things went through my mind including “What would President Clinton do? “.  I came to myself and quietly uttered “No, thanks“.

Valou immediately left the room.  I found my clothes, dressed, rushed into the office and paid my bill.  I left a good tip since she looked disappointed as she left the room.

As we traveled the various islands for the next three weeks, massages were offered at very cheap prices.  Jean took advantage of the bargains but not me.  I absolutely had received my last massage.

JIM PERSHALL

JUNE 9, 2013