April 2000
s m u g
by Todd Levin


The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness

Relaxing is not what I do best. In fact, on my personal list of things I do best relaxing ranks embarrassingly low, just below x-ray vision and menstruation. Spiritual tautness is a quality that actively drips from every rigid pore in my body. I am not much for napping. Nature sounds make me paranoid. And stimulants like caffeine, gummie bears, cocaine, and adrenachrome have no discernible effect on my behavior. I generally don't even dabble with relaxation, preferring to hop about and fidget with things like an autistic child until I am restrained by a law enforcement officer or medical professional. It's just my way and, I think, part of my charm. (My remaining charm resides in the varsity jacket I wear with the "Kiss My Millionaire Ass" patch on the back.) So, with all of this evidence under review, what was I doing on a massage table?

It seemed like a good idea. Thanks to computers, office chairs, and overall poor posture, the muscles in my back and shoulders were beginning to resemble a cluster of tightly clenched fists just beneath the surface of my skin. Several friends had suggested massage as a way of temporarily correcting my wracked physique, but to me the idea of having my body attended in that fashion drifted somewhere between needlessly self-indulgent dilettante and prostitute's john. I had gone 28 years without paying someone to rub me down (Unless you count Ray, the delightful neighborhood transient whose massage services I compensated with my world-famous orange stick treatment.), and it seemed silly to start now. Then, while planning a vacation to the west coast, I decided to pad my trip with a bit of sissy pampering and in no time at all I was hiding beneath a fresh towel, waiting for my massage. Unfortunately, this was on the flight over. However, once airport security forced me into some clothes and put me on the next flight, I repeated the whole towel ritual on a massage table at the Napa Valley Health Spa and squirmed nervously, anticipating the arrival of my masseuse and/or spa security.

In a switch-and-bait of unprecedented grandeur, my masseuse turned out to be a masseur named Eric, forcing me to immediately discard about 300 million brain cells I had earmarked to hold vast amounts of inappropriate erotic fantasy material involving my masseuse, my skin, and a sold out audience at the Carrier Dome. Eric was nice enough, though, and his physique was certainly not intimidating or alluring. He was tall, boyish, and doughy, the kind of person who might take out a personal ad like this:

S/W/M professional massage therapist looking for a friend or possible long-term client.. If you are a woman 24-32 and like cooking at home, the Roches, and cuddling, we're both in luck. And, yes, I do like to take my work home with me. No head games!

I didn't tell Eric that I was nervous because I didn't want him to interpret this as A) homophobia or B) homosexual attraction. Instead, I decided the best course of action would be to lie beneath the fresh towel and try as hard as possible to forget that I was naked and about to be slowly molested by a total stranger who lingers in the 'self-help' section of Barnes & Noble. As if trying to send out a distress signal of its own, my body decided to twist itself into tighter and tighter knots as Eric walked me through the fundamentals of massage therapy. I told him this was my first massage and we shared something very Thelma and Louise for just a single moment. But the camaraderie ended right there, rather abruptly.

I lay on my back while Eric positioned himself directly behind my head, in a place I could not see him. As he slipped his hands around my neck his voice, which up until now had a calming but conversational tone, suddenly became 100% Dr. Love. It was vanilla fudge trickling warm sex into my ears, a vocal trick he should have probably reserved for the ladies. Nonetheless it had a challenging effect on me, extra-powered by the slightly heated oil he was rubbing into my tight, stressed muscles. This was, in a word, confusing. And the situation was aggravated further by the fact that he kept offering me raw oysters and cognac. So, for the next 50 minutes, while I should have been submitting to pure relaxation, I chose to spend my time concentrating as hard as possible on not getting an erection.

My brain was forced to play tricks on my body to desensitize me to Eric's vocal and physical caresses. Naturally, my mind's uncanny ability to mutate even the most banal or potentially repellent scenarios into something erotically charged made this an exhausting task. Here is a sequenced list of images I fired off in my brain as Eric worked his way up and down me like a Bangkok hooker. (Comments marked with a "*" indicate accidental erection-producing images, usually followed by extra-powerful emergency erection-destroying imagery.)

ballpoint pen; ballpoint pen writing on unlined white paper, scratching slightly into its surface; ballpoint pen exploding, dribbling thick, blue ink from its casing*, axe chopping off fingers all at once; axe chopping off toes; axe chopping up my grandmother; grandmother asking me 'why, why, why?' as I hold the axe; grandmother, unaxed, on bed, asking me for a hug; naked grandmother, arms outstretched*; me punching grandmother in stomach repeatedly; me punching Eric in the stomach and face repeatedly; Eric punching me back, harder*; A crippled child's shoe on my left foot; my bare left foot dipping itself into a shallow pool of acid, as I watch the flesh and bone of my foot being slowly eaten away by the quick effect of the acid (here I have about 5 minutes of pure relaxation); (until Eric starts working over the inside of my thighs with a slightly melted creamsicle here I ask if this is standard procedure, at which point Eric switches out the new age 'Sylvan Echoes' cassette and pops in Lou Rawls' Greatest Hits. Eric makes the 'shh' sign by placing his finger to his lips and I sink back into extreme discomfort)

When the massage was finally over I felt twice as tense as I did when I disrobed 50 minutes earlier. My mind was still spinning from fending off platoon after platoon of sexual invaders. After waiting 28 years for a professional massage, I finished up feeling anything but relaxed. I didn't have the heart to explain all of this to my personal massage therapist. (Who had casually slipped back into normal voice mode as he explained the need to consume plenty of water as a means of avoiding light-headedness.) So instead, I pretended it was great, lied and assured him I was perfectly relaxed. I thanked Eric, shook his hand, hopped off the table, and fell into a crumpled heap on the floor. "Good." Eric noted. "Perfectly relaxed." And we were married that very day.




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