It was 1996 and I was at my wits’ end on what to do. I had just signed up for a massage therapy course and had emptied my bank account. I was a single mother whose child was on the other side of the world being cared for while I was getting my act together – and failing miserably.
I still had a job, thank goodness, and this was actually what prompted me to sign up for massage therapy as my physical therapy job taught me only how to massage parts of the body, depending on what the prescription from their doctor ordered us to treat. Sure, we also prescribed exercises but there was something about the human touch that I needed to study.
Rotator cuff strain? Treat the shoulder joint.
Numb fingers? Treat the hand.
Sore back? Treat the back only.
But there was always something that nagged at me. What about the whole body? I wanted to ask. But when I did ask the question to my director, he’d tell me that we had to follow what’s on the prescription order, because that’s how the health insurance paid for our services.
And so I signed up for an evening course in massage therapy sight unseen. I had called a few schools and the second school just happened to have the first day of class that same evening, and so I thought – why not just check it out and see if I like it?
And I did. I paid for it and I was on my way to learning a new skill that would teach me how to massage the entire body, and treat it as a whole instead of just parts.
The following day, the transmission on my old beat up Cabriolet died. Just died. I had to get to work and as I stared at my car willing it to start or do something, my next door neighbor walked up to me and asked me if there was a problem. I told him that I needed to get to work, and work was an hour away, and I usually took 3 freeways to get there. I remember being in tears as I said this.
He suggested that because I worked too damn far, he’d drive me to the Green Line station, where I’d take the Green Line Metro rail transit, then the Blue Line, and then the Red Line to work.
“Where you work,” he said sheepishly. “That’s by MacArthur Park, and that’s where I used to get my drugs when I was a user.” He now was a successful engineer and we lived in an expensive beach town, far away from the downtown hospital where I worked.
And so with his suggestions, and after he dropped me off at the Green Line station, I started my adventure taking public transit throughout Los Angeles County.
Once I got to work, and my coworkers learned of my plight, and how now I had no way of getting to the massage college after work, one of them said that she lived just a mile away from the school and she would be more than happy to drop me off.
At the massage college, one of the students who became my best friend, offered to drive me home and on Saturday classes, she suggested we carpool.
It was as if the universe stepped in and said that this (massage therapy) was the road I had to take, no matter how difficult things may seem at that moment. And for months, this became the routine for me.
Even after my car eventually got fixed, I still maintained the same schedule with the public rail transit system. I’d park my car at the Green Line station and then take the three trains that would take me to work, where a shuttle bus would be waiting to drive me and other employees to the hospital because my neighbor sure wasn’t kidding when he said that he used to buy his drugs at MacArthur Park.
Once was enough for me to walk through that place and wonder what the hell were all the hand signals and code words all about.
And so, that time in my life showed me a world where there were people out there who were more than willing to extend a helping hand to someone who they barely knew at that time.
And because of the failed transmission in my car, I got to be good friends with my neighbor Dan, my co-workers became the first in line to sample everything I’d learned at the massage college, and even the doctors would line up to receive massages during their lunch hours, and I found the best-est friend anyone could ever have in a woman named Pam, who thirteen years later would continue to give massages even when ovarian cancer was ravaging her, not because she needed the money but she needed to feel needed and her touch was worth more than anything in the world.
Most of all, because they made my massage education possible, it taught me that there was more to touch than sex, whether wanted or not – a lesson that I needed to learn after a childhood where touch was always unwanted and abusive. I learned that one can touch a body with intention which alone could bring tears to someone’s eyes and make their souls soar, or reduce them to nothing but a thing to be admired and abused – the one type of touch that I knew never to use on anybody for I’d had enough of that – thank you very much.