(2) And That’s How It’s Done, Newbie

So in the past five days, I’ve learned the two most important things you have to master in order to be a luxury spa massage therapist – smiling and apologizing. Master them both if you plan on both paying rent and eating actual food for dinner every night. 

  • Sir, thank you so much for coming to see me immediately after your workout, and then informing me of how much your feet smell like cheese. Who doesn’t love the smell of a good cheese? *cheesy smile* (Get it?)
  • Ma’am, I am so sorry that I just gave you the worst massage of your entire life. Please tell me how I can be better for my next guest. *silent “sincere” interest*
  • Sir, thank you for noticing my unique accent that makes me so exotic. I am from a quaint part of Brooklyn, and have lived in New York for my entire life. *foreign smile and shy blush*
  • Ma’am, I am so sorry that you are not feeling well and have coughed all over me. Since it is flu season, you must feel so terrible. Don’t worry about me, I don’t have feelings.*sad eyes, dead inside*

You get the idea. It takes an impossibly great sense of humor and a certain hatred of yourself and your current situation in order to get the words out and not even flinch. 

As you can see, I’m not quite there yet. It’s not that I have emotions. (Please.) I just never realized the skill it takes to make your “spa voice” sound natural.

Anna has been the one to keep me on my toes. She’s been working at Sky Spa for the past ten years – ever since (according to the rumors) she left her exotic dancing career for drugging one of her underage Johns. Supposedly, he woke up tied to a motel bed in a puddle of sticky, brown fluid that he prayed was chocolate and sweat. He was still young enough that he had to call his mom to bring him pants and pay the bill – since all his money had mysteriously disappeared. As for Anna (formerly known as Destiny Xtacy), she knew there was no turning back. There wasn’t enough proof of what had happened, but her sketchy reputation left her with few options. 

But I guess we are a little desperate here at Sky, because they don’t seem to check anyone’s background. You’re fine, just as long as you can fake it. You show up to work drunk? Have some free coffee! You show up sleep deprived because you never made it home last night? Have some free coffee! You show up in a funk of loathing self hatred from all your bad life choices? Have some fr… you see where I’m going with this. They don’t really care what goes on outside the Sky. That seems to be the motto for both guest and employee. Completely off topic – I may have stumbled onto the secret to getting on everyone’s good side here – tapping into the unhealthy coffee fetish. Not sure how to use this to my advantage just yet, though.

The first time I met Anna, we were supposed to do a couple’s massage in the *brown chicken, brown cow* (pronounced: bow chika, bow wow) room with the hot tub. It had been a while since I’ve done a couple’s massage, so I just tagged along as she set it up, which worked out perfectly, since she said I wasn’t allowed to touch anything, anyway. 

“Ugh, I can’t believe they hired another one and didn’t teach you anything!” She mumbled loudly under her breath. “I have to do EVERYTHING as usual.” (Nice to meet you, too!) “Listen, I don’t know where you’re coming from or what you think you know, but you better forget it right now. You’ll soon learn, I’m very anal when it comes to my work. (*cough, cough* oversharing!) Now if you do everything exactly how I tell you, we’ll be best friends.”

Well, I see I have two options here – kill her and take over her life, becoming her in every way, shape and form, or play along and gain her trust, until she doesn’t suspect I’m the one getting her fired. 

Option three is probably the most realistic, because, let’s face it, I’m just the lovechild of if Shy and Pathetic had a baby – nod and smile like I don’t speak English. And of course, stroke her ego here and there. (“Yaas, Queen, I never knew there was such an elegant way to pour cheap champagne.) (My nerdy self can’t pull that off, can I?) 

When we went to pick up our guests, she slithered ahead of me and just whispered, “Watch and learn, Newbie,” as she applied a fiery shade of ruby lipstick to her cracked, aging, smoker’s lips. If I wasn’t so busy watching, I would have been able to point out the streaks that smeared onto her teeth. But I’m no multitasker. And what I actually learned was that Anna’s hips were not connected to the rest of her body. 

“Good evening Mr. And Mrs. Shock, and welcome to The Sky Spa. Are we all ready for a mmm-memorable experience?” She added a breathy “mmm” to “memorable” and gave a small wink at the end, and I felt like hidden cameras were going to be exposed any minute now. This can’t be real. Her hips slithered down the hall a foot ahead of the rest of her, arm in arm with dumbfounded Mr. Shock. Mrs. Shock and I both followed, my mouth hanging open, steam coming out of her ears. I didn’t even think to make the obligatory small talk, because I wanted to see what would happen next.

By the time it took for them to get onto the massage tables, Anna had managed to spill champagne on herself and slowly wipe it off with a wet towel while making eye contact with Mr. Shock. Now she could say it was an accident, but when she drank the leftovers while we were cleaning up after the massage because, “might as well, I already smell like it,” I got suspicious.

Well, at this point, I just wanted to zone out and really get my hands greasy, but I couldn’t look away. Anna slapped her hands together and started rubbing like she was going to start a fire. Then her whole body got into it – her shoulders shimmied, her hips gyrated, and her head shook. Just before the smoke appeared from her hands, she just stopped moving for a second before smacking her hands right on his bottom. OK, I’ve done a lot of energy work in my massages, but there’s that weird line that you don’t cross. His surprised grunt told me that he thought the same thing.

Now, I can’t even tell you what I did during the rest of that session. I just couldn’t pay attention to the body on my table. Luckily, I’ve given so many massages during my career that I could do this in my sleep. In fact, I probably have done this in my sleep. But I couldn’t help but stare at the way Anna swayed around the table, channeling her inner mix of cat-about-to-pounce and five-year-old-about-to-pee energy. At one point, she just stood perfectly still with her outstretched arms again on his bottom, and her hips shook so violently that the vibration rocked his entire body. It was bizarre the way she would stop every five minutes to loudly slap her hands together and start rubbing them ferociously, “to make some hot chi,” she later explained, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Once he had turned over, she had ended her session by repeatedly slapping him on the head with her manufactured chi. 

As we walked them back to the steam area, I heard him say that was the best massage of his life. Of. His. Life. As he walked away, I saw Anna pull out her phone and snap a quick photo as he was pulling off his robe and heading into the steam fog.

“And that’s how it’s done, Newbie,” she smirked over her shoulder as she walked away. I guess I have a lot to learn.

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