Tuesday was my birthday, and I promised to treat myself to a foot massage in Chinatown.
After work, I walked into a bright shop front and young Chinese woman led me out of the shop and into the next door building, up a shabby concrete staircase. When she opened the door, all I could see was a bathroom with a pair of men’s trousers hanging up to dry. Not an impressive start.
She asked me to sit down in the waiting area, a couple of sofas and a low glass and rattan coffee table at one end of a large room. A metre high ink painting of a horse (much nicer than this example) was hung on the wall opposite.
Facing one long wall were a row of arm chairs with reclined backs and footstools. Along the other, a row of massage tables. An illusion of privacy was maintained by white curtains which surrounded each table.
When I sat down, three young Chinese men got up from the tables where they had been sleeping and disappeared, somewhere beyond the bathroom. The muffled sounds of a television action movie wafted towards me as my masseuse filled a bowl full of hot water for my feet. I tried not to wonder if she was rinsing out the trousers at the same time.
I closed my eyes and let my feet soak as she massaged my head for a moment. Then she carefully wrapped one foot in a towel and got to work on the other.
Just as I was beginning to relax, a tourist arrived for a full body massage. His masseuse whispered to him, indicating where he should go and take off his clothes.
I kept my eyes shut.
The whispering didn’t last long. On her return, the client asked:
‘Say, what’s your name?’
‘Where are you from, Joyce?’
‘I’m from Holland, of course.’
When she began the massage, he started to groan.
‘Uhhh, this is soo nice.’
I kept my eyes shut and reminded myself not to laugh. My masseuse turned her attention to my other foot.
‘Oh Joyce, how does my skin feel?’
‘Does it feeel tense?’
‘Yeah. You should relax.’ As I put my shoes on and got my coat, I heard her giving him some pretty hard slaps. I don’t think it was the kind of ending he was anticipating.