“Your body gives you signals and once you can identify them, then the progressive step is to purge those physical feelings. Now. What are you feeling?”
Fuck. No one said anything about a test. I’d just finished describing my fear of sleep, and how it’d come thumping back with ugly insistence the night before. I started telling him about images of Billy, as permanent as my tattoos.
“Okay your eyes are welling up. Do you feel pressure?” He sat on the edge of his seat, motioning his hands around his face to make the sign for weepy in a game of charades. The silence was larger than the room as if all of the language I knew marched out in protest. My feet stretched out onto a leather ottoman, my legs crossed at the ankles. My left foot felt numb, but is that from my right ankle putting pressure on it, or have my feelings set up shop in my shoes?
I glanced up to see a look my dog usually gives me when he wants a cookie. “I don’t know what you’re asking me.” I was sincere but frustrated with this sudden turn into Sedona.
“Just feel it.” I closed my eyes, attempting to detect any tics and trying to stay awake. In that brief moment, I saw Billy and I having a fight about which street to take to a friend’s party––a random memory, as they often are, but my body was bereft of signals.
“My stomach is growling.” A small chuckle escaped, one that may have been appropriate at a tea party while I dabbed my mouth with a lace napkin after accidentally saying a naughty word, but here it seemed evasive and wholly inadequate. “This feels a little New Agey to me.”
His smile patted me on the head as if I’d just said the darnedest thing. “Bodywork has been around since the early-Nineties, well before the New Age movement.” At that moment, I wanted to slap him and his mother for having him.
His head cocked slightly, he stared at me. Silence. I looked down at my folded hands, my thumbs kneading each other in an overlapping pattern. If yarn had been entwined in them, I could’ve made Waldo another striped scarf during this long pause.
“I don’t know what you want me to say.” I stopped knitting long enough to see that he wore the same expression. I glanced at the digital clock that was just behind him on his left, our session thankfully near its end. He suggested I try the technique at home, and as I wadded the tissue in my hand into a neat ball, I thanked him because that’s what I do when I’ve just paid a stranger a hundred and fifty dollars to make me feel completely uncomfortable.
I pondered the session as I drove east on Santa Monica Blvd., and I passed what was once The Spike, a gay bar that Billy and I’d gone to on New Year’s Eve in ‘96. With my eyes still open, though hardly focused on the traffic in front of me, I pulled Billy roughly by the waist so we were one, and looked down at his upturned face.
“Kiss me.” His eyes closed as he’d readied himself for his demand.
“Soft or hard?” That was my prescribed question in this game we’d played a thousand times.
“Hard.” I mashed our lips together; the pounding music and the noise of a hundred drunkards faded away until it was just the two of us locked in our private little joke.
While it may not have been a somatic experience, my face was flush with a smile of sorrow and love, and that image of Billy’s face at that moment in the twinkling of club lights will stay with me for as long as my tattoos.