I had driven by Sun Reflexology for years before I ventured in. Sandwiched between a small Dunkin’ Donuts and a surf shop in a dilapidated peeling white brick strip mall, it looked less than appealing. It was not until a friend urged, “you have to go get a foot massage there. It is the most relaxing thing in the world!” that I finally breached the threshold. Once inside, I wondered why I’d waited so long. The Chinese staff is warm, welcoming, and gracious. They do only a few things, and they do them exceptionally well. The décor is Spartan: Black recliners line the paneled walls; small stools for the reflexologists sit in front of each. But the décor doesn’t matter. It’s what happens in those chairs that makes Sun heaven.
Today, impossibly large, impossibly red angelfish stare at me with impossibly large eyes. They loll lazily in the large see-through tank that serves as a wall divider. I watch them watch me, barely conscious. I feel as groggy as, but much happier than, my boys did as they came to after having their wisdom teeth removed. But I’m not technically anesthetized, just reclining in a Naugahyde lounger, covered with a brown towel. My feet soak happily in warm blue water in a small wooden barrel.
My former husband and his wife gave me a gift card for this reflexology session for Christmas. It has taken me nearly two months to convince myself that it is actually okay to devote this much time to myself. It would have taken three if I’d been paying for it.
Gentle flute music lulls me further into a coma as the masseuse – Lisa – performs magic on my feet. I feel sure that Lisa is no more her name than Stan was the name of the technician who helped me from the call center in Bangalore last night, but I just cannot worry about that right now. I’m too busy being blissful. She plays my toes like a harp. “Who would even think of kneading the inside of my second toe?” I think, as I am suffused with gratitude that she does. She rolls each digit like the dough we watched the Amish roll into Bavarian pretzels in Hershey, Pennsylvania. When she reaches my heel, I think of poor Achilles, but she’s broken down my defenses too. I couldn’t defend Greece against Troy, either, after she’s plied my tendon.
The place is dimly lit and hushed in deference to the other suburban women lined up like the anatomical shells in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The workers whisper, and clients are silent. Every now and then all heads lift in unison, turning their eyes to shoot laser beams at some poor soul who has forgotten to silence her phone. The reverie must not be broken!
I know we are nearing the end of the session because Lisa begins to rub smooth, hot stones up and down my calves. I begin to mourn. I want to marry Lisa. I want to take her home with me.
I vow to come back at least once a month – make that once a week – to indulge. This is better and cheaper than therapy. But even through this ecstatic haze, I know that it will take me three months to convince myself that I deserve this again. Unless I get another gift certificate. Then I’ll be back in two.