Malee looked at the time. There was a client just due, so she went in and filled the foot bath and placed it in front of the welcome seat, breathing in deep the fresh aroma of sliced orange that wafted into her nostrils. She never tired of the smell. It kept her days fresh. Today she had done four hour long full body massages, one on a very big man who had wanted “Firm, deep tissue”. She was small. Very small. It had cost her all of her strength to give the client the massage he needed. But it had been worth it, he had thanked her profusely, telling her the story of how he had pulled his hamstrings playing rugby, and how much relief he had felt with her massage. This was why she had opened her tiny fragrant shop in the heart of the CBD. This was why she had handpicked her assistants and this was why she went home tired, but happy.
The door bell tinkled and the next client walked in. She looked like a thunder cloud, black expression ad flashing eyes. Malee felt her heart sink. She always felt scared when someone walked in looking like this woman did. At least she was slim and not too tall.
Malee stepped onto the platform behind the counter, smiled and greeted the lady. She had a gift voucher, and handed it over to Malee silently. Malee glanced at it, and looked up her database. “This is for one hour full body, and 30 minutes reflexology”, she said, bowing her head and smiling. The lady peered at the card Malee was holding out, frowning through the hair that fell on to her eyes. She looked up, “Is that with oil”? she asked.
Malee felt a mild shock. There were tears in the lady’s eyes. Her client was not angry as she had supposed, she was upset and fighting back tears. Malee could tell that she was barely in control of herself. She stuttered, still bravely smiling, “N-no. No oil”. She wondered whether she should say anything more, praying that there was not going to be any bargaining. The lady tossed back her hair and said, “How much extra for oil? Never mind, just give me oil massage and I will pay the difference.” Her voice was still quite harsh. Tears of anger, perhaps.
Malee gave a sigh of relief. She climbed down from the platform, welcomed the woman into the reception area and invited her to soak her feet in the bath. As she sat down, and took her shoes off, Malee brought out the towel and scrub, and knelt down in front of her to perform the ritualistic washing of feet. A phone buzzed. The lady picked up the phone with a smothered exclamation, and after looking at her message, just flung it back into her bag. As Malee scrubbed the soles of her feet lightly, she could feel the tension, and prayed that it would not seep into her.
When Malee stepped into the room after the client had readied herself for the massage, the tension in the air was palpable. Summoning all her skills, and calling to her Master for assistance, Malee set to work. As she started the initial massage through the warm towel, pressing into the tense muscles, she asked gently, ”What is your area of concern today? Which part should I focus on”? The lady raised and turned her head, “neck and shoulders… everywhere, actually”.
Malee climbed on to the bed, and pressed her knee down on to the back of the lady, breathing out slow and long. As she started the rhythmic cycle of breathing and massaging, she let herself flow into the routine, taking her mind off the person, and focusing on her own breathing and movements.
Precisely 90 minutes later, Malee asked her client to sit up. The room felt calm now, and as she dried off the oil, and finished the ritual, the lady sat still with her eyes closed. She accepted an offer of a glass of water. By the time Malee had brought back the water she was waiting for her in front of the desk. She took the water with a silent nod of thanks, drank it, paid up, turned to walk out of the door. Malee wondered whether she had helped her client at all. At the door the lady paused and turned. “Thank you. It was perfect”, she said, and smiled a teensy weensy smile. Then she was gone.
Malee turned back to her book of appointments, the client’s smile reflected in her own eyes. It had been worth it. Again.