This story is by Mary Jane Mahan and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
So you want to know how to get into the profession of erotic sensual massage? Go down to the bone of your ability to cope with a negative bank account. Keep ignoring failure courtesy of the entrepreneurial business into which you blindly jumped, then jump again. No, not hump. You are never going to have sex with a man just to save your mortgage. Something more…adventurous.
Opportunity knocks on your screened-in front porch. You overhear a hot tip given to your housemate Kami. “Did you know you can do swedish massage in corporate office parks in your underwear,” says a tall redhead with full curls reminding you of Shirley Temple. Kami’s friend smiles at you, dimples and all, continuing with a wink, “Great money, supposedly. No touching the, ahem.”
You like her. You trust her. She and Kami are the real deal certified massage therapists, not anything like the one you are about to come. Unlicensed, dealing with men’s cum. You will know within weeks the profound healing power you share with strangers in an intimate setting. You will fein nonchalance often, like you are doing right now.
“No way. You believe that?” Kami laughs in your direction. You take note that she’s reading the weekly culture rag in your green porch recliner. The morning air is still and your rainbow glass wind chimes are as silent as your emotional body. If only your mind would register the peace symbol on these chimes, maybe you would feel the contrasting pain of your empty checkbook.
Instead, you focus on Mary. You touch the tin frame in which she rests with absent minded reverence. Your Guadalupe porch altar is covered in yellow spring pollen. An organic foreshadowing, you meticulously wipe up every drop and forget to pray.
You have not uttered a Hail Mary prayer in a very long time as it does not fit with your New Thought spiritual philosophy. You have exchanged genuflection for affirmative prayer with the Midtown crowd who, like you, digs the Dr. Ernest Holmes approach to life. Happy! There is one glaring problem…
You are not happy. Yes, you exude an authentic radiance and joy that attracts smiles to you by the dozens. Others amaze at your dancing energy and say “Give me whatever it is that you’ve got!” You are not aware that you can give easily but not receive where it counts. You affirmatively pray for all your heart’s desires save for a core issue that you persistently neglect. Worthiness. Lack of it is bringing you into a hard-on life. Oh Lord I am not worthy to receive you…
Your mother would approve of your Blessed Virgin picture but would approach the front yard Quan Yin statue with fear and loathing. Her reaction to your intro Zen mediation class is why you live 700 miles away. Don’t you dare become a Buddhist! Aren’t they the ones that subjugate the women? The St. Patrick rosary beads you received shortly thereafter are in your bedroom night table drawer collecting dust. They sit near your pink magnetic balls — sex toys — that produce a different holy water.
Mom’s quiet, devotional worry over your atypical life does not affect you. Or so you’ve trained yourself to feel. Your meekly, loving mother thinks you walk on air, a feeling that has annoyed you at best. Recently you broke down and leveraged that annoyance to ask for money as to keep your failing entrepreneurialism alive. But your Irish jig is up; the well has run dry. You will never, ever mention your mature odyssey to her, for shame is something best shared silently. Such is the mess of mother-daughter codependency.
Spring pollen turns into summer humidity, but you refuse to sweat. Drinking cold beer on your hot southern porch keeps worry at bay. You sip pale ale and cheekily ignore three months of business credit card bills. And then you sober up. Hmmm…Mortgage time. Time to jump.
Ignoring your feelings has brought you this far. So you do it some more. You power over fear with a business question: Money now, how? Your reticular activator — that cavewoman function of your brain alerting you to danger or opportunity — it goes off. You instantly recall that underwear gig in the office park. Great money. You make a beeline for the porch and grab this week’s rag wishing for Kami. Like your pride, she’s gone.
Your fingers page straight back to the 900-number ads in the ahem section. But you are not straight anymore. You are gayly moving forward as a hard-on specialist. You can handle this. It’s easy, only five years since you switched teams to date women. That detachment from men, wow, it will power your allure. But you’re not disconnected from the penis, you’ve just turned bi-lesbian. No, not lesbian. Something more…adventurous.
Your mortgage miracle appears. Wiping up male pollen equals ten thousand dollars in four weeks. You greet clients on your meticulously clean porch. They touch your hippie rainbow chimes, touch your legs, reach for your perfect tits. They tolerate your house kitties who take cat baths on their dress shirts and chino pants while you stroke their loins. Frequent is their comment, “You seem so normal and intelligent, why are you in this business?”
You will refuse to answer this question until five years after mom drops her body. It will come to you as you play with your rescue dog. So you wanted to learn forgiveness… Of all of life’s surprises, it will take a dog to teach you to break free of codependency. A true miracle — to forgive choosing cum over mum. You know in your heart that mom sent this dog to save you. “Why aren’t you married? You’re so intelligent,” she would say.
Right this second you feel dumb. You are numb, staring at two circled ads. You are not yet a sensual masseuse. There is choice. There is mom. There is Mary. You are still a perfect daughter, her writer. You can quit holding out. Surrender. Yet you have a sacred contract to fulfill, more binding than the house. This adventure of worthlessness will turn you into the writer mom always knew you could be.
A house cat plops down on the porch, disturbing your lack of peace. White fur sheds on your green recliner. A trickle of Georgia sweat runs down your back. You pick up the weekly rag, pick up your cell phone, breathe in hesitantly…and jump.