It began with a sign -- a billboard of a women in repose, lying on her stomach and looking as relaxed as I wanted to be. It was in front of the entrance to a massage spa called Oasis. I had an idea. After two near-sleepless nights, this could be the answer -- a soothing solution to my insomnia that might possibly get me blinking again. Instead, I'm likely in for another week of sleeplessness, or certainly nightmares if I'm lucky/unlucky enough to doze off.
I'm always a bit suspicious of Thai massage spas where the workers try to lure passersby inside. Although my warning antennae went up, I was desperate. I went inside and requested the 90-minute head/shoulders/back massage for 500 baht ($17). A man led me upstairs and handed me my massage attire.
"Man or woman?" he asked.
I was confused. None of the massage spas I'd gone to in Thailand, Cambodia or Malaysia had ever given me the choice before. I wasn't in the mood for pain, so I declined the strong arms of a man. I wanted a softer healing touch.
"Woman." Those warning antennae went up again. As he ran downstairs, I got this feeling of foreboding, like I'd just made the wrong choice.
Soon after, the female therapist arrived and got down to business. She asked all of the boring questions -- Where are you from? Are you here on holiday? -- and I answered as succinctly as possible to discourage further conversation. Otherwise, the first 15 minutes or so were uneventful, which wasn't such a good thing. I didn't want to be holding back tears because of the pain, but she really needed to put a bit more oomph into it. It felt like she was caressing me more than massaging me.
Those warning antennae went up again.
After about 20 minutes, I began to feel uncomfortable lying on my stomach with my head to one side. I worried that after 90 minutes of this, I'd need neck therapy, so I began to shuffle my body around in search of a comfortable position. She suggested I lie on my back.
Those warning antennae went up again.
But I did as I was told. It started off innocently enough, but soon her hands were working their way up and down my thigh, inching closer and closer to my crotch. The signals from those warning antennae were out of control. Should I say something now or wait for the inevitable to happen? Just as I was about to issue a hands-off-the-merchandise policy, she was cupping my crotch with her hand. Then she put her index finger on it. I opened my eyes and glared at her.
"What the hell are you doing?
She was pressing it with her finger. "Massage?"
"No! I came here for a normal massage, not to be touched there."
"Oh, you asked for woman, so I thought..."
"Yes, I asked for a woman because I wanted someone who would give me a softer massage, not sex."
I wasn't sure if she was getting what I was saying, so I jumped off the bed and ran downstairs to try to reverse my misfortune. There were other customers, some dressed in business suits, getting foot massages. I wondered if they were in for the full-body treatment.
The man who'd led me upstairs explained that since I'd requested a woman, he'd assumed that I wanted "full" service. He offered to finish the job -- hand job not included. Once he got to work, I wished I had heeded my warning antennae and stuck with him in the first place. I could have lived without more personal questions (massages should be done in complete silence), but he worked the knots out of my back with real expertise.
He used a body oil with eucalyptus-like qualities. It soothed my back and made it feel like it was breathing freely for the first time in years. Though I didn't quite get my money's worth, in the end, I was relieved of my physical, if not psychological, tension (here come nightmares!), and I had a funny story to tell my friends.
A sort-of happy ending without a "happy ending."