Hands that see

Biking 100 hundred miles on a golden September Sunday in Ohio was a peaceful entry into the world of organized group biking. The weather was warm and sunny, the roads flat and swept, and while we had not done serious training (I had biked a lot more than Kym, but she is 19 and works at a stable all summer) we felt confident. We had followed good advice regarding diet, carbs, water and chamois butter. And decided to get a pre-ride massage, which a friend who had recently completed her first century suggested.

We walked to a massage center a few blocks from the college, but in spite of the open sign it was closed. Saturday, day before the ride, we spotted a spa next door to the bike shop where we were getting pedals changed. They were booked for the rest of the day, but kindly loaned us their telephone book and gave us a comfortable spot to sit.

Findlay is a small city, and it seemed reasonable there would be plenty of massage therapists to choose from. so I would have expected there to be more than the scant eight listings in the yellow pages. We went through them one by one, with the receptionist giving reviews as we said who we were dialing.

Very last listing I read the name aloud, and she looked at one of her co-workers and shrugged. I turned back to see if Kym had dialed it yet, and heard her say, “Great, two and two-thirty, thanks.“ As we left, and the worker came up and whispered in a voice intended to be reassuring, “I’ve heard he’s very good.”

Later, when we walked to our appointment, Kym said, “I think he may be blind, he mentioned his seeing eye dog would bark when we went in.” And the dog did bark briefly before settling down.

This pre-ride massage was something I had thought about for weeks, imagining Seafoam tinted walls, scented candles, plush robes and a fountain somewhere in the distance.

Instead we were greeted by the pungent odor of old cigar, worn and shredded carpet, and the radio tuned to some football game. Richard greeted us. He was a bit stout, in his sixties, wearing a polyester shirt not quite tucked in, and yes, blind. I agreed to go first.

“Any special problems,” he asked, and I mentioned the weird pain in my hips ever since I got off the plane, making every step just a tiny bit uncomfortable. He stroked down my legs, felt my feet, “We can take care of that,” he said, and began the massage. I tried to zone out the ball game.

I have had a fair number of massages, all different, most good. But never anything like this. His fingers just sank into my back and began to dance. They found little things and smoothed them, they loosened surface tension and went deeper. His connection to me was not both visual and tactile, demanding divided focus, but solely through the sense of touch.

All his attention was there in his hands, and it felt wonderful. At the end, he adjusted my hips and when I walked the discomfort was gone.

I rested while Kym had her massage, and heard him saying his fingers had found some tension in her neck, then heard her startled yelp of laughter as he did something to it.

Blissful post-massage we lazily sipped chais and read until dinner. Over risotto and salad asked, “Was the massage so good because he was blind? Or was his skill unrelated? “

We decided there absolutely was a connection – that the energy from his hands seemed different, more seeking than the energy of a sighted person. Unsubstantiated Google fact: in South Korea only the vision-impaired can be licensed as massage therapists.

True or not, our blind masseuse gave us deep and thorough bodywork. We cruised through our ride, and felt no pain or discomfort after although we cannot know it was because of our pre-ride therapy. We do know that it felt really good, and eliminated the pain in my hips, and soreness in Kym’s neck.

Really wish he had turned off the radio, though.


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