With my bathing suit on, you see.
I'd only been in India two days and already I was not feeling well at all. I either had the remnants or beginnings of a cold OR my respiratory system had been so clogged up by Delhi's pollution in 48-short hours that I couldn't breathe and all my joints ached from the carbon monoxide build up in my blood.
Besides, my half-breed Indian friend told me that massages were dirt cheap in India. She said she got one every day she was here. So I booked one. I tried to talk The Boyfriend into getting one too, but he hemmed and hawed and wasn't sure.
"How about I go first and then report back to you?" I suggested.
"Perfect," he agreed.
We both have touch-issues and stranger-danger alerts in our brains, so it was probably best I sally forth. Besides, The Boyfriend's germ phobia was on high alert and I had no idea what an Indian massage parlor would hold in store for him.
"How much should I tip the massage lady?" I asked before I left.
"50 rupees," he replied.
"That's like 75 cents!"
"It's what I read is appropriate," he reminded me.
"Yeah, but you pissed off the airport chauffeur with that nonsense!"
"50 rupees," he repeated. I left but grabbed my wallet just in case.
The salon was appropriately swanky for a five-star hotel in a one-star country. Everyone smiled and nodded sweetly, and I was escorted to a plump, middle-aged woman with a beatific face and a bindi.
She took me to a small, dark room with a massage table and a pot of warming almond oil.
"Yes, please," she indicated a folded towel resting on the table.
"Should I take off my clothes?"
"All of my clothes?"
"Yes, please," she nodded encouragingly. Then she quietly stepped out of the room.
I wondered if she meant my underpants too. I mean, "clothes" could mean "outerwear" in Hindi. What if I removed all of my clothes including my underpants and she thought I was some sort of Western whore?
I removed all of my clothes and quickly dove under the large towel. I laid there in the semi-darkness and stared at the ceiling. I could hear some sort of workers outside the window next to me. I wondered if Indian women shaved their pubic areas, or if they went full-bush?
After a polite knock at the door, my masseuse returned and quickly set about rubbing the warm oil on her hands. The room was suddenly filled with its sweet scent, and I relaxed. She politely folded the towel up over my calves and proceeded to rub the oil onto my feet and legs.
"Tsk tsk," she said. "Very dry."
"Yes, I know," I replied, apologetically. I closed my eyes wondered how much almond oil my skin would absorb? I was quite certain that little pot wouldn't make it past my knees.
Next she folded the towel again, this time exposing my thighs. I was surprised by how sore my legs were from being folded up like a patio chair on a plane for 16 hours. She folded the towel again, this time just barely covering my ladyparts.
I began to grow uncomfortable.
As she took huge swooping strokes on my upper thighs, my body froze in horror as her fingers grazed me ... there. Oh yes. There. I quickly began to wonder if I was in a "Happy Ending" situation, and wondered if a) would she ask me first and b) would it cost extra?
The matriarchal masseuse kept away at her business-like massaging of my thighs, with the occasional grazing of my, er, privates. (They're called "Private" for a reason, dammit!) I was actually relieved when she gently removed the entire towel from my person and moved on to my torso.
For some reason she covered my face with the towel.
So I lay there, buck naked, save for my face, while a middle-aged woman massaged my breasts. Having not had any massage experience aside from the pool-side, bathing-suit-clad massage, I did not know whether or not this was normal. In fact, I still don't. My arms and legs were stock straight, rigid as a corpse in the freshly fallen Detroit snow. As my masseuse slowly reached down my arms and took huge sweeping strokes up my arms, her breasts would lower and raise over my face, as the top of my head was cradled in her ample belly.
Despite all this, I began to relax. The warm room, the smell of almonds, the steady and consistent pressure of her rubbing all of the tensions and worries out of my body, I began to feel as though I was a naked embryo rocking in my mother's womb.
"Yes, please, mum" my masseuse whispered to me, and I opened one reptilian eye to see what she wanted. She held her hand out and indicated that I should rollover.
So I rolled over and exposed my white, pilates-free ass to the lesbian-suspect masseuse. Oh she rubbed my thighs, my upper thighs, my ass, my entire ass, yes she rubbed it all. She rubbed it all and I lay there naked as the day I was born, without even a towel to cover my shame-ridden face.
She rubbed it all and I liked it.
When it was over she invited me to enter a shower. I rose, naked and oily, and walked into the waiting shower. I allowed her to adjust the water temperature for me. Yes, I stood naked in a shower with another woman. I'd like to tell you I let her soap me down for the benefit of my story, but alas, she did not.
When I went to sign for the bill, I thrust a fistful of Indian rupees at my masseuse. She bowed and said thank you, mum. It wasn't the 50 rupees The Boyfriend had suggested, but more like the 500 rupees I felt was appropriate after such an intimate encounter.
Of course when I went back to the room and calculated how much 500 rupees was worth in American currency, I was embarrassed to see it was only ten dollars.
Then again, I never did get that Happy Ending.
I DID get to warn The Boyfriend, however. I knew there was no way he was putting his bare ass in the hands of a stranger, that's for sure. Then again, perhaps the promise of a Happy Ending would have swayed him?