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Drop Dead Fred

June 11, 2012

I am twisted. No, seriously. Wise PTs and chiropractors have all given me the consistent impression that the “banana back” I never did my home exercises for as an exasperated 10 year old morphed into a pre-scoliosis which torques me from my neck all the way down to my feet (which as a bonus are attached to legs of different lengths).

I don’t mean to exaggerate this; it’s a fairly harmless problem and is hardly debilitating. It is subtle, requiring only regular maintenance to undo the impact of life on a body which cannot evenly absorb stress. There is one particularly chronic knot right near my right scapula which my husband calls Fred, saying that anything that big which causes that much trouble deserves a name and some respect. I have had Fred longer than my pets, longer than my child, longer than my marriage. Like any roommate we usually get along fine, but then things go south and he gives me headaches and keeps me up late at night.

I was lucky enough to have a close friend in graduate school who was also a CMT and taught me the blissful benefits of regular massage therapy. Now it is something I cannot imagine living without unless I plan to also stop exercising. Or driving. Or walking. Quite a few masseurs have had the privilege of untwisting my corkscrewed self, and they always gamely go toe-to-toe with Fred but have had various degrees of success. Some sweet talk him with delicate fingers (he scoffs), others have stuck him with needles or hot cups (he runs away briefly, then comes back when the coast is clear).

The most memorable was a grandmotherly woman I’ll call Shirley, who informed me massage was her second career and that she took it Very Seriously. No shit. Shirley went to work on me with the calm, ruthless efficiency of a Mafia revenge hit. Using her elbows, thumbs, and knuckles she first went after Fred, then Fred’s family, then then anyone in my body who had ever known Fred. Most massage types ask for feedback on the level of pressure they use, but Shirley didn’t ask and I suspect Shirley didn’t care, and it didn’t matter because I was too busy facedown in an ongoing silent scream to respond. The last time I was in that much pain (also naked and on a table, as it happens) a small human was pushing its way out of a small hole in my body, so I suppose I hoped for some acknowledgment or maybe an apology. But Shirley just threw the sheet back over me, clapped me unsympathetically on my shoulder, and said “Girl, you need to get you some epsom salts” before leaving the room– never to be seen again. Fred, on the other hand, vanished temporarily into a witness protection program but showed back up a few days later after a long bike ride and a poorly aligned shoulder bag.

Now I see an affable, taciturn 30-something guy named Doug, whoI think  probably has the best approach. He doesn’t attack Fred head-on. It’s more like he uses his size and brawn to to say come on, man. that’s not cool. just fuck off before I need to do something about this, okay? Fred doesn’t want to listen but eventually moseys away, leaving me feeling better for several weeks. I just saw Doug tonight, and he never seems to mind me calling him to kick out my unwanted roommate one more time. The most he will do is purse his lips a little as he hands me a cup of water and a towel and say, “Um, like, maybe you should stretch a little more or get better handlebars for your bike”. And we do this thing where I assure him I will absolutely do those things, and he says “Cool”, and we both know I probably won’t get around to it, and I’ll end up back in his treatment room with Fred in a month. It’s a rhythm we’ve both accepted, and it’s oddly comforting.

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One Comment
  1. I shall name my next alt rock band “facedown in an ongoing silent scream”

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