The Blind Massage Parlor on Maizidianr Street

Doctors Han and Wang run the love
heart massage in one of Beijing’s two
and a half billion broken alleys.

“You’ll recognize it by the red
awning,” Dr. Han says on the phone.
And when I do, I wonder who told him.

Later, on one immaculate bed in a row
of seven, I feel Dr. Han’s fist wedge
between two innocent bones in my shoulder.

He accompanies the soundtrack of my
gasping with a simple statement:
“We hated Titanic.”

I shift my weight on the straight, white
table. And arch my eyebrows, a
gesture Dr. Han overhears.

He rests his right hand for one
thoughtful moment on my spine, and
explains. “The story was stupid

with its music. Your American
Hollywood knows what about love? Nothing
in that movie fit.”

I make shy eye contact with the client
in a bed across the row. We are the only two
here today. I think she loves Titanic

from the delicate way she lifts
her neck to look at me, confused.
I smile and replace my face

into the massage table’s dark
head space. Maybe Dr. Wang and Dr. Han
also smile – at each other over us,

because Dr. Han says “we’ve been
married for eight-teen years. We feel
what other people just see.”

Only after Dr. Wang, his wife
of eight-teen years, giggles like a
movie star in love, does he turn

his attention and hands back to me.
“These days we have a lot of foreign clients!”
he remarks, “How do you say in English:
Does this hurt?”


First published in the Seneca Review