Can I just say that I have no idea how I made it through the last two months.
They called him Peaches because the only things he had with him were two small peaches and a rusty switchblade with the letters PR carved into it – all tucked into his socks – and a worn bible in his pocket. If I had shown up at work an hour or two earlier, who knows how fast he would have reached for his knife, and if I would still be here today. All I saw was his rotting finger – probably an old infection that never would have healed right anyway – but he haunts my dreams. I imagine he was a tall, thin, bald black man who just lost his wife and his job and couldn’t find his way back, so he ended up on the street, religiously reading his bible and praying for God to save him from his booze and his lonely peach obsession.
But what if he was dangerous? Just to be safe, I’ve stopped using the employee back entrance to the spa, because I don’t want to accidentally let anyone in who doesn’t belong. I check every cabinet and under every table before every massage to make sure I’m really alone. I jump at every noise, trying to hone in on its source.
María Tortilla, the cleaning lady, said not to worry about it. “Ju think this is sumthin new?” she asked, as she pretended to twirl her rosary beads around her stubby fingers. “Ju wouldn’ta believe me, but they be sleepin, showerin, an drinkin up all the cheap bubbly. I’m the first one up in here in the morning, so I’m the one who be findin’ them. How you think I got dis scar on my eye?” She lifted up her bangs to reveal a two inch gash, just diagonal to her eyebrow, and laughed about how I “shoulda seen the other guy.” No, thanks, I don’t want to see the other guy – I want to pretend the other guy doesn’t exist. My mom calls me Chicken for a reason.
This was my first day back to work after what is now known as the homeless peach incident. (Pronounced – in-SID-ent. Ba-dum-tass!) I’ve sent an email to Rosa, the manager, about how terrified I am, but I seem to be the only one. Everyone else has seen it before and knows that it’s just part of the job. Off topic pro tip – don’t ever be the first spa appointment in the morning. You don’t know who’s been rubbing their nasty juices all over your fancy sheets before you get there.
But anyway, back to normal. When I went to clock in in the break room, I was surprised to find a room full (literally full – our break room is only has enough space for three people to sit down) of strangers.
” – only good for one thang. Sometimes can’t even get that right. You.know.what.i’m.sayin.”
“Guuuuurl! Per-re-iddd.” (Pronounced: period.)
“You mean massage? That one thang men are good at.” Being one of only two male massage therapists who worked at the Sky, Tony smirked as he said it, and thought he was being funny. He also thought he was quite charming with the intense way he would stare at you when he talked. You ever had that dream where you were the only one walking around naked? It kind of feels like he’s staring past your clothes, past your cold, dead soul. Or maybe that’s just me.
Donna and Strawberry (yes, her hippie parents named her Strawberry. Full name – Strawberry Rain.) continued their crazy cat lady, man-hating ranting and acted like Tony wasn’t even there, as usual. And he added a playful, soulful “mmm-hmm,” every once in a while to feel included.
I tried to clock in and just slither out unnoticed, but Donna wasn’t having that.
“Oh. Em. Gee. So you’re the Sidney who killed Peaches. What’s your sign?”
“My what? They didn’t give me any signs when they hired me.” I don’t know why I looked away and murmured like we were in school and the cool kids just cornered me, but hadn’t stolen my lunch yet.
“No, Darlin’, your astrological sign. Your birthday!” Donna never wasted any time getting down to the stars. They’re the one thing that never lied, she explained later.
“I’m a Capricorn,” I said apologetically, “born on January 1st.”
“Ohhhh,” all three said in unison, followed by a low, deep, “smurf,” by Donna before the room went silent so they could reflect on if they were happy or not with my birthday. Spoiler alert – my moon and sun and planets and sanity might as well all collide and explode, because they just don’t seem to line up. How was I supposed to know I’m a freak of nature??
When Anna strolled in and greeted us with her signature “Peaches and cream, yall!” in her signature squeaky, baby voice, I managed to slip out after all, as they were planning out my cleansing ritual to purify my poor, damaged soul. I wasn’t prepared anyway – I forgot my sage and cedar back in the 1800’s, along with my cauldron and black cat. Just kidding! I don’t go anywhere without my black cat – I had him tattooed just above my right hip, right next to my short, dark, lying, whorish husband’s name, because I’m just that stupid. (More things I need to get into later. My life is sad.)
Who should I run into in the hallway as I was making my getaway? Sweety was staring at a blank wall next to the bow-chika-bow-wow (pronounced: brown chicken brown cow) couple’s room where we had our last session. I slowly walked up to her, in case she was easily frightened. I really didn’t know anything about her. I stood next to her, staring at the same wall, waiting for the ghost of Peaches to stick his head out of an imaginary portal and suck me into an invisible black hole.
“Hi Sidney.” Her voice was low and eerie. “They told me you would come get me, but I just had this feeling, you know?” She wrinkled her nose like she smelled something bad. “There’s a soul lingering in this room. She smells sweet, like sangria on a summer day.” Or peaches? Peaches and feet on a cold winter night? “But anyway,” she squeaked, as if she had just come back to life, “I’m ready for my massage.”
I was happy for the distraction, and led Sweety into the *brown chicken, brown cows* (pronounces bow chicka, bow wow) couples’ room of death and peaches. And Peaches. I remembered to turn around and look away as soon as we entered, and yet Sweety still managed to flash me before sliding onto the table. She must hold some kind of world record for taking her clothes off. We didn’t really need to talk. In fact, “Same as last time?” was all I needed to say. Cold table, face up, lavender oil, diaper drape, sixty minutes of awkwardness on her inner thighs.
I stood next to her hips and leaned over her body, making direct eye contact with her knees, and planned on staying here for the next thirty minutes before switching to her right leg. She had other plans, however.
“Sidney, that feels ahhh-mazing. I’m so glad you were free today. I really needed this today.”
“Is everything OK?”
“Daddy took his wad of cash and spent it on his new, young, dumb sugar baby. If he knew I was here right now, I’d be in so much trouble.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that, Sweety.” I didn’t know what more I was supposed to say. It took a moment for that to even sink in, that “Daddy” was not “daddy.” How do you console the woman who represents the reason your legitimate job is not taken seriously? “You don’t look a day over eighteen, and nobody ever has to know.”
We shared a wink and a giggle before being rudely interrupted by a knock at the door. I slipped out as quietly as I could, pretending that Sweety wasn’t questionably half draped across my table. “Hey Sidney,” the girl from the front desk urgently whispered to me, “you need to end your session right now. Some old guy came looking for Sweety, said he’s not paying for her massage, and that she better go explain if she knows what’s good for her.”
The door to the room flung open and Sweety frantically, nakedly stumbled out. “Where is he!?” But she didn’t stop for an answer. Her cape-like robe flew behind her as she stumbled down the stairs, arms flailing, her one percent body fat jiggling under harsh fluorescent lighting. Now I know what you’re thinking – I should have run after her, asked her if she needed help. I don’t think I’m ever going to see her again to know if she survived her punishment. Am I a terrible person? Cause I feel like I’m going to Hell.