Nobody could ever really say what went on during Gil’s “signature” massages. Or if they could, they certainly never made it clear to anyone else. Maybe, now and again, one of his male clients—which were few and far between—might give a bit more detail, but, by and large, the female clients he tended to lure were often reticent when it came to describing the nature of the massage.
Despite the lack of detail that came with any review of Gil’s performance, he seemed to have good word of mouth in the small suburban enclave where he worked. Though no one knew for sure if he actually lived anywhere near the environs. It was difficult to get much personal information out of Gil, yet he, in contrast, was able to get plenty of intel from those he “worked” on. But for all they knew, he could slither in and out of the gutter to get to the “parlor” for as open as he was about his living situation. Where he might actually go after hours, if anywhere at all. Maybe he slept on the massage table, sniffing the residual traces of “unwitting fluid” left behind by his clients. Maybe he never slept at all. Or simply vanished into thin air when he wasn’t rubbing and ultimately raping women.
Like many trained in the art of being a masseur, he knew all the right pressure points to hit and when to hit them precisely at a moment during the massage when a client had reached a peak of relaxation, letting down her physical guard entirely so that she was at her most vulnerable. It provided the ideal opportunity for Gil to deliver his “carotid sinus massage” (second only to the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique).
So placid and tranquil were these women that they were even more susceptible to the state of temporary knockout Gil could put them in. Indeed, it always fascinated him that no one at the School of Massage Therapy seemed to point out the obvious dangers of teaching people techniques that essentially allowed them to turn clients into very literal putty in their hands. Were they that naïve about human nature? To believe that someone like Gil would be dissuaded from taking advantage just because he had “sworn” to some code of ethics? There really ought to be a better barometer for testing whether or not someone pursuing a career as a masseur isn’t just doing it because he’s a fucking pervert.
As for Reed, she was a woman who found the entire concept of a “professional” massage completely absurd. That both parties were supposed to just pretend there was nothing sexual in nature about what was going on between them felt like a lie as great as Santa Claus. And yet, her stress level of late had shot through the roof as she was promoted to a managerial position that she didn’t even want, but somehow was saddled with because the previous person decided to kill himself by drowning in the Olympic-sized pool that his manager’s salary could afford. Reed was the most qualified in-house person to ascend the “throne,” even though, if they weren’t so strapped for time, they surely would have looked for someone else. Preferably another man. But there was no such salvation for Reed, and she felt there was no real reason she could turn down the role, especially since she would likely never get another such opportunity again.
It was during frantic and frenzied, but, more importantly, boozy lunch breaks with the only person in the office she trusted, Helena, that her friend and co-worker offered Gil’s name as an option for “relief” and “release.” Reed explained that she had maybe only two massages in her life, and both times, the masseurs in question wouldn’t stop talking once the floodgate had opened. All Reed had to do was ask one innocuous question and they each seemed to take it as an open invitation to discuss their life story. Reed felt she ought to be the one charging for the therapy session rather than the other way around. And yet, she could understand how some might want to talk through the duration of the massage to diminish the awkwardness. To make it come across as though the two of you were just old chums shooting the breeze and that one of you wasn’t completely nude and essentially being “roughed up” the whole time. After the Chatty Cathy series, Reed vowed to swear off massages forever. She’d rub up against an ornately designed lamppost if she really needed to untangle a knot that urgently. And yet, she had never been in a job position so utterly demanding, so toll-taking on both body and mind. Which is why, after another week spent in her own personal hell, she asked Helena for Gil’s information so that she could set up an appointment.
At the place in question, Reed was already offput to find that it existed amid an endless hallway of doors leading to offices of dubious repute. Would Gil’s own “office” turn out to be one of them? Reed would tend to think yes as she crossed the threshold to where Gil awaited her with a grin.
As she filled out the form—even “pleasurable” services had to mirror a “going to the doctor” experience—she was struck with all the various ailments and conditions that could be potentially triggered by a “little” massage. For as many “health benefits” as it seemed to have, it also seemed to have just as many risks. Why was Reed so willing to take them when every fiber of her being was screaming that massages were a scam that men hid behind to touch women’s bodies inappropriately.
Nonetheless, she disrobed and got under the goddamn blanket like a docile creature waiting to be shot in the back of the head. For her musical selection, Reed had suggested Lana Del Rey. She thought Gil might put on “Lana Del Rey radio,” but instead it was just a nonstop shuffle of her music. And every time things got especially quiet between them, Del Rey’s most sensual lyrics would seem to boom throughout the space as she crooned things like, “Take off, take off/Take off all your clothes” (here it proved a near-impossible challenge for Reed to resist trying to lighten the mood by noting, “Well, all of mine already are”) and “Let me put on a show for you, Daddy.” Considering the overt age difference between Reed and Gil, this was particularly uncomfortable as well. Of course, Gil, for all she could tell in her ass-up position toward him, didn’t notice at all. But surely he could feel the tension mounting in her back rather than subsiding.
The last thing she could remember was trying not to focus on his heavy breathing. The kind that felt unmistakably like pervert breathing as opposed to “I’m so spent from rubbing you down” breathing. He asked her if she wanted her “glutes” to be massaged as well. She knew what he really wanted to say was, “Can I squeeze your ass repeatedly and have it be deemed as socially acceptable within this context?” Reed did her best not to sound totally disgusted and accusatory when she replied, “Um, no. That’s okay.” Gil persisted, “A lot of people don’t realize how much tension they can hold in these muscles. Are you sure you don’t want me to give them some attention?”
Reed could feel her entire body tensing up as she once again defiantly rebuffed the so-called offer. Thus, continuing to breathe heavily under the guise of it being some part of his “Eastern” practices in the massage, he worked his hands back up to her neck, whereupon he administered Reed’s blackout by touching and then squeezing the right pressure point.
When she awakened, she could feel the distinct wetness in the crotch of her panties that only comes from arousal… or a “deposit.” Gil was continuing to massage her as though nothing had happened. And for all she knew, maybe nothing did. Maybe his massage technique really was so good that she simply fell right to sleep, dozed off for an indiscriminate amount of time while he persisted in pressing her knots out. Methodically, meticulously. Or was it all a ruse for what he had really done?
As Reed lay there questioning everything, the Lana lyrics, “In the land of gods and monsters, I was an angel/Lookin’ to get fucked hard,” came on. It unsettled her greatly. But Gil, practiced in ignoring all things uncomfortable and awkward, just kept on massaging. And Reed kept on wondering why there was discharge in her underwear and how many minutes had gone unaccounted for in her blackout state…
The following day at work, Helena asked Reed how her massage went. Reed wasn’t quick to respond, turning the words over in her mind before she dared to say them. And just as she was about to declare, “I think Gil might have raped me” she stopped herself. She understood how outlandish it would sound. And how people were always trying to get “massage folk” in trouble simply for doing their job. She didn’t want to take a chance on blowing the whistle on Gil only to herself be accused right back of being the girl who cried rape. Maybe he only fingered her. That was an entirely different, “less severe” sexual violation, wasn’t it? This is what her reasoning told her to go with as a means to quell what she wanted to shout to the mountaintops. So instead, she could tell Helena, “Oh, you know. It was fine.”
“That’s it? Fine?”
Reed shrugged. “Yeah. I don’t think I’m a massage person.”
“You must not be. Because everyone who goes to Gil raves about him. Myself included.”
Reed couldn’t fathom if there was a hidden cue she wasn’t picking up on in that statement. Did these women want to be molested? Is that the whole reason they went to Gil? What was she missing? Or worse, had she been the only one targeted among his robust roster of would-be victims? Because of how insecure all of these unanswered questions made her, she decided to put the “incident” aside and focus on her work. To really delve into and embrace the stress of it as a welcome distraction from whatever had happened to her on Gil’s table.
Despite becoming more effective at her job than she (or anyone else at the company) ever thought she would be, the flashbacks of Gil’s hands on her body, paired with his heavy breathing, would haunt her for months to come. And even as more time passed, there was still no predicting when she might have unwanted memories (both visual and auditory) of that day come back to her. Whether they were imagined or not, she could never really determine. All she knew was, Lana Del Rey was definitely ruined for her.