Adhesions by Gordon Glasgow
I like to think of myself as a hard-hearted businessman. They accurately respond to the world in an unemotional way. The detached, apolitical businessman will sell a gay-pride flag, a Saudi Arabian flag, an Israeli flag, and a swastika, all in one day. To them, if the world wants it, it’s worth making. More than anyone else in the modern-era, the non-ideological businessman comes closest to being one with the world.
There are those fleeting thoughts that just come and go, the ideas I’ve had that I haven’t been able to grasp, the personal notions that are present only to disappear shortly afterward, like a small snowstorm that doesn’t really leave a mark.
On the subject of health, there’s the importance of walks to clear the mind of all these fleeting images and concepts, to circulate blood flow in order to unleash the cycle of new thoughts and practices, all to remind ourselves, myself, of who we really are, who I really am, essentially.
And it all just continues to continue.
It was a time when nostalgia really took a hold of us. My girlfriend and I were caught in a longing for what once was, for an era we never experienced or even knew existed. We were living in the past because the present didn’t seem that interesting. Not much was going on, something was needed to cling on to, a bond, perhaps. It was a cold winter in Canada.
During that period I would have the tendency to close my eyes and just picture I was somewhere, anywhere else. Piccadilly Circus in London, a jungle in South Africa, a lake in Switzerland, the streets of Taipei, not that I’d ever been to any of those places. It was an exercise of escape more than visualization, to imagine what it’d be like to not be in a place called here.
But here I was, sitting alone in my apartment on the Rue du Saint-Francois Xavier, idle, still, kind of listening to the air coming out of the heating vent, not thinking of much other than maybe what to eat later, completely blank, installed with nothingness. My girlfriend came home carrying four large bottles of water, exhaling loudly, taking me by surprise. I slowly shifted my gaze toward her, back to the heating vent, then toward her once more.
‘You wouldn’t believe what this masseuse just did to me,’ she said.
Out of nowhere, something seemed to arrive that was lurking beneath the surface. A football match was playing on the 42-inch television directly across from me, I wasn’t really watching it, but as soon as my girlfriend began speaking the commentator’s voice became more apparent.
‘Oh?’ I responded. Right after I said ‘oh’ I wasn’t quite sure if I had actually spoken out loud. I was having trouble during that period recognizing what things I said in my head or out loud, a consequence of too much emailing and texting.
She put the water bottles on the kitchen counter-top and then sat down on the chair across from where I was sitting, her coat still on, two unpacked shopping bags at her feet.
She exhaled again.
‘What made it so special?’ I asked, this time certain that my words were spoken audibly.
She took off her coat and then her pants and came over to the couch to lie across it, her head on my lap, her feet dangling over the opposite corner. She closed her eyes and smiled with contentment. It’d been quite a while since I’d seen her so relaxed.
The walk to the massage on that cold afternoon felt more like a wander, but I’m not certain why. I was listening to music, Voyage Voyage by Desireless, then Lonely Blue Boy by Conway Twitty. It’s difficult to remember what else I ended up playing, but I think that the overall tone was somber. I switched over to a podcast. A culture commentator I’d never heard of was being interviewed by Terry Gross about his new book on individualism, portraits of failed collectivism. For the most part I tuned out, other than for a comment he made saying that the human mind is very strange, full of tons of contradictory impulses. And then a few minutes later he said something about how the new ‘techno-individualism’ in the west gave way to a specific phenomenon: you are free but you are alone. I arrived at the massage parlor and took my headphones out.
I stripped down to my underwear and got onto the table, facedown, as instructed. Olivia Martins was scheduled to come in at any moment. As I lay there I tried to picture what she may look like, but for however much my girlfriend was able to tell me about Olivia’s personality and expertise, an image failed to materialize.
Surprisingly, it was awfully quiet for the first few seconds after she walked in. I broke the silence by asking how her day was, to which she responded —
She sounded awfully perturbed, not like the energetic, talkative masseuse my girlfriend had described.
‘I’m fine as well.’ I said. I was uncertain how the next hour of my life would go, especially if the woman in charge was in a terrible mood.
She placed a blanket over my back.
‘My name is Olivia. But you might know that already because you booked the appointment. And the receptionist. The receptionist gave you my name when you walked in, that I’m sure of. So I’m Olivia. We’ve gotten that sorted out. What exactly will I be working on today?’
I thought about looking up for a moment or two to make sure I wasn’t in a strange dream, but instead chose to stay facedown. If I were in a dream, it would surely all be harmless. The room smelled like a car wash that was using lavender to try and be up-to-date with all the trends.
‘Well, my back is awfully sore.’ I finally answered.
‘Yea, who’s isn’t. Hah. Haha.’
‘But the real issue is my shoulder. It’s dislocated several times over the past few years, and—’
‘Several. Few. Psh. If you want me to help you you’re going to have to be more specific than that.’
‘You’re right. T—’
‘Twelve years ago my shoulder dislocated during a water-polo match. I was trying to throw the ball and as I moved my arm forward a player much larger than me pushed my arm in the opposite direction, causing it to dislocate in the water. I’ve had two surgeries since, one ten years ago and one three years ago. Neither surgery has completely fixed the problem. I can’t give you exact dates, but let’s say, on average, the shoulder dislocated around once or twice per year, and the two or three months after it dislocates are always absolute agony. The last time it came out was six months ago.’ I said this very quickly to avoid any interruptions. I was very nervous as I said it and probably wound up a few more knots in my back.
‘Twelve years? How old are you? 25, 26? You’re a child. How do you have a twelve-year history of anything.’
I laughed, perhaps this was all a comedic routine.
‘Well anyway,’ she continued. ‘I’ll make sure you won’t have to be carried out of here by paramedics at the end of the hour. We’ll take care of your shoulder today.’
I wasn’t convinced.
‘I can feel you’re at ease, that you trust me.’
‘Yes.’ I responded, deciding to give up to whatever might happen.
The 20 minutes that followed did not disappoint. Silence enveloped us. She was a good, focused worker. I was proud to be her subject. It was actually pretty incredible just how good she was. When she came upon a severe lesion near my scapula, rubbing against it with her fist, I made a strange, high-pitched sound.
‘Your adhesions are coming loose.’
‘What are they?’ I whispered. But it was a bizarre, loud whisper. I’d never heard someone refer to a knot as an adhesion before.
‘Adhesions are scar-like bands of tissue,’ Olivia stated. ‘They cause tissues and organs to stick together. The most common form is abdominal adhesions, those are painful. What you have, though, are fibrous adhesions in your back. Things that get in the way of keeping your blood flow optimal. Strong, antagonistic fibers that keep you from living life to its fullest. Fibrous adhesions, especially around the shoulder, limit mobility, decrease strength, and even, and this is in my opinion, debilitate clarity of thought.’
‘They’re causing me to not think well?’
‘Definitely. Sound mind, sound—’
‘Body.’ I said, proud.
‘Woohoo, you get a medal.’
She dug her fingers through a pretty stark adhesion of mine.
‘Adhesions limit blood flow.’
‘And blood flows to your head when you think.’
‘And then to your cock when you’re about to fuck.’
I was quite taken aback by that one. To make sure I wasn’t in fact in a surreal dream I looked up slowly from the headrest but could only see two legs, which were neither fat nor skinny, in shape nor out of shape. They were just legs in jeans. I put my head back down and giggled in response to Olivia’s comment.
‘Basically, blood flow is everything. Everything from an agile body, to a healthy sex life, to a productive day at work. People minimize the importance of blood flow.’
‘Other than a massage, what can I do to optimize my blood flow?’
‘A long, hot shower followed by a 30 second freezing cold shower is a good stimulant.’
‘That does sound good. I’ll try it.’
Olivia slowly circled around me before arriving at my calves.
‘Yes, heat causes blood vessels to open, so you stand in the hot shower for a while, let’s say 10 minutes, all the vessels open, and then out of nowhere, boom. Cold shower. Vessels close. Your body gets all tight. It’s like high intensity interval training for your veins, and the flow, the quality of the flow, oh, it just improves and improves the more you do it. A lot like good sex.’
Again, a sex comment, but for some reason I didn’t mind. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I became slightly erect after she kept throwing those comments in at random, carnal easter eggs of sort.
‘I really am excited to try that shower.’ I responded.
‘It makes me a little sad thinking about it.’ The tone of her voice suddenly became sorrowful. She was rubbing my calves with casual intensity.
‘Why does it make you sad?’
‘My boyfriend and I used to take really long showers together.’
‘Oh.’ I responded. She moved up closer to my thighs and started pressing down on the backs of my knees.
‘Yes. I actually moved to Montreal to live with him, but three months after I got here he left to Vancouver for a new job.’
‘Are you guys still together?’ I asked.
‘No. And it’s been lonely.’ She responded.
I distinctly remembered my girlfriend relaying a similar yet different story to me. During her massage a few days prior, Olivia told my girlfriend that she had a boyfriend who lived in Vancouver, but that they were still together, missing each other, happy yet in a state of longing. Although the stories didn’t match up, I decided to be polite and go with it.
‘It must be hard to spend time alone in a new city.’ I responded. ‘I know what it’s like too.’
For a moment she stopped rubbing my back. She took a few steps away from the massage table, and as I felt her distance begin to get greater I picked my head up again. Her face was prettier than expected, her body too, even though there were some terrible tattoos on her arms.
‘It’s just been really difficult,’ she continued. ‘Sometimes I don’t know if he’ll ever answer my messages again. I’ve been trying to reach him for weeks now and I’ve heard nothing. I reached out to his parents, they didn’t answer me either.’
She leaned back against a poster displaying the different pressure points of the human body.
‘I think you’re deserving of love,’ I told her. ‘I mean, everyone is. But especially you. It seems you feel deeply. That’s something I respect.’
‘Thank you.’ She responded. ‘It means a lot to hear that from a stranger.’
I laid back down on the massage table, conscious of the money I would have to spend for this hour, it was probably time for her to start rubbing my back again. As I buried my face into the open-circle, whatever they call that thing, I considered saying something along the lines of, ‘you don’t have to be a stranger if you don’t want to be,’ but chose not to. Saying nothing was best.
And for the rest of the session, we hardly said a word to each other. The human mind is indeed so strange, full of contradictory impulses, very few of which are rational.
I’ve always wanted to be an actress but never had the confidence to go for it. To succeed as an actor is akin to being struck by lightning; I’ve always been too attached to the idea of control. The wellness industry offered a form of expression with more of an economic guarantee. The desire to better oneself, both internally and externally, aesthetically and mentally, will never ever wane. We want to survive, we want to thrive, to live for as long as possible and look good, to be appreciated while doing so.
And it turned out to be a smart career choice. I’ve found a small modicum of economic success, and the ability to release stress in the human body, to literally and figuratively spend my days undoing knots, does offer a form of personal catharsis.
As with anyone who succeeds in the professional realm, my personal life is another story. I’ve never quite found love. I constantly find myself disappointed and hurt, putting too much trust into the wrong sort of people. This has definitely hardened me, but it isn’t to say I don’t remain optimistic. Thing can change. Thing can and will always change. There will be a time when I don’t have to go back to an empty apartment in the evenings, to be jealous of my girlfriends who constantly progress in their relationships, receiving gifts from their significant others, constant sexual pleasure. My time will come.
He’d always tell me that the only way to be harmless in the world is to believe in nothing, but now it’s come clear how that’s all sort of nonsense. He believed in nothing to avoid feelings, he believed in nothing because he was afraid of feelings, he believed in nothing so he could do whatever he wanted with no regard for others. I’m upset. No. I’m angry. My boyfriend left me for a masseuse. I recommended her, for fuck’s sake. Life is full of coincidences, both meaningful and meaningless, I guess this was just one of those coincidences that would fall into both categories.
For the past few weeks I’ve been looking into the mirror only to see nothing at all. It’s as if I’m not here, a matter of chemicals and bacteria people can just walk through. I’m meaningless in the sense that I was treated as a bystander, meaningful in the way that I’m hurt, going through pain. Pain must be full of meaning, otherwise it wouldn’t feel so harsh.
Men are pigs and women aren’t much better. I’m under no illusions here. The only way to move forward is to accept that life will be a consistent cycle of hope and then hurt. Maybe the moments of hope will be worth it, otherwise we have nothing.
When we met and fell in love he’d always use the most grandiose language. I’ve never felt this way for anyone before, I’ve never loved anyone more than myself, I want to marry you, what would we name our kids, what are we going to name our kids? Etc. The sex was fantastic, truly out of body. And what hurts most right now is that it all felt so real, and it all felt so real probably because it was real, and so what could justify such a sudden shift out of nowhere. Is the human mind really so unpredictable, prone to the whims of desire? I remember he told me once that what he desired more than anything was to control his emotions in order to do what was right. So by that logic, I’m a very consummate representation of wrong, of negativity, of something to abandon in order to grasp something better. Or he’s just full of shit.
Sam called me at 4AM last night, waking me up, fucking up my sleep, something he knew was always a sensitive issue for me. It takes forever to get to bed. He seemed a little bit drunk and was crying.
‘I should have never left you.’ He shrieked. ‘It’s like I’m dating a man.’ He continued.
‘You woke me up. I have to work in four hours you piece of shit.’
‘I know I told you I was sick of taking care of something, feeling like I had to take care of you, look after you, the way you loved the feeling of me doing those things. I know I told you that was one of the reasons why I needed to leave, why I just couldn’t take it anymore, but I was fucking wrong. I’m dating a woman now who has all her shit together and takes care of herself completely, and it’s fucking boring! I can’t take this anymore.’
‘I don’t follow.’ I responded, getting antsy.
‘I mean that you and I were meant to be, not me and her. It was a mistake leaving you. It was a mistake thinking I needed someone who was completely independent. And the truth is no one is completely independent. We all need someone to look after in some sense or another. And I can’t date this bitch anymore. It sucks. It’s like she has no sense that anyone can help her in life. It’s so fucked. Me and you, we helped each other, we were symbiotic.’
‘You cheated on me with our fucking masseuse.’
‘It was one of the greatest mistakes I’ve ever made, and—’
‘Is she with you right now?’ I asked.
‘Are you not, at this very moment, in the same apartment?’
‘It’s a simple question.’
‘These questions are so binary, so straightforward. What does it matter where I am or who I’m with? I just need to tell you that I miss you, that I love you, that I want to make this—’
‘Don’t ever fucking contact me again.’ I said, before hanging up the phone, uncertain as to whether or not I actually would ever like to, in the near or distant future, hear from him again.
Not that Naomi wasn’t great, but I always felt like I had to take care of her. I really did mean everything I ever said. Leaving her wasn’t easy either. It made me seem like a liar, what with all the promises I made of a future that would never exist.
Olivia gave me the sense of something else, something I was craving. To be completely fucking honest, it’s nice to have a mommy to date. I always feel safe, taken care of. She doesn’t ask me to help with much or make any big decisions for her. All her shit is completely under control. It’s almost like if I left tomorrow she’d miss me, but her life would remain un-impacted. My influence is small, she’s totally independent with everything. In fact, she puts me in my place from time to time, and I never feel that I have to do anything extra but live my own life. And dating a masseuse, well, I don’t have to explain why that’s pretty incredible.
I’ve always thought that the only way to be harmless in life is to believe in nothing, naught, complete blankness — and that’s exactly what would happen if I left Olivia tomorrow: nothing. I may be an asshole who’s come to the conscious conclusion of self-interest above all else, but I feel free, and so what.