I've discovered that my bravery extends exactly as far as my ignorance. If I have no idea what a thing is, I will probably be up for it. This is why I must say to you here and now: if you're ever offered a Chinese Massage... woah mamma, that hurts. A small Chinese man called John has delved into my very soul with just his thumbs and plucked out my innocence.
First was the pain. I've never been good with pain. And through the pain was the wonder that any human man could have thumbs so strong. Then as the pain really kicked in came a delirious fear that this iron-thumbed being was no human man.
But it's OK, I tried to tell myself, he knows what he's doing. Whatever pain he inflicts, it's for the best.
I think that was when he started pointing out of the window saying 'Oven? Oven? Oven?'
I could hardly lift my head from the massage table. John had pummeled me so hard my face was well wedged into the PVC ring. I had also lost all feeling in my neck. But I did manage to lift my head. I twisted my blearly face into an expression of bafflement, trying to indicate to him that I didn't understand why he was pointing out of the window and repeating 'Oven?'.
In fact, I discovered eventually, he was pointing at a picture of a man he thought was called Owen but was actually called Doug who he thought I knew but who I did not know after all. He went back to manipulating my buttocks.
One thing many people know about me is that there are some directions in which my legs simply do not twist. It was difficult for John to accept this.
His determination, as well as his thumbs: iron.
I am a new man now. Taller, wiser, with black holes in some parts of my memory. I am more wary of smiling Chinese masseurs.
I will never forget where his hands were when he asked my name, what I feared he would do if I didn't tell him, and, worse, what I feared he would do if I did tell him, because then we could really get to know each other.