Thursday, March 22, 2007

a million little pin pricks (part two)

Tuesday I spend comtemplating not going back to the acupuncturist’s office. My back isn’t that much better. Maybe it’s all a crock. But 2,500 years can't be wrong. On Wednesday I wake up with a spasm a lesion something painful and lumpy nestled beside my right shoulder blade. By the afternoon I find myself bundling up and walking the Avenue again, towards the woman with the short dark hair and cardigan sweater.

Today the cardigan is red wool. Red is what’s that word what is it it’s killing me…auspicious.

Today no one is in the white sterile but not sterile office except me and the acupuncturist. She nods at me when I enter and walks over to me from behind the glass counter filled with gold and red boxes of herbal remedies.

She gestures for me to meet her in the middle of the floor. Let’s get right to business, I think. This is good in a way. There is no bullshit here. It is what it is as they like to say these days. I take off my jacket and hat and gloves and scarf and sunglasses and stuff the lot into my sleeves. I’ve been walking without a bag so my back doesn’t have to bear any extra weight.

She says, “How you feel? Your back.” She says this to my back.
I tell her that the middle below the ribs on the right doesn’t hurt so much but down low on the back of my hip hurts and up in my neck and shoulders is a whole new mess of pain.
“I’m a mess,” I say when I’m done giving her a tour of my pain. She doesn’t laugh.

“Come,” she says.
She slides the flimsy door open and we walk through. I’ve done this all before. I am more experienced than I was on Monday but I know the needles might hurt so I am still scared, even if I know where to put my shoes and jacket.
“Take you sweater. Off.”
She leaves.
I take my own gray cashmere cardigan off and pile it on the examining table with my jacket and push it all into the wall. It was warmer Monday. I didn’t have a sweater then.

I lie down.
She returns.
Lifts my shirt.
Pushes the waist band of my jeans down. Pinches me.
Touches my back.
“Pain here?”
“Yeah. And here too.”
She pulls down my shirt from the neck.
She swipes a cotton ball dipped in alcohol across my back. Upper and lower.
She unwraps a needle.
“I’m scared.” I want her to give me more. To give me answers. To tap a needle in the Meridian associated with fear and anxiety.
She gets to work on my lower back.
Tap. No pain. Relief.
Tap. No pain. Relief.
She taps a needle into the fleshy top of my buttock.
I yelp in pain.
“What is my problem?”
“Yes! I’m nervous. Do you have something for that?”
“Lots of nerve endings.”
“Oh. Yeah.”
I shut my mouth. She has no time for my self-deprecation.
I wait for the heat. The zzzt. Pause. But it’s weaker this time. I don’t say anything. She is the professional.
She leaves the room, sliding the flimsy door partly closed.

I close my eyes.
Try to sleep.
Try to follow the Rules.
Zzzt. Pause. The heat comes.
I like the heat.
Zzzt. Pause. Heat.

The front door opens and a family walks in, I can see this through the sliver of space between the flimsy sliding door and the flimsy white door jamb. There is a mother in a charcoal nylon jacket and cheap shoes, a little girl with high pigtails and a pink coat. Another young woman. An older daughter? A friend? A niece? In boot-cut jeans and a yellow ski jacket. They all talk at once. I think I hear the word “tangerine.” Then I hear coughing. Coughing. Then hocking. As if a tangerine seed is stuck in the mother’s throat. Cough.
Not relaxed.
I try to listen to the soothing music but already my face is distorting itself into a judgmental grimace. I wonder if she’s going to spit on the floor when she hocks up the tangerine seed from her belly. It sounds like she’s trying to hock up her knee-cap. There is great force in her efforts.
A delivery man comes.
Everyone is talking.
Not relaxed.
The almond colored machine with the black dials and colored wires protruding from it like hair dings.
The acupuncturist doesn’t come.
Zzzt. Pause. Heat.
Everyone is talking.
The acupuncturist doesn’t come.
Zzzt. Pause. Heat.
Will I get burned?
The acupuncturist doesn’t come.
Zzzt. Pause. HEAT.
Did she not hear the ding?

The acupuncturist doesn’t come.
Everyone is talking. I am forgotten. I am not forgotten. She is a professional.
The acupuncturist doesn’t come. Not relaxed.
I wonder if I should yell but what would I yell?
The heat subsides.
The acupuncturist doesn’t come.
The acupuncturist doesn’t come.
The acupuncturist doesn’t come.
Now the mother is burping and hocking and I think, blog.
It doesn’t bother me, this awful noise of a person’s insides trying to come outside because I know I will record it in my Blog.
The mother bellows deep lusty burps as if no one else is around for miles. It doesn't bother me because I know this is Chinatown, not a spa on Park Avenue, where surely something would be Done.
I tell myself the cultures are different.
East. Hock in public.
West. Hock in private.
West. I think it is disgusting.
East. She doesn't think it's disgusting.
East. Maybe she thinks it's the most natural thing, the most human thing and so why hide it?
West. Maybe we think we need to hide our most base bodily functions.
East. Freedom?
West. Imprisonment? I feel a little imprisoned here under the needles. Abandoned. With the hocking and the burping.
West. Is it a question of refinement? Of ettiquette? Of consideration? Of denial? Of hypocrisy?
East. Do they give a shit? But maybe that's the essence of freedom. Doesn't the Tao tell us not to seek approval? Is the Tao not Chinese? Is hocking and burping in public somehow practicing Taoism? Whoa. Heavy.

Being abandoned by the acupuncturist doesn’t bother me because my back is not hot anymore and this woman is a professional and I know I will record it in my Blog.
The delivery man leaves.

The acupuncturist returns and I suddenly feel like an intruder, a pest who must be dealt with swiftly.
Off goes the machine.
Out come the needles.
I tense and try not to yelp when the needle comes out of the fleshy top of my buttock where there are a lot of nerve endings. I am embarrassed about my sensitivity.
She takes a white rectangular box down from on top of the refrigerator. She sticks something else on my back.
“Is that cupping?” I ask. I am excited because I know what cupping is and I have called it by its Name.
“You know cupping?”
“Yeah! Gwyneth Paltrow did it!”
Her English is not as good as I thought.
She cups my upper back in two places. My lower back in two places.
I have called it by its Name.
“What is it for? Cupping.”
That makes sense. doesn't sound mystical but it makes sense. The suction. The circular hickeys.
She leaves. Slides the door partly closed but not as much as before.
I feel heat where the cups are. I wonder if I will have circular hickeys like Gwyneth Paltrow did in that photograph I saw.

The mother lays a page of newspaper on the floor. She lays a colorful blanket on top of the newspaper and lays the little girl on top of that. She is changing the little girl’s diaper in the middle of the floor of the acupuncturist’s bright white sterile but not sterile office. East. Free.

The mother stands the little girl up and straightens her pants. The little girl with the high pigtails and the pink coat walks over to the flimsy sliding door and looks at me lying on the examining table covered in hot cups.
I look at the little girl.
I smile.
She smiles.
I smile.
She smiles.
I am happy.
The family leaves.

The acupuncturist returns.
She removes the cups.
She leaves. Slides the door partly closed.

I gather my things. Feel for pain. Bundle myself. There it is, the pain. In my upper and lower back. Maybe not as much. I look at the white rectangular box of clear glass cups on top of the refrigerator and feel special celebrity deluded kinship with Gwyneth Paltrow.

On the wall above the box of cups above the white plastic statue of the man with the rainbow lines and dots of The Meridians crisscrossing his body are framed certificates.
Mu Li Huang.
The State University of New York.
Muli Huang. Misspelled.
Mu Li Huang.
Certified. Professional. Acupuncturist.
I walk out of the room where Mu Li Huang taps Needles into Skin and into the main area of the office.
I pull out my wallet.
I pull out two twenties.
No herbs.
No chanting.
No incense.
No homework.
No eye contact.
No answers.
“Thank you,” I say, and walk out the door.


Anonymous said...

If the acupuncture doesn't work for you (and I hope it does!)you might want to try a patch that you can get from a doctor. It is called Lidoderm and it works really well for back pain. You need to get a prescription for it. Also, you probably know this, but bend at the knees, not the waist when picking up your children. Hope you feel better soon. I love reading your blog.

Amelia Plum said...

I should look so good in jeans. Maybe this is one of the assvestments you were talking about, looks well worth it to me.