You Wanna Massage?

Vallarta Day 9

The garden at Coco’s harbors a lot of mosquitos and my legs can’t take many more bites, so I opt to go directly to Dee’s and order the breakfast bagel sandwich with egg, cheese and tomato. It’s okay, but Dee’s specialty is really in her drinks and desserts.

A man on the patio is chewing Dee’s ear off, but she’s a good listener. From the sounds of it, he owns a handful of restaurants and bars. He seems like an unhappy person – angry, blaming others for his problems, laughing at his own jokes. He’s funny enough at first – asking me about my iPad and the keyboard dock.

“Does it give blowjobs?” He asks.

“I haven’t found an app for that yet.”

“I don’t want one then,” taking a drag off his cigarette.

Charmed. I look away and continue typing.

One of the men who took my picture with my iPad yesterday, comes in today with a friend. He’s got his own iPad – I guess he was delighted with the keyboard.

I head to the gym. It’s Saturday and they operate on a reduced schedule from 8:00 – 4:00. David isn’t working, nor is Aaron around – just the non-English speaking lady who usually does the cleaning. She’s smiles at me, I at her. Surprisingly, a number of people come in – including three new people. I haven’t seen it this busy since I was here over New Years.

I head out and it is still cloudy from the overnight rain. A bummer, since I was hoping to go to the beach. Instead I head home and shower up. Maybe I can get a haircut or a massage.

I head down to the Choco Banana corner where Angel works. I met him on the beach on one of my first days. He’s a young kid who does massage. He gave me a bit of a taste on my shoulders and he’s got surprisingly strong hands, as well as gives strong hugs so I’ve been on the lookout for him, but it seems my schedule doesn’t coincide with his.

My previous attempts at massage in Vallarta over New Years was less than pleasant. One guy wanted to get in my pants and the other guy wouldn’t push hard enough, even after several pleadings of “Mas pressure, por favor.”

Perhaps the sky was cloudy for a reason, because as luck should have it, Angel was working and available. He took me over two blocks and up one. I was under the assumption his place of business was right next to Choco Banana, but it’s not – that’s just where they market themselves for better visibility.

I’m a little leery of the business. It seems there are 7 or 8 staff milling about the spa and I see no other customers. And while Angel seems like a sweet guy, I can’t help but wonder if his name is made up. Is it normal for people in Mexico to name their children Angel?

Angel leads me to an air-conditioned room in the rear of the building and instructs me to disrobe and lay over the table on my stomach. He leaves and I place my clothes on a small rack in the corner and hop on the table. I stare down through the face-rest and think I should have placed my clothes (with wallet inside) where I could see them. Then it occurs to me that I can always hear if somebody enters the room, so I’ll be fine. Then I start to think – what if they have a secret door?

I am a sick one …

Angel returns and starts off with some aromatherapy I’ve never experienced before. It’s quite nice and opens up my sinuses it a refreshing way. I enjoy the massage and my fears were unfounded. Nothing went missing and Angel was completely professional – though he did end the session with a little kiss on my forehead. I can’t imagine that was in the training, but this is Mexico.

I get dressed, pay, tip Angel, and head out. I haven’t eaten since before the gym and I’m starving. Walking down the block I notice an army of ants – quite literally an army. There are thousands of them, marching up and down the block on the corner of the sidewalk. Walking in one direction they are empty-handed, but in the other direction, they all have fragments of leaves on their back. Aside from a PBS special or National Geographic, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Near the end of the block I see a pile of sand and a hole dug into a retaining wall. There’s a bit of a traffic jam at the entrance, but still things appear to be working in an orderly fashion. Images of the PC game, Lemmings appear in my head and I wonder, do these ants perform all this work based on instinct? Instruction? Are they trained? How do they know how to go all the way up the block and return with the leaf fragments?

I head over to The Coffee Cup. They’re up the block from Dee’s and make smoothies and protein shakes as well as espresso drinks. They’re never as busy as Dee’s. I think the lack of a patio has something to do with it, but Dee’s charm and menu probably keeps people on her end of the block.

The guy working behind the counter was here the other day when I stopped in. I forget his name, but he’s a cute little guy fond of smiling and always flirting a bit. He speaks well enough English and we get to chatting a bit. He tells me he lives about 10 minutes north of here – too many temptations to party all of the time here. He doesn’t drink and likes to go to the gym. And he’s a sweetie. I like this one! Turns out he’s 30 years old, but looks like he’s 19. Not really my type, but he’s a doll. I’ll stop back again.

I peruse a couple of shops but don’t find anything I like. I stop in at home to pick up my backpack, iPad and umbrella in tow and head to the Alano club. I’ve been hitting up the AA meetings at 6:30 regularly, but Robert had shared that he also goes to the NA meetings at 5:00 and they’re sorely lacking much long-term clean time, so I decide to stop in.

Sam is the trusted servant and is a familiar face from one of the AA meetings. In total there are only 6 or 7 people in the meeting. Sam announces that Saturdays are supposed to be reserved for a speaker, but being unable to find one, he reads the day’s reading from Just For Today instead.

The reading is about masks – a common topic in rehab, and also a good topic for newcomers in the meetings. After the reading, Sam opens the floor for comments on the topic or anything else pertaining to NA.

After a few moments of silence, I introduce myself, “Dan, addict.”

“Hi, Dan.”

I identified with the reading, as I found myself always wearing masks prior to entering recovery. Though I can still revert to a mask, I try to be true to myself without them. I talk about how prior to recovery, I would often play the jokester, or the token gay guy. For years I was “Sparkles” in the office and afterwards at the bars. I went so far as to get personalized plates on my car with the name and played the part at every opportunity. Many people in the industry knew me only as Sparkles, without knowing my real name.

Sparkles was both convenient and damaging for me. He allowed me to put up a false front that people might enjoy, at least for a bit. I could crack jokes and make people laugh. I thought I made friends and contacts, but the truth is I was usually drunk and remember only a handful of folks. To this day somebody will call out “Sparkles” to me, and I will have to search through my memory for any trace of who the person might be.

But Sparkles was also a defense. He held people at bay. Sparkles was only so deep, and once you hit that depth, the personality went no further. People didn’t get to know the real me because I wouldn’t let them. This was out of fear that if you got to know the real me, you wouldn’t like me. This was rooted in a couple of things – I didn’t really know who I was, and I didn’t like me, so why would you?

As I said, Sparkles was both convenient, but damaging, in that it let me continue to put on the charade – never requiring me to figure out just who I was.

Others shared. Some said they still didn’t know who they were, some still wore masks. Some were just trying to stay clean for 24 hours.

I chatted with Carlos, a local English-as-a-Second-Language guy. Some of the local Mexicans come to the English-speaking club like Carlos. Some to improve their English, some because that’s where they found recovery, and some because they think it’s safer than going to the Mexican meetings.

I’m not sure why Carlos was there, but he has nearly 90 days. This is his first time at the rodeo and hasn’t relapsed. He’s about 28 and was recently deported from the states, where he was arrested for transporting drugs. He has a kid there, but the authorities told him he has to stay out of the country for 5 years, after which he can reapply if he likes. He told me that he’s met the most wonderful people in NA and has begun working the steps with a sponsor. He tells me he lives an hour north of the city and rides a bus here most days. That’s dedication!

Another man, Reggie, came in late and is clearly the happiest person in the room! He’s got over a year clean and is grateful with a capital G! He’s an energetic guy in middle age and has an uncanny ability to pull appropriate lyrics out of pop songs that fit within a conversation. He’s really quite a talent!

I decide to stick around for the AA meeting that begins shortly. It’s a speaker meeting and Dale, the trusted servant, has asked Jim, a visitor from San Antonio, share his experience, strength and hope. I’ve seen Jim in a couple of the meetings but I’ve never heard him talk. He appears to be in his 50s and walks very slowly. I do not have high hopes for his story.

But again, I am a poor judge of character. Jim’s share in really quite remarkable. He has just celebrated 30 years of sobriety and has lived a full life. He’s a little slow these days as a result of a couple of strokes, but he’s still very sharp. He tells us how he was born into a family of four brothers. His mother warned them at an early age that all of the men in her family died of alcoholism, and that they must be careful. Jim and two of his three brothers went on to earn Ph.D.s and of course none of the brothers heeded her warning. Jim’s three brothers went on to die of alcoholism, but Jim was blessed with finding recovery at a relatively young age.

He was working in academia at a university in the middle of Silicon Valley. When he finally did venture into a meeting, he was expecting to find homeless bums from the street. Instead he found a room full of successful people, starting computer companies out of their garages, Fortune 500 company CEOs and executives, and professors at his own university.

He talked about “misunderstanding the assignment” that first night and ended up getting a sponsor and going to his house right off the bat to begin reading the big book – all in one night!

Arriving at his new sponsor’s house he was impressed by the home’s size and the gated community it was located within. He was curious, “What do you do?”

“None of your business,” responded the sponsor.

“Oh, well, ummm ….”

“People will find anything they can to differentiate themselves from others in AA, when the important thing is that we help the newcomer identify. We focus on the solution to alcoholism in AA and one’s occupation has nothing to do with that. From now on, you don’t tell anyone in AA what you do.”

And Jim reports that from that time he never did tell people what he did at meetings. I got the feeling he had many friends who knew his business, but he never discussed his work at a meeting. What a great idea, I thought!

He went on with his story, telling us that he eventually left academia and started his own company, which had him traveling and living in foreign countries. He has attended meetings all over and has found comfort in the rooms wherever he is. He eventually sold his company and “retired” back to academia, where he teaches at a University in a Texas border town.

He told a fabulous story, and I need to learn not to be so quick to judge.

I opted to eat alone and skipped fellowship with the meeting. I had a sandwich at a small cafe and went over to A Page in The Sun cafe for a little dessert.

The prostitute from the bushes yesterday was perched on the steps to my building upon my return.

“You wanna massage?”

“No gracias.”

To which he pouted, “Why nooooot?”

I feel sorry for the man, but chuckle to myself a bit, as I’ve never heard a prostitute whine like that.

I ended the night in bed, reading an ebook and listening to the rain pour down outside.

2 thoughts on “You Wanna Massage?

  1. You too tell a great story “Sparkles”. I also wondered about the license plate pic in your profile. You seem to be too well grounded to be “Sparkles” anymore :-).

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