I arrive into the shop where you work finally after walking quite a long way to several wrong places. It strikes to me surprising that your shop literally looks like a normal Chinese massage shop exterior. There is nothing about having a blind masseur in this shop. Maybe it’s a mainstream thing?! A friend of mine from this area recommended you.
I ask the receptionist if there is a blind masseur here, I use gestures and it feels a little embarrassing (simultaneous cover my eyes, and the hand movement for massage). The receptionist cooly responses in the affirmative. I ask when will you be free, the receptionist struggles for a bit and we quickly determine what the Spanish word “ahora” means; now! I was pleased, have been having some pains in my lower lumbar area following the long coach journey to Arequipa. Also it’s a kind of “different experience” to have on my travels. I catch sight of you in the near distance, walking and being guided by a lady.
You wear these dark glasses, the type that is typically worn by blind people. You are about 5 feet tall and it is clear to me you are a professional. You are wearing a blue therapist’s outfit. You have Peruvian dark skin, your hair is dark and wavy with oil or wax applied. I think you’re in your late 40s.
I am brought into the massage room by the receptionist. I plead with the receptionist to explain to you that I am sordo, and that while you are blind and I am deaf the whole experience may be quite different. You nod listening to the receptionist, and I see you feeling your way around the room, checking the shelves and checking the massage table. You tell me to get undressed to my underwear by a simple gesture. I remove my glasses and hearing aid, and lie down face front. It is weird as I am facing downwards to the floor, with no idea if you are about to begin. I wait a while and tell myself to relax, breathing deep breaths.
After a couple minutes, I feel your footsteps closer and then you feeling my body shape circumference. I imagine this is normal for a blind person, and wait a while. You then identify my key areas of pain by some magic, I think its something some people have. I don’t think it is a blind thing. I have had many massage treatments, some therapists are just perfect and know what they are doing!
You continually apply lots of massage oil, the proper type that one finds in medical treatment rather than just baby oil. You knead away and treat me well, removing these knots and pains as best as you can. I feel obliged to give some sounds of pain relief given your dependence on sound. It feels a bit fake at times but there you go!
The treatment goes on for the hour, and half way you tap me on my shoulder, indicating I need to turn around facing upwards. I am awake as you treat my legs and shin, and I can’t help notice something. There are 3 pictures on the wall, the famous trio of “say no evil, hear no evil and see no evil”. It just feels rather ironic to see these pictures, given there is a blind and a deaf guy in this room! The pictures are somewhat Thai-looking with god like figures doing these 3 messages. I suspect the business has some Chinese involvement. I don’t think its coincidental to have these pictures in the room, but I still wonder why the services of a blind masseur is not commercialised. Around the world are other blind massage treatments, e.g. Thailand and China. I just find the missing information in our guide books and local information for tourists a bit weird.
The treatment concludes with some gentle smacking all over my back and legs, and then you press my head a few times. You pull my arm a bit, and then a bit more. It isn’t too clear to me what you want me to do, so I rise up and there is that moment of both of us not being so sure what to do. I shake your hand out of respect but also to try and finish this treatment session otherwise we will be stuck for ages! It reminds me of when I was living in Sheffield, attending the public office for a special travel pass for deaf people – the receptionist was blind. It was like candid camera, I couldn’t understand the receptionist and vice versa!
If communication was fine between us I think we would have commented and shared how rather bizarre the treatment was. If it was a deaf masseur and me I imagine we would have chatted a fair bit and talked about the sciatic pains I was experiencing. But here we were, one deaf ad one blind, one English and one Peruvian. It just doesn’t result in a long conversation!
I get changed whilst you remove the sheets that were used. I suddenly impulsively take a photo of you and I, unknown to you. It’s a photo where my expression shows how rather uncomfortable I am in taking this photo unknown to you, but how appreciative I was too.
I leave the room and pay the receptionist. I express my appreciation and leave the shop feeling much lighter.