“Oh no, it’s ba-a-a-a-ack,” said Bobby, his massage fingers squeezing the persistent knot between Belle’s neck and shoulder.
“Argh,” Belle growled into the face cradle. “I’ve tried everything for that.”
“Don’t tighten up. Breathe. Breathe into that spot.” His thumb applied tons of pressure to it.
Hurt so good, she told herself, pulling air deeply into her lungs.
Tears filled her eyes. Damn, it hurt.
Breathe. Every month she was here on Bobby’s table. It helped.
Breathe. It helped with all the muscle strains of her nursing job at the hospital.
He eased up a bit.
“What a zinger,” she said.
“Same old trigger point in the belly of the muscle. I’ll work the ends of it.”
“Ahh,” she sighed, soaking up his smoother strokes.
“What have you tried on it?”
“A month of ibuprofen -”
“Tear up your intestines.”
“- hot castor oil packs -”
“Clear out toxins, good.”
“- eucalyptus rubs -”
“Won’t do enough.” He clamped it under his thumb again.
“Ow! And I worked the trigger point myself, tennis ball against the wall, like you said!”
“Whoops, don’t clench your jaws – that pulls on it.”
She sighed and let go with a whimper. “Head bone’s connected to the – neck bone.”
“You know it.” He held on a few more painful seconds.
“Ohh – this would be called exquisite pain – whoever made up that term.”
“Yeah, sorry about that.” He started rubbing around it.
She knew the routine: deep warm comforting strokes, sneaking up to those damn deep-tissue digs.
For the moment she lapped up the comfort.
Her mind drifted into sweet soft darkness, tinted purple.
“Last time I thought we mashed it out of there,” Bobby said softly, fingering the knob. “It keeps popping up. It’s been like – two years now?”
Inside her head Belle watched royal-purple shapes congeal, separate, drift.
She wanted to sleep.
With effort she mumbled, “I keep telling it to leave.”
“Gotta listen to it before it can leave.”
The plane of his forearm pressed firm and steady down the slope from neck to shoulder.
It felt delicious until – “whump” – the lump.
“It’s got a mind of its own,” said Bobby. “A stubborn personality.”
Belle saw the grumpy lump rising taller with a scowl on its face. “Next party, I’ll be two-headed. ‘Hey, have you met my lump?’”
Bobby snickered. “Does it talk or just leer at people?”
“It leers.” She tried to relax into the pain, but ouch!
“Most of the time it doesn’t bother me. Let’s forget it.”
“I’ll do the other side awhile.” He kneaded her left shoulder and neck.
Gratefully wafting into comfort, Belle said slowly, “Yeah, forget that tough little sucker… I don’t know… They say shoulders carry burdens.”
“That little sucker is tough for a reason. It’s trying, but it’s too small to handle the weight.”
She drifted deeper into dark purple clouds, feeling cozy.
“So, what’s the burden?” he asked.
“Ahh ….” she muttered, wanting only sleep.
“What’s too heavy to carry?”
“Mmm …” Now she was Atlas holding the world on her shoulders. She crumpled underneath it, squished.
“It’s your right side, so maybe it relates to assertion or action.”
If she faked a snore, would he leave her alone?
“What’s too heavy to lift?” he prodded.
She saw yesterday’s extremely heavy patient – could barely turn him on his side. She couldn’t fix him.
Here came a long, long line of faces and bodies in hospital beds, parading through her mind.
All the people she couldn’t fix.
Hair-thin glossy wires ran from her shoulder to each sad patient.
They hung onto her, all of them.
Hundreds and hundreds of un-fixables pulled her down, down, down.
“My patients. I can’t fix them all.”
“Who said you had to fix them all? Let go of that belief.”
“Isn’t that the main idea, to repair them?”
“That’s the impossible idea. You can’t carry them all. That’s your lump, Sister.”
“Huh. I guess that rings a Belle.”
(Wink. Have you had a chronic spot in your body talking to you?
I sure have.
Thanks for indulging this creative flash fiction. – Diane)
(Thanks to Ximena Mora of Pexels for this shoulder image and Wikimedia Commons for the lump guy.)