For ages, my bud Gino and I have been talking about having an epic "fun day." We've been dreaming about it for at least two of the three years we've been friends. Here's the gist of the dream - we'd both take a day off and spend it doing fabulous things in NYC, like seeing a double feature and eating a fancy lunch and going on a shopping spree and pampering ourselves in every way possible. Sure, we see each other at least once a week, but the "fun day" would be different. A time to really bond, get to know each other. We'd get to do all the things in the city we always wanted to do, but just didn't get around to on the weekend. I'm on my staycation this week, so we planned our "fun day" for Monday. This was actually happening! The only problem was, we didn't actually plan it. In fact, our only solid plan was a casual lunch at 12:30 p.m. with Connie, our other buddy. We met her near her office in midtown and feasted on noodles. The fun day was off to a great start!
"What are you going to do next?" Connie wanted to know. We really couldn't say. But it didn't matter. It was going to be epic!! We said good-bye to Connie, who went on to Duane Reade to buy a battery for her fire alarm (suspicious?), and headed to Gino's apartment. He moved in a few months ago and I still hadn't seen it. This might seem weird, given we're so close. But I've learned that life is very little like the world Friends has depicted. I hardly ever go to other peoples' apartments in the city. It's just not done. In fact, I'll look for every excuse not to go to another apartment in the city. And I certainly would never walk in and out of my neighbor's apartment. I once spoke to my neighbor in the elevator and she demanded I leave one of my company's t-shirts at her doorstep. I have avoided all eye contact with her ever since.
On our way to Gino's apartment, we came across the MOMA. Should we go to the museum? we wondered. Ehh, that seemed too much like a class trip. But we did go into the MOMA store to gaze at some wall posters of famous paintings. It was gripping. I was moved by all the colors and use of light to reflect society's political corruption, dependence on diet soda and lack of blazers that fit (that's my standard response to any piece of art).
After viewing Gino's lovely apartment, we headed over to Columbus Square. Shop til we drop! Well, we made it to two stores. "Gino, we have to do something!" I said, over dessert at Bouchon Bakery. It was now 3 p.m. and we'd done nothing but buy a black cardigan (for Gino's Halloween costume), stare at wall posters and eat stuff (we were very good at that). It was either a movie or massage. We looked up massages and found a place nearby. The reviews were mixed. One reviewer commented that you had to take off your shoes as soon as you entered the premises, that people stood in their towels in the hallway waiting for their massages and that there was a tiny shared locker room that was really just one big carpeted closet (I added that last part). More than one reviewer commented on how painful the massages were. All valid points. But the massage was only $70 and there's nothing Gino and I like more than a deal (besides Bouchon Bakery, of course). So we decided to check it out. We could always leave if the place looked sketchy.
We entered a nondescript apartment building with a surprisingly elegant lobby and extremely slow elevators. So far so good. The elevator crept to the 18th floor and we found a narrow hallway under construction. A sign by the door of the massage place beckoned us to knock since the ringer wasn't working. Someone opened right away, a little too quickly.
"Hello," a woman at the front desk said. The woman who opened the door - who was later revealed to be my masseuse - didn't leave her spot by the door knob.
"Uh yes, we just wanted to find out more about the massages," Gino said. They stared at us. It was getting awkward real fast. I'm still not sure why. They seemed surprised that we were there. That somehow we'd found them and had been foolish enough to knock.
"Well," the lady said with a laugh.
"We don't know how this works," Gino said, explaining our hesitation. Still it was awkward. It was time to take charge.
"Would you have any openings for today?" I said.
She looked through a notebook. "5 minutes."
"Yeah, okay," I said. Two could play at this game!
"Take off your shoes."
We slipped off our shoes and walked barefoot into the next room, then changed in the closet/locker room and waited in the hallway. The reviewer was spot-on. Yelp is very trustworthy was an important lesson we learned that day.
What happened next was a painful hour of prodding and kneading. We were being tortured for some reason we didn't understand. Did Gino get mixed up in some kind of gang-related business? Did it have to do with his love of electronics from Best Buy? Should I turn on him and tell my interrogator that Gino was guilty? Just what sort of sinister game was this?
From the paper-thin walls I could hear Gino's handler ask him if he was okay. "Can you be a little gentler?" he said. I could hear the fear in his voice. "Okayyyy..." she said. It was the wrong answer. Not smart, Gino! I wouldn't be making that mistake.
"Are you okay?" my massuse asked me. "Yes," i answered, my voice hushed and devoid of emotion. I would give nothing away. "Really?" she said, surprised. "Maybe I'll do more?" I knew better than to talk back. "Oh sure," I said breezily, as if she asked if I enjoy pink lemonade with heart-shaped ice cubes on a hot July day.
It wasn't too bad until she got to my neck. "Do you get headaches?" she wanted to know. Headaches? Why would she ask that? "No, not really." A few minutes into her treatment, my head was throbbing. I pictured a news article on a slightly credible blog, the headline screaming, "Girl seriously injured by international spy/masseuse... will never move neck to the left again... asking sympathizers to send cannoli and Edible Arrangements (But only the arrangements with chocolate-covered fruit included. Nobody wants to eat that much cantaloupe if it's not covered in chocolate.)!" I wiggled my toes and tried to feel my knees, just to make sure no spinal cord damage had been done.
Finally the interrogation was over. "You're going to be very sore and tired tonight," my masseuse said. "But maybe tomorrow you will feel good." I met Gino later in the communal hallway. He was in pain. They'd definitely taken something from him, but I wasn't sure what.
We fled the center and sat down at a little cafe to rest our necks. We were thirsty, weary, scared. "I'm too sore to do anything else," Gino said. He looked like a shadow of his former self. So we hugged like comrades, parted ways and went home to try to forget.
It was a different day of fun than we'd imagined. But, really, nothing bonds two people more than shared pains in the neck. And in that respect, Gino and I got everything we ever wanted.