Souless Soles: Perils of an NYC Foot Masseuse by Laura Dinnebeil
I’d quit Tylenol PM. I’m nauseous for days, seasick from oxygen- my sweat smells like an eighteenth century poison. A client calls while I’m vomiting. He sounds hung over, but I remember his voice. When I worked for him, he hit on me like an infatuated boy. He talked about politics and secularism and Michael Jackson while smoking weed, his apartment filled with photos and Victorian settees. I asked, “Where did you grow up?” He said, “Long Island.” And he was Jewish.“What school did you go to?” “SUNY Albany. So where do you go out? You know, hang out. You seem like my age…” I blushed and looked down. “No, I am not your age.” “No? You look like it.” “No.” And for the next half hour, I massaged his feet.
Today’s session was different. He opened the door slumping and headed straight for the bedroom with few words. As he lay on his bed and didn’t offer a hanger, I threw my coat on the floor and unpacked my gear. Then I noticed handcuffs and a stethoscope hanging off the bedpost, like ties. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.
One thing I’ve learned from giving foot massages: yuppies stink. The handcuffs, the stethoscope, the urgent ten a.m. call (“Can you come over now?”), his ass peeking out of boxers- it all smelled. The perfume of hydro weed choked me, suffocated my lungs. Halfway through, he asked I do his back. I couldn’t refuse the money. Turning over, he pushed his groin into the bed and stroked my thigh, his hard-on empty, as stale as the tallest building in New York. Between puking all morning, a horny SUNY grad and my own corrupted life, I felt seasick again.
I don’t sleep with clients for three reasons: 1) It never works out. Clients want a geisha, not a writer who watches The Criterion Collection. I once made out with a regular who was really cute- a Korean with two Harvard degrees and a prescription for Adderall. He hired me once a week for a year. Every session he’d say he regretted cigarettes while puffing one and then ask me to hang out with wistful eyes. When I finally did, he took a month to call.
Next was the captain of a luxury yacht. I could tell he was healthy from the plush skin on his soles. I see a lot guys with hard feet and poor circulation: diabetics with missing toes; a Vietnam vet with a bullet wound to the shin (his foot was stiff as death, decaying right off the bone); an ex-basketball player with steel rods in his ankles (he had an accident shooting hoops). Finally, I met a man who didn’t limp.
Bo was easy-going, about 55 years old, with a tan in December from sailing the Pacific. He drank magnetized water and practiced yoga. Our sessions went overtime.The energy between us was intoxicating. His vigor spilled into my hands like it was draining from his feet into my palms- a gift. The minutes went by like speeding arrows while with other clients, their legs heavy and veined, their thoughts a source of cancer, the hour dragged like rush hour traffic.
We chatted about how difficult it was to meet someone. He was always sailing to Nice, or Italy or South Asia- women wanted someone around. He showed me pictures of himself paragliding in Mexico. I was impressed. Yeah, he was healthy, but he was 55 and jumping off a mountain in bat wings and goggles. Smoking on the cliff was a girl with unwashed hair, bulging in a parka. He said, “I met her on Craigslist, but she irritated me.” Before I left, he offered me a DVD. “It’s pretty interesting…take it home. Text me what you think.”
The video was about a guy in Georgia who saw people’s “auras”. Cashiers, waitresses, gas attendants- all were black silhouettes glowing blue or red light. He tried sunglasses, but still, black cut-outs with halos served him pie at Applebee’s. He went crazy. (Perversely, a corpulent girlfriend drank Big Gulps by his side.) He drove across country to meet with experts. They all claimed he was chosen by the “otherworld” to see the “fourth dimension”. I watched the DVD and thought it was really fucking stupid. It was Blair Witch Project without the sarcastic kids and flashlights.
Clients often think I’m an occultist, but I’m more an earthy, hands-on type; I learned reflexology from a book. I’m half Irish, so I believe in the virtue of manual labor, while complaining about it the whole time. I don’t analyze “chakras” or “Qi”. I don’t quote cheesy spiritual axioms. The only form of transcendentalism I practice is reading Genet. In truth, feet do tell me things about a man: if he stretches enough, if he’s happy, if he drinks too much- I can tell all this by his soles. But I don’t reveal my insights. No one tips after you tell him he’s alcoholic, plus chitchat disrupts the session. Massage should be an escape from buses, sirens and idiots on cell phones, not add to the pandemonium. Because I’m silent, some men think I channel the dead.
I texted the captain and said the DVD was “Awesome!”, to seem like a chick who owned a Ouija Board. I was producing a web series and wanted a relationship with no demands, a fling. He replied that he was sailing to Corsica, but would call when he returned. He texted two weeks later. I worked on his feet and afterwards, we kissed, groped and licked passionately. He asked about my life. I said, “I’m an artist!” and talked about my work. That morning, he drank a glass of magnetized water, buttoned his shirt, and said, “I hate when women sleep over.” I was now codependent on a man who tried to impress me with a paranormal reality show.
2) It’s too much work. Foot massage is grueling on your fingers. Try doing it for an hour and see if you feel like giving a blowjob.
3) You never know when a person is going to secretly videotape you. All I need is one creep to make a jittery sex tape of me with his iPhone. I’m older. I need good lighting. Clients know I’m not a sex service, but for some reason, always forget. The downfalls of Eliot Spitzer, Suzy Hamilton, and Anthony Weiner made it clear that notables who subscribe to prostitution (it’s unlawful for me to have sexual contact with a client) seek ruin. All were defamed by a combination of brothel riff raff, law enforcement, and a bizarre lack of professional discretion. Yes, America embraced Ashley Dupres, Spitzer’s courtesan- a saccharine, busty woman primarily interested in marketing herself- but those chicks do very well in this country. I’m an intellectual who hates Grey’s Anatomy. I should probably move to France.
The internet brings a peep show to our homes 24/7- we look at computers way more than the sun. Images of porn blink at us daily, filling our brains with neon signs to fuck and fuck and fuck and sleep a dream we never wake from. Sex addiction-a surreal, plastic lust- is ironically the most harmless drug we use to disconnect from the world. It gives the blood rock-n-roll without a prescription; we feel alive simply by loving skin too much. Clients can afford this vice, but if I fall for sex’s virtual opium, I end up dead; a john strangles me either with his hands or indifference. My mirror reflects a zombie who kills romance nightly.
In truth, I can’t complain. I get asked out every week. Last Monday, a tall, affable surgeon hired me after his ski trip. For an hour and a half, I pushed a chop stick into his foot as he discussed Thomas Mann’s “Magic Mountain” and snorted coke. After a bump, he laid down, gave me his foot and said, “You don’t give back massages, do you? Why not? You’d be amazing!” I said, “If I gave all my good-looking clients back massages, I’d have herpes.” He broke out laughing. “I’ll get you to open up someday.”
Laura Dinnebeil, notorious for witty one-liners and quixotic prose, has produced and emceed the hippest shows in NYC, starring acts like Louis C.K, Jeanine Garofalo, Dave Chappelle, Daryl Hammond and Marc Maron. She then went on to produce and emcee “The Blue Angel Erotic Cabaret” which inspired the current burlesque movement across America. Since, Laura has appeared on Comedy Central’s Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and MTV. NY Press, Timeout NY and several poetry journals have published her writing. She now performs comedy all over town and is producing her own web series, “Mr. Lick: Occupy The Wrong Street”. Click HERE for more!