You know how it is with the midwife. You cry, and her arms hold you. You falter, and she catches your hand. You will walk another step. She laughs with you in the waking breaths, when the joy and pain and fear are coming one upon the other. And she wipes the sweat from your brow, the vomit from your chin, the shit from your legs. She walks beside you even when you don’t know she is there.
And Eduardo, the man with the dark laughing eyes, is her lover. “Would you like to work with the man I met in Spain?” she asks. It is years later, years after the birth. There is the table, and there is your body lying on top of it, and she is with you. A long, deep massage. It is the time just after the month-long illness, the high fever. The delirium and the thoughts of death.
She places warm stones on the spine. She tugs at the earlobes. “He is a true healer,” she says. “He can help you if you are ready.”
“We begin with the massage,” he says. There is a mat on the floor. He bends the body in strange ways. Stepping on it, pulling the arms, pressing his heels and elbows and heavy palms into the flesh. Two hours. Scented oils. Exotic music sung in exotic languages. Three hours.
And then sitting on the mat on the floor. Cross-legged.
“Give to me your head,” he says.
“Give to me.” He pushes the head around in circles, loops, twisting it sideways, back and forth, up and down, around. Popping and crunching and are you giving to him the head? [End Page 153]
Try. Do try. But you have been holding up your head for so very long. How to give to him your head? Just do. Decide, and let go. See the breasts swinging, the hips showing through the cotton sheet that has fallen away. And feel something sweet for the wrinkled belly, the skin that stretched so thin when it was full with child years ago.
“I tell you a story,” Eduardo says. “My doctor told me—I am a young man—he tells me, ‘Eduardo, if you do not stop drinking, you will die. Your liver no function.’ And this is how one person can die. Start drinking at 11 years old. Smoking. Taking the drugs. It is not so difficult to understand. It is our culture. And violence is our culture. We have festivals of violence. The parents slapping the kids. The yelling. And this violence enters the body. It makes one sick inside. So I say, ‘I don’t want to die. Where I can go that I no die?’ And I choose India. I heard of one swami, and I want to live, so I travel. I pack a very small bag. I am not thinking to come back. And I find one ashram, one village, where I can learn the healing. I no drink alcohol. No eat meat. No milk. And slowly, slowly, I begin to heal.”
He says to lie down. He straddles the hips and says to make an “oooh” sound. Like the letter “U.” Then he begins bouncing.
Laugh because it feels ridiculous. Almost. But why argue? Have you ever been to India or Bolivia or Peru, where Eduardo has traveled by foot?
Many long minutes. “Now please get up,” he says. He lies face down on the floor, and the instructions are difficult to follow. The accent. The dopamine of the massage.
The final position makes your bodies look like a plus sign, Eduardo face down on the floor, your body across his, face up, crossed spine-to-spine. It is very painful. He has a timer. He says just a little longer. Stare at the ceiling. The tops of the windows. He counts out the seconds.
Roll to the side. Rest.
“My father, he used to beat me,” Eduardo says. “It is how his father treated him, and his grandfather, and so on. I do not blame him, but when I return, I am ready to stop...