Notes from my physiotherapistI’ve learned that it is pain that makes bodies beautiful. They give them character in how they bend or curve or hang in heaviness.
I don’t really know who you are, but when you show up in my clinic every morning, I immediately want to employ my arms to bring you relief. When I first saw you, I didn’t know what to make of you. Your skin showed wrinkles in all the places that tell age, but your hair shone jet black, like it were unreal. When you sat down to explain your case history to me, you came undone, bone by bone, muscle by muscle. I saw that there was a lot of mending to do.
I began work on you, like I do with all who seek my healing. I started from your toes. They were wrinkled and scarred, as though they had been suffering for centuries. You told me they suffer from chilblains in winter and calluses in summer next to your big toe, where you slip in the strap of your sandals. It was easy to touch you, because, unlike some of my patients, you demonstrated immaculate personal hygiene.
Your toes, despite the scars, always look like they have been scrubbed clean with a brush just before coming to the clinic. They must be. Your ankles shine like four tiny rocks, stretching your skin pale where they appeared. The flesh on your feet is like a thin sheet, unlike other parts of your body. It gives one the impression that your feet have done a lot of walking. Thin and calloused. When I press the back of your feet during exercise, you always curl your toes a little, like children do when you tickle them.
Your legs are only proportionate to your torso; your calf and thigh muscles are tight. Again, it helps confirm my reading of you. You’re someone who has walked a lot. I avoid touching the back of your knees during exercises. They are a sensitive region and so I avoid all sensitive regions in the bodies I’m working on. Besides the professional relationships that exist, all humans sometimes tend to step across their boundaries. I had sworn when I took up this profession to leave any possibilities of attachment stowed away from work.
Work is good most days. I have ten bodies to work on, on an average. They’re all so different. Yet, every single body, so beautiful. I’ve learned that it is pain that makes bodies beautiful. They give them character in how they bend or curve or hang in heaviness, or sometimes respond to touch. I’m also intrigued by the texture of skin. Some bodies are like porcelain. Some, pure light brown like Marie biscuits. The ones that intrigue me most are the dark ones. They glow in their smoothness, like pushtakari. Sometimes, you want to remove your gloves and feel the texture of such skin with your bare fingertips, because you imagine they would taste molten-sweet, and then you stop because there’s profession and there’s possession. Both are fraught with promise. I stick to the first.
Your skin is more like Marie biscuits. It used to be a favourite snack when I was in school. Marie biscuits and milk tea. Dip. Dip. Dip. Your eye lashes dip to touch the base of your eyes when you’re in pain. Causing you pain is part of my job. I employ my fingers to your service. I deliver pain to you, to deliver you from it. Your body is done in knots. You seem to have accumulated them in all kinds of unexpected places in your body. I imagine they came from long hours of sitting at the desk, like most office-goers do now. I also know that some come from your addiction to your phone.
As you shut your eyes, I imagine you prostrate on your bed, phone held between your hands, up in the air. Sometimes, your hands lose balance and the phone falls on your nose. The part that hurts most. You flinch, swear under your breath, pick, and then continue.
I’m drawn towards your back. Not sexually. I just want to touch it to send you some warm energy, so it can radiate through the rest of you. The shape of your back commands so much gravity in its flatness. Your bottom rises in a little bulge—the part of you that’s held you steady all these years, probably in and out of jobs. I think of its utility to you and somehow in my mind, it has nothing to do with sex. Your trousers are always held by a sash, all the way up on the waist. It gives me the feeling that you’re guarding your bottom with your life. It’s as important as that.
I spread the TENS electrode pads on your back. “What is the meaning of TENS?” you ask.
“Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation,” I say.
“Such a long name,” you say.
When you rest on your sides, I’ve noticed that your chest has wrinkles. They run like a bunch of rivulets flowing into a crevasse, when they disappear at the cleavage between your heavy breasts. It tells me you sleep on your side, perhaps in a foetal position, guarding your insecurities. That’s probably why your shoulders have become hunched. I want to use my hands to pull them back where they should be, holding your neck up, so you can tell the world with the bent of your head turned up in the air that you care two hoots.
Your face is lined with wrinkles. A thinking face that gives you. One, that stays awake nights worrying about everything. Maybe when I run the ultrasound machine along your jaws, you at least feel like they’re melting away. Your cares. I wonder if my face will have as many wrinkles when I arrive at your age, scarred like you must be, from life’s experiences.
Your worries and the number of books you seem to have read should have gone to your hair. But they’re jet black. And it doesn’t even look like hair dye. It looks like a cumulus, soft dark cloud. I try to make excuses to myself to touch your hair when I can. I wonder if you notice. Sometimes I worry you will notice. At other times, I hope you will notice and reciprocate. But the idea of you reciprocating, scares me; you are my job, not my sister.
When we’re done, I watch you prepare for the streets. You slip your body into a huge, frayed camouflage jacket. You quickly pick your cloth bag from the floor and quietly head outside, like you’re leaving a secret place, and with that, all your history safely tucked away in the memory of my fingers. The door shuts behind you with a soft click.