Hi. I’m Maeve Marsden and welcome to Queerstories – the podcast for the LGBTQI+ storytelling night I host and programme. Queerstories events happen regularly in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and I’m also now hosting them in regional towns. If you enjoy these stories, please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast, and consider buying a copy of the Queerstories book: A collection of 26 of the stories edited by me and published by Hachette. I’m really proud of this collection and I hope you enjoy it too.
Next up – Annaliese Constable is a writer, performer and queer rights activist working across standup, queer performance and theatre. Annaliese claims she is funny for a girl, pretty for a lesbian, and when she can afford it, very well medicated. Despite not being raised by wolves, Annaliese manages to get herself into numerous pickles that usually delight and terrify her friends, and require compulsory notifications to relevant authorities. Anna has a penchant for growing one exceedingly long nipple hair, and is the funniest blogger without a blog. However, if you want to find her one Twitter, search for @FistyScent, which is possibly the best Twitter handle ever. Annaliese Constable.
I was having a super stressful day, my neck and back were really sore and my anxiety was through the roof. After spending most of the day counting my breaths to try to calm my anxious heart, I decided to get a massage. I’m not very good at self care and very rarely allow myself to experience something nice. This day I thought to myself, “Why shouldn’t I treat myself?” I thought, “I’m always so keen to be hard on myself. It’s time to give my body the nurturing it deserves.”
With my girlfriend Emily next to me, I made some phone calls to try and find an available massage person. The first massage call went unanswered. The second call, I got someone. An hour massage was $80. The name of the next massage shop was Relax Massage, and I thought… *Inhales* “This is my destiny.”
I made the call. The phone rang three times, then someone answered and yelled “Yes?!” with a level of annoyance that should only be reserved for someone interrupting an orgasm.
I asked the person who answered if she was available for a massage, and she yelled, “Yes,” again, this time as though she had won something she didn’t want. I asked her how much she charged for an hour and she yelled, “70.” I paused and asked carefully, “Will it be you giving the massage?”
Next to me, my girlfriend Emily thought, “Oh, good. Yep. Annaliese is obviously asking if it will be the yeller giving the massage because if it is, Annaliese will clearly not go there because only a crazy person would hear that level of hostility and think, “Yep. This is the massage place for me.”
But The woman yelled, “Yes!” It would be her giving the massage. This time when she yelled, “Yes,” it was angrily impatient, as though she had been waiting for hours to have an infected tooth extracted, and I said, “Great. I’ll see you in 15 minutes.”
Emily told me I was crazy. I said, “Babe. Baby cakes. This is my gambling.” Other people get a thrill from gambling on things like sport. But me? I like to gamble on human interactions.
It just makes me feel alive! And, plus, it was $10 cheaper, so what could possibly go wrong?
Fifteen minutes later I arrived at RELAX Massage and rung the doorbell. It went unanswered. I tried again. Still nothing. I called the phone number as I also rang the doorbell.
“Yes?!” the familiar yell bleated in my ear. “I’m at your door” I said.
“Convenience Store!” she barked at me, as though she’d already told me this 25 times. I said, “Yeah, I can see the convenience sto-” But before I could finish my sentence, she bellowed “Convenience Store!” this time yelling with a little more energy while also somehow sounding tired of my shit, even though we’d only known of each other for fifteen minutes.
Getting irritated I flatly said, “Yes, I’m at the convenience store,” and I walked out further onto the street and saw her. We’d each been standing around a corner and weren’t visible to each other. She stood about fifty metres away from me. A tiny muscular woman with a shock of severe angular red hair.
I smiled, raised my hand to wave hello, and she yelled, “Come on!” And impatiently gestured for me to follow as though she had been waiting on the street for nigh on three years. I began to follow but obviously not fast enough because she dropped her voice and yelled, “Come on,” at me again, this time not bothering to turn around and make eye contact. She socially topped me into a state of passivity.
I didn’t know what to do, so I behaved. I quickened my step and trundled behind her. She set a staggering pace and stepped just inside the door of the massage shop, and then abruptly stopped. I immediately bumped into her. She very audibly sighed.
Fumbling to extract my body from hers, the massage woman turned and presented her hand to my chest. “Seventy,” she said, with a determined asurity. She didn’t bother saying dollars because she doesn’t have time for that shit, and it made me respect her.
I was annoyed. It hadn’t been communicated to me that it was cash-only, nor that it was upfront payment. In an attempt to get the massage woman to respect me, I took her lead and communicated nothing except disdain, and left to get money from an ATM in the… Convenience Store!
I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe this massage place offers sexual services, so it makes total sense for her to want the money up front.” I didn’t care about the place offering sexual services, and I wasn’t interested in sexual services, but I did care about getting a good massage.
I’d once made the mistake of going to a sexual services massage place for a remedial massage, and the massage I was given was so light it could have been given by half a tissue that was raised by fairy floss.
Today, my muscles were sore so I really wanted a strong remedial massage, so I returned, I paid the 70, and asked about remedial massage to make it clear what I was looking for. This also gave her an out if she didn’t want to waste potentially lucrative sex work time kneading my gnarly, decrepit muscles. I also used this time to scan the walls for any sign of qualifications, or even just general knowledge of how the body works. There was nothing.
I asked her if she was qualified and immediately regretted it. She ignored the question and I kind of fell in love. I asked her if there was a bathroom. She lead me out into a dark deserted hallway, through three doors and down a set of stairs that looked like a scene from a haunted house. And as I went to the toilet, I took off all my jewellery because I always get flustered when getting out of my clothes for a massage. I often feel rushed or like the person is going to swing open the door right when I’m crazy-haired, sweaty and nude.
And so, I come out of the toilet, and as the bathroom door closes behind me, I can’t see her but I feel her impatience just swarm me, and I hear her voice yell, “Come on!” And it echoes down the haunted house stairwell *Decreasing in volume* “Come on. Come on. Come on.”
My ears heavy with her annoyance, I rush back to see her standing at the end of the dark deserted hallway with her hands on her hips. “Come on!”Her voice slams me as she testily gestures at me to hurry. the fuck. up.
As I walk toward her, I see a massage price list showing a 60-minute massage for $65; five dollars cheaper than what I was charged. I ask her about the price difference. She flicks her hand dismissively in my face, says, “That’s old,” and turns her back to me. As a cheapskate, or as I like to call it, poverty survivor, the five-dollar discrepancy was the only red flag for me so far.
I’ve been on Centrelink and I’ve been very sick, so I’m very money-conscious. I was once so money-conscious that once I got an inferior tuna product and spent an hour writing a complaint letter to John West himself, demanding a refund. And they sent me a $2.50 voucher to Woollies, and I was satisfied because it was definitely worth it.
We walk into the massage shop, and she uses her bare foot to flick open a concertina door. It opens with a symphony of thwacks and reveals the tiniest massage room I’ve ever seen. It’s approximately one-and-a-half metres by three metres. The wooden-legged massage table is smaller than usual and takes up more than three quarters of the room. The massage table is pressed up against one wall, and I wonder to myself how she is going to navigate the room to massage me, but my thoughts are interrupted by her demanding I take my clothes off.
The massage woman leaves the room and thwacks the concertina door closed again. I bend down and undo one shoe and she screams, “You ready?!” through the door. I drop one of my sneakers and yelp out a meek, “No?” I take my other shoe off and start undoing my jeans. As I’m peeling my jeans off, she snaps open the door a little and yells through the crack, “Ready?” And I let out a discombobulated, “No,” but she has left. She has decided to blare some static pop music. She’s trying to get a relaxing mood going.
Flustered, I continue to undress and she yells, “Ready now?” when I am not ready, and then eventually I am ready so I say, “Ready!” She yells out “Wait!” Be still, my beating heart.
I’m in my undies, lying face-down on the massage table, wondering what she is doing, until suddenly she thwacks open the concertina door, grabs the massage table that I’m lying on, and drags it across the wooden floor. The wooden legs dig with each drag into the wooden floor, creating divots of massage rage.
And I don’t have time to react to the dragging of the table because within a matter of seconds the massage woman has jumped up onto the bed, has mounted me, and is straddling my arse. She comes down with the force of a three-day MDMA bender…
.. and begins to ferociously stab my back with the edge of her elbow. This is how she started the massage. No warm up. I thought to myself, “Is she punishing me for implying that she was maybe not qualified?”
“Good for her.” I thought.
It’s at this point I realise she is wearing a short skirt. I figure this out because I can feel her bare inner thighs on the outskirts of my bum, and her inner thighs are skerlumping up and down on my arse, as she assaults my back. As she grinds her elbow between each of my ribs, she supports the weight of her body by putting her hand on the back of my head…
.. jamming my face through the face-hole of the massage table. And the combination of her weight on the back of my head, and the massage table face-hole, pulls the skin on my face so taut, it forces my mouth open.
Within the first few minutes of the massage, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be leaving this massage in some kind of cast or body bag. I made my peace with that. In other massages the massage person has kept gentle contact with my body when they moved around the room, letting me know where they were, and where I would be touched next. Each time this massage woman left or entered the room, her hand would clamp down on a random vulnerable part of my body and squeeze with all of her might. She was the massage equivalent of an unexpected electrocution. My body seizing up, and attempting to shake free from her power shock with every touch.
At Relax! Massage, the massage woman is still on top of me. Without warning, she un-straddles and dismounts me. She thwacks open the door and I’m left lying partially naked on the massage table. The next thing I hear is her dragging furniture around in the next room. She’s mumbling under her breath, banging into the wall, and let’s out one audible and exasperated, “Fuck!” Then, I begin to hear a whirring sound, and I feel some air on my back. She’s turned a fan on because apparently assaulting me is hot work.
She leaves the door open for the fan, and my partially naked body is not quite visible to people outside of the shop, but I do feel a little exposed. The only reason I know that she’s come back into the room is because as she enters, she abruptly squeezes the back of my neck with so much force it sends a shock down my spine. I am pleasantly surprised I remain conscious. She mounts me again and begins attempting CPR from behind.
And my face is so jammed into the bed that I fear towel burn, and the force of her backwards CPR is making me exhale involuntary, wheezy grunts, like, “Huhh-Huhh-Huhh!” As she pummels into me, I think to myself, “Well, at least I’m getting my money’s worth.”
I wanted her to massage me so fiercely that it was the equivalent of 12 massages. But massages don’t really work like that, do they? It’s kind of like thinking 12 blood tests or 12 flu shots is better than one.
After about 10 minutes of her flogging me, she jumped off and abruptly dragged the bed back against the wall. As she left the room, she randomly reached out and clamped one hand on the back of my left knee. She squeezed as hard as she could, and my leg involuntarily shot out to the side kicking like a disgruntled donkey. She left the room and came back a few moments later loudly eating a packet of chips.
After the snack break… of which I had none… we resumed. She remounted me and continued to beat me senseless. As I was being battered by the massage woman, I began to worry about her. She was putting so much energy in. I was worried about the toll this massage was taking on her. In old age, would she be getting arthritic hands in her old age? How does she sustain this level of ferocity? Will I ever be able to feel my legs again? Is she in counselling? I hope she was okay.
At one point, she was punching the soles of my feet… Why? Punching the soles of my feet, and as she punched the sole of my left foot once, twice, three times a lady, and with each punch, the force jolted up my shin like a horny snake. As she began punching the sole of my right foot, she punched slightly off the mark and her fist slipped up behind my heel, and she coward-punched my calf muscle.
She laughed and said, “Sorry.” And I thought to myself, “You know, I think we could be really good friends.” After the coward punch, the massage woman remounted me. She attempted backward CPR again, but there was no point as I was already dead inside and had never felt so alive.
Funnily enough, I’ve had worse massages. At least this one didn’t end up in court. Thank you.