While viewing a Ted McCagg cartoon, Jeffrey Pillow remembers an incident when he was 17 involving a bottle of massage oil, a 58-year-old masseuse, and his penis.

“We have a surprise I really think you’ll like,” my mom and sister said.

It was the eve of my high school graduation and I was about to party like it was 1999.

Because it was 1999.

“There’s only one catch. You have to be there at a certain time this coming Saturday.”

Finally, my mom had caved. She was going to sign for me to get that tattoo I had been talking about for so long. I had even drawn out the design: a skull with an old man’s hat with a safety pin sticking out the brim and a pair of dice rolled off to the side. The skull would be smoking a cigarette.

Finally.

Only that wasn’t it.  I would learn as much twenty-four hours after receiving my diploma.

“A professional massage,” my mom said. “I figured with all the stress leading up to final exams, you could use one.”

Fuck, I thought. I’m never getting that tattoo.


****

I got there early, arriving at 9:45 AM. My appointment was at 10:00.

“I hope this bitch is hot,” I said to myself, walking up the brick steps. I popped a stick of Teaberry gum in my mouth so that my breath would be fresh.

“Just go in the room right there and slip off your shorts,” the lady said. I assumed she was the receptionist.

She was approximately 58-years-old with a soft face and gray/white hair, cut short like women cut it once they hit 46 and give up on looking like women. She wore light green polyester slacks. She had a fupa. I would later learn this terminology from my well-mannered wife.

“Fupa?” I asked.

“Yeah, Fat Upper Pussy Area,” my wife said.

It was the first time I had heard my wife say the p-word.

“Say it again,” I said.

“Fupa.”

“No, the p-word.”

“No.”

From Urban Dictionary [dot] com:

Fat Upper Pussy Area (aka. Gunt) -You’ve all seen them, most commonly associated with obese burnt out High School Teachers (Good God man, I’ve seen FUPAS swallow an entire desk whole!) and the Wolf Pack (You know who you are).

Causes: Fupatitis P.

Only known cure: Fupandectomy

Used in a sentence:

Biiiaatch, get your god damn FUPA off my desk!!

Mrs. Addis, I mean Da’aaaam! (nuff said)

Look at dem fupers over der eh. (Canadian Fupa sighting)

Bertha’s pouch above her vagina is bigger than the rest of her body. She’s bigger than the Fupapottomaus, she is a FupaSaurus Rex.

I entered the room to change and first took off my shirt and socks. I swished around the Teaberry juice in my mouth to get the flavors all across my palette. I didn’t want to have bad breath. You know, just in case. I’d read many a Penthouse Forum letter about massage clinics. I knew what sometimes went on in these establishments –- and I was 17. A man can dream when he’s 17, even if he can’t dream at any other time in his life. The possibility existed that this adventure might end in ecstasy, and if that possibility existed, by George I would be ready.

As I was taking off my shorts, the 58-year-old woman with a fupa opened the door.

“What’s taking you so long?” she asked peeking over at me. She had two small white towels in her hand.

Jesus, give me a second, I thought. I’ve only been in here two seconds.

“Well, let me know when you’re ready. I’ll be waiting in the lobby when you’re done.”

She’d be waiting? Shouldn’t she be at the front desk answering the phone?


****

I was lying face down on my stomach when she entered, my face peering through a hole cut out in the bed. I saw her clean white shoes as she entered and those green polyester pants. A towel was over my bottom. The 58-year-old woman was not the receptionist. She was my masseuse for the morning. She squirted some massage oil in her hands and began by rubbing my shoulders and neck then worked her way down my spine. Such soft, delicate hands, I thought, yet so strong.

Oh God, this feels so good. Why have I never had a professional massage before? Knead the bread, I thought as she took the muscles of my back into her hands. Just knead the bread.

Who cares if she’s not a stunning 18-year-old brunette?

“Any areas of special interest you’d like me to work on?” she asked.

“All over,” I said. “But if you could do my calf muscles and legs for a little bit that would be great. I play basketball religiously.”

She squirted some more massage oil in her hands and worked on my calves first then my feet. Then she made her way up my hammies. They were so tender. Man, I really underestimated how good this could feel.

Holy shit, she’s getting close to my thighs.

Oh my God, I’m getting a semi.

Breathe deep.

Fat women. Fat women.

Fat women in purple leotards. Fat women in purple leotards.

Fat women in purple leotards riding unicycles.

Oh my God, she just graced my perineum.

I’m sure it was an accident. Definitely an accident.

She went down my hamstrings again and to my calves.

Then she came back up.

Oh my God, it wasn’t an accident.

She just touched my perineum again. And my balls.

Oh my God, she touched my balls. Oh my God, my penis is getting swollen. Oh my God, she’s going to hit my penis with her hand. It’s facing my knees. It’s facing my knees.

Red alert.

I should have worn boxer briefs. Boxers was a bad idea.

“What is wrong with you Jeff?” my internal narrator Jason said to me. “She’s 58 for crying out loud!”

I’m very well aware of this, asshole.

“Say something.”

Like what? Excuse me, you just touched my balls and now I have an erection?

“She knows what she’s doing,” Jason said. “What are you going to do when she tells you to flip over?”

Oh no, I hadn’t thought of that.

I had to figure out a way to position my penis so it was lying flat on my belly.

There was no way to be subtle though I tried. I lifted my crotch from the table and positioned my penis flat against my belly.

This is humiliating.

“Just go with it,” my penis said.

Hey, fuck you buddy. She’s gotta at least be 58. She’s wearing green polyester pants.

“Grass on the field, play ball.”

“Penis,” Jason said. “SHUT . . . THE FUCK . . . UP! This woman’s vagina is up to her belly button.”

“Mmm,” penis said. “Vagina.”

“Alright,” the masseuse said. “Flip over so we can get your front.”

Then she began working on the front of my shoulders and arms.

She’s gotta know, I thought.

Then she began massaging my chest and ribs.

Oh my God, the towel just moved.

“Reporting for duty, sir,” penis said.

Flaccid. Become flaccid. Oh please become flaccid.

She must have seen that. There’s no way she didn’t see that.

This is the worst day of my life. Someone’s grandma is getting me hard.


****

Fifteen minutes later, the massage was over. She left the room and I stood up, erect as a newly placed statue in the town square. I put my t-shirt on and pulled my shorts up, positioning my swollen, aching penis under my waistband. I walked to the front desk with my gift card.

“Thank you,” I said to the 58-year-old woman with a fupa.

“Thank you. Come again,” she said with a smile.

That bitch is mocking me, I thought as I walked out the door and down the brick steps.


****

“How was it?” my mom asked as I entered my home.

“It felt really good,” I responded. Then I went upstairs to my bedroom and locked the door.

[Insert happy ending here]

Sometime before I left the comfort of my parents’ home, the safety of my childhood church, and the sanity of an era before piercings, I believed that old people were good. There was nothing a person could say to convince me otherwise. They were pure, holy. I believed, among other things, that the old person should be protected, much like a child. To offer anything other than a smile and a hand was negligent. To cuss in front of an old person was a reprehensible act. Playing rock music within earshot was downright disrespectful. It was as if the very existence of white down upon that wrinkly crown gave them wings.

At some point in my 20s, I began to realize, of course, that old people aren’t necessarily so pure or fragile. Most of my dealings with the older set had been through my church, so once I started to get out into the world a bit, I was sort of jolted into reality. Literally.

It all started when I came back from Hong Kong. While living on a small backpacker island for a couple of years while I finished my grad work, I had become a student of wing chun kung fu. Wanting to continue my practice, I joined up with the closest thing I could find in Denver at the time – a school that called itself “Progressive Martial Arts”. It wasn’t pure wing chun, but the school did boast that it taught jeet kune do, Bruce Lee’s contribution to the martial arts world. Since Bruce Lee got his start with wing chun and since my teacher in Hong Kong was Bruce Lee’s teacher’s son’s student, I reasoned that jeet kune do was a natural progression for me.

For the uninitiated, jeet kune do basically comes down to one thing: street fighting. Sure, we practiced all manner of arts ranging from jiu jitsu to eskrima to kenpo, but the thing our school taught best was a little thing they liked to call “Two-Rule Fighting”.

Two-Rule Fighting: The first rule was that there were no rules. The second rule was that you could not change the first rule.

And in case you’re still not catching on, yes. I belonged to a fight club.

In this class, we were groomed as fighters. We ran endless laps. We were made to lie on our backs with our hands pinned under our butts so that we could have medicine balls thrown at our stomachs. We would line up against a wall to be punched repeatedly in the face until we learned to tuck under our chins instinctively. Sometimes, we would lie down on the floor in a circle while the children’s class played stepping stones on us, jumping from stomach to stomach as fast and as recklessly as they could.

It was awesome.

When it was time to begin our Two-Rule Fighting part of the class, we were already drenched in sweat. First blood had usually already been drawn. We sucked on our mouthguards – the only gear we were allowed – and waited to be called out into the center.

The first time I did it, I was thoroughly and intentionally humiliated. My opponent was a teacher who had heard whom I had studied under and took it upon himself to put me in my place. He had at least six inches and close to 50 pounds on me and didn’t give a crap that I was new to jeet kune do or to the school. I held my own for a while, able to parry most of his advances. I believed I was playing a game of tag, so I did not hit him full force when I was able to get through to his face or neck. Not long into the fight, however, he found my weakness: I hadn’t learned how to fight with my legs yet. Twice, he dropped me to the floor gasping for air with a knee to the solar plexus. When I got back up the third time, he finished me off neatly with a hit to the mouth and ended by slamming me to the ground landing full force on top of me with his arms around my neck. I barely had the strength to tap out before I lost consciousness from his strangle hold.

I went back.

After almost a year and a half of studying there, I was nearly at the top of my game. I wasn’t the best fighter in the class, but I wasn’t the worst. I could hold my own in the ring or on the ground with men or women of assorted size. Until one day, she walked in.

She was a tall, solid structured woman with cheekbones like a pair of loosely veiled Nike swooshes. Her short hair was curled into gentle waves the color of modeling clay. Having recently undergone open-heart surgery, she wore protective chest armor, a black square-shaped athletic breastplate. She was 74.

I didn’t want to hit her. I never ever wanted to hit her. She had that gray old lady hair and armor over her chest where they had tinkered under the hood and she even had an old lady smell: talcum powder mixed with lilacs or lavender, I’m not sure which. Feeble she was not, but there were enough sensory cues to turn me into an upright citizen. I wanted to help her across the street, not practice my elbow strikes and roundhouse kicks on her.

When we were working out, the gym often played some loud kind of driving bloodlust music along the lines of Rob Zombie. I wanted to make them shut it off. Surely it was giving her a headache. I cringed for her every time they made us run laps. What if she was incontinent? Or worse – what if somebody jostled her too hard and her chest split back open? What if her heart popped out like in the game Operation? It was too much to bear.

I was hopelessly distracted. I would be on the floor in the middle of practicing a jiu jitsu side sweep when I would accidentally look over and see some young man she was practicing with on top of her and ready to choke her out and all I could think was that I wanted to grab her purse and beat the living crap out of him with it.

On the day they paired us up for two-rule fighting, I wanted to cry. I already decided that I would let her win. She was bigger than me anyway, so it would look legitimate. I just couldn’t do it – actually fight her. It’s wrong to hit old ladies, isn’t it? There’s some kind of special circle of hell for that. I’m sure of it. It is kept even warmer than the rest of hell and smells like ammonia and mothballs. They serve liver and onions there. Every night.

We bowed to each other, and began a slow circling. I didn’t want to look like I was throwing the fight, but where was I supposed to hit her? Her face? Her arm? Her Milton Bradley chest? From the corner of my eye, I could see my teacher watching me with his arms crossed over his chest. I loved my teacher. I wanted to make him proud. He was the US kickboxing champion in 1976 and I had a great deal of respect for him. Sensing his disapproval, I knew I had to make a move. I flicked her. She threw a punch. I parried.

“Come on, Erika, you’re not afraid of an old woman,” he taunted from the sidelines over Cradle of Filth playing in the background.

She smiled—an undeniable evil glint to it. Suddenly, without warning, she charged me with a jab-left-right combo. Only she didn’t stop there. She followed with another, which was in turn followed by some full on chain punches. Taken off guard and without the safety of a breastplate, I was getting pummeled. Something inside of me clicked and I began to defend myself. And then it all fell into place. I crossed over from “I’m beating up an old woman” to “I’m being beaten up by an old woman” and when that happened, well.

I’m not proud of what happened next, but it was an important transition for how I would feel about the elderly for the rest of my life. Once I worked out that I couldn’t aim for her center line, I went for her legs, her arms, her old lady waddle. I had been forced to confront my bias. And that’s when it hit me. Old people aren’t children who need protecting. Old people are just young people with loose skin…that jiggles when hit.