After four hours of riding the motorcycle in the heat and dust, I treated myself to a ninety-minute Thai massage at the shop near our hotel in Tak. We’re two-thirds of the way home. Time to celebrate.
The shop was cool and quiet, the lady masseuse seemed to know what she was doing. But then the client in the next bed over was one of those Thai men who are totally addicted to his cell phone. Even while getting massaged, he needed to watch an action movie on his phone, complete with explosive sounds and occasional screams.
Surely, the sweet girl working on him would suggest he turn the phone off. No such luck. She worked away, smiling placidly, while I imagined getting up, calmly talking his phone and throwing it out the window. But then I realized, he would protest, so I might as well simply climb on top of him and pummel him in the face with my fists, as rapidly and forcefully as possible. Come to think of it, I might as well strangle him for good measure, lest he summon the strength to retaliate.
This train of thought did nothing for my mental of physical state of relaxation. I think my therapist might have noticed my tension, for she said something and the man turned his phone off. I managed to will myself limp for a few minutes, and that seemed to reset my racing mind.
Only a few minutes passed before I found myself recalling the treasurer of a self-help group of which I was once a member, who calmly announced at one of our meetings that since the mother of one of our members had recently died, she authorized spending forty dollars to send flowers to the funeral. She was sure no one would object, so she hadn’t brought it up before. I remember thinking, “That’s the last donation I’ll ever make when they pass the basket.”
Then I recalled that this incident happened at least twenty years ago. Why was it still floating around in my brain?
I used to think I possessed an especially easy-going nature, not harboring grudges due my my inherent sweetness. But then I realized I still remembered the time I loaned a boy in my third-grade class a nickel. The year was 1958. We were standing with some boys our age at the local five and dime, near some gumball machines. He asked me if I could borrow a nickel. I had a nickel, and I wanted to fit in with these boys and he was a “cool kid,” good looking and popular. His father had a good business. My father was unemployed. We had recently moved to town, hoping he would find work. So, I said “OK, I’ll lend you this nickel, but you have to promise to pay it back.”
He laughed and said “of course I will.”
The next week, at the same spot, I asked him to return my nickel. He sneered and barked scornfully, “it was only a nickel!” The other kids laughed. I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. I remember where the others were standing, the way the light came into the store through the automatic doors out onto the street. Something calcified inside me at that moment, something that I have used as justification for harboring that resentment for sixty years.
No wonder I find it hard to relax sometimes.