There is a bathhouse a few miles away from me. For $18 you can rent your own room. Half of the room is covered, and the other half is exposed to the big-ass California sky. There is a shower in the corner. There is a button that turns on the jets. The whole place is made of wood. You go in and you take your clothes off and you shower real quick and then you jump in the 95-degree tub.

Before you even dare do anything else, you push the bubble button, because only a fool wouldn’t push the bubble button.

I went last week because I had been feeling sad and tired and lousy on account of what I can only guess are latent mono symptoms, as well as stillbeing human, and still being alive, and so on. I had had enough of this place, and so I hid from it for sixty hot and bubbly minutes. I’ll tell you what: it was very nice. I had brought this big Thermos full of a cold water, and so I sat there with bubbles up to my chest and a li’l cup of cold water in my hand, and I texted some of my buddies and told them I was feeling fine just then.

Fifty-five minutes into the thing, someone knocked on the door to tell me I had five minutes to get dressed, and that my masseuse would come and get me then. Yes: my doctor recommended I get a massage, which I had never had before. This place, this bathhouse, they make you hit the tubs first so that (presumably) you’re clean before a stranger puts their hands all over your flesh.

Well: This bastard really did come and get me (two minutes later!!), and he took my bag and lead me up a spiral staircase to a dim climate-controlled room that had nothing else in it other than a massage table and a wooden chair. This masseuse, who called himself Chuck, said he was going to step out for a minute, and that I should disrobe “completely” and slip under the cheesecloth-thin sheet-thing on the table with my stomach flat and my legs propped up by a pillow so soft your grandmother would use it, and to put my big dumb wet head inside the face-cushion on the far end. Chuck took a hike and I threw off my robe and sighed and got the hell on with the thing. Beneath the spiderweb-thin sheet, with my ass pointed towards the ceiling and my face cradled by an O-shaped pillow, I said to Chuck, “All right, dude. Let’s do this thing.” Chuck tiptoed into the room and told me to relax and loosen up, and so on. I said, “You got it, Chuck.”

Chuck went to town on my spine. I told him that that was really all I cared about: him getting down and sloppy with my vertebrae. I had opted for a quote-unquote deep tissue massage, and so I assume that’s what he did back there. He elbowed the hell out of my lower back. At some point he slapped some grease on his hands and worked on my shoulders. I can’t remember much. I was sort of drifting in and out of consciousness, which is maybe a thing you’re supposed to enjoy about a massage. Chuck asked me if I “sat in a chair” at work, and I told him I did. “Yeah, I figured,” he said. I asked him if it was possible for him to actually feel stiffness in my back muscles, and he responded immediately: “Oh yeah, man. Yeah.” Well, who knew.

After a whole lot of stretching and pulling and pushing on my sad old body, Chuck said finally: “That’s all the time we’ve got today. I hope it helped you.” And then he stepped out of the room without me seeing him leave. I stood up and put all my clothes back on. When I went out into the hall, Chuck was standing nearby with his arms behind his back. “You OK?” he said. I said, “Chuck, I feel real good,” and I shook his hand.

Downstairs I signed out and tipped the son of a bitch in cold hard cash. I folded up some bills and slipped them in a tiny little envelope the woman at the front desk had given me. She instructed me to write “CHUCK” on it, and then pop the thing into a wooden mailbox-thing nearby. I did so and left. Outside the sun was setting and I walked down the street with wet hair and a jellified body. I felt gorgeous and alive and stupid. Nearing a cafe I saw a couple sitting outside drinking coffee. We made eye contact and I flashed my gold tooth at them and walked on.