Massage Parlor
Paul Hostovsky

So my friend Glenn is telling me how
he’s stumbled onto this place
off Prospect Street on his way home
from racquetball, and since become
a regular. He says the girls are all
discreet, and good looking and how.
He says the one the other night was
quite well-read, kept quoting Rilke
and Ferlinghetti to him. Well this gets
my attention, so now I’m sitting
in a window seat at MacDonald’s
on Prospect Street, waiting for Glenn to
show. I’m fingering a salty
corner of my empty French fries pocket,
licking my fingers and surreptitiously
scrutinizing each female passerby
for a sign of her vocation and/or
place of employment, when suddenly
there’s Glenn smiling down at me
like a big avuncular cat through the plate
glass window. He orders two Big Macs,
sits down across from me, and we go over
the procedure with his mouth full of hamburger:
We’ll ring a bell. They’ll buzz us in.
Two flights down another door will open
onto a small reception area. Madame,
seated behind a desk, will give us each
a towel and a key after we give her
the money. In the changing room we’ll change
out of our clothes, lock them up in our own
private lockers with the keys, shower, and then—
Wait, I interrupt him. Where do we keep
our keys? He leans in closer, smiles bigger
than I’d have thought possible, whispers
that the towels have a single pocket sewn
into them for the keys, and for the money
in case you want to order something not
on the menu. So pretty soon I’m wearing
nothing but a pocket in a towel, sitting
across from a bevy of certifiably
gorgeous massage therapists wearing
white hospital uniforms and very
short shorts. Glenn has already chosen
his primary care provider who leads him
by the hand out of sight. It feels like
a cross between a harem and a barbershop
and a rehabilitation service where
you get to choose your own practitioner
and treatment. But I wish I had another
pocket for my other five fingers
which keep returning to my face
to huddle there like pigeons as I scan
the brilliant young staff for a possible
poet. The one in the corner, a kind of
pigeon reticence about her—or am I
projecting—her eyes seeming to avoid
everything below the ceiling, is looking
upward as if to ask, Who among
the angelic orders would hear me? I
hear her. And I choose her. So then I’m
lying on my stomach on a table
in a small back room, my jingling towel
like a white mist lifting off the Duino
tower of my erection as she turns
me over on my back, and while she works
I’m permitted to kiss the beautiful white
stanzas of her breasts, but not her mouth—
I am not permitted the intelligence of her mouth.