"This one? Do you feel it?"
His hand hovers above the needle freshly planted in the base of my thumb.
His fingers make a delicate adjustment and my arm jumps with feeling. Not a stab or a prick. More like a small electric shock, a leap of awareness.
"Yes, I feel it now."
Toby, my acupuncturist. He soothes me. His big ears and soft chin; his quiet, steady hands. His touch is comforting and dispassionate. He sinks every needle just where it should go. This is what it's like to be taken care of.
He asked me how I felt today. I told him I felt heavy, sad. He nodded and made a note in his chart. He treats me for the excess of water in my constitution, and my deficient stomach chi. He says it is normal for people with too much water to feel sad. I like thinking of it this way. It's just water pulling me all the time towards the ground. Drain the water and I'll be light again.
"Here?" He touches me lightly just where the bottom of my sternum dives down between my ribs. Holy. My face contorts to a sob like someone pulled shut the drawstring of a purse. "Ah," he says softly. He pulls his hand away. "Take a breath."
I take a breath. I talk to myself like I talk to the beginning yoga students in my Wednesday night class. Breath in: let the heart be lifted. The very tip of the needle feels like a flaming arrow hitting bullseye. I sob, out loud this time. He pulls back. Touches again with the pad of his fingertip. It feels so deep, this hole, a fontanelle above my heart.
I met with a long-time submissive client the other night. Dinner was alright, but back in the room the scene went south fast. I had tried beforehand to talk about limits, but you don't always know them til you reach them and when we hit a snag he snapped. It was so sudden. I had no moment to prepare. He frightened me. I put my hand over my face. He sat down at my feet again but by then I was crying. He took his shirt off and gave it to me. He put his head on my lap. I told him things I never meant to tell him. He said, "This will make us closer." I cried harder. He stayed with me till I was done and then he called me a taxi.
Closer. Maybe. Until you're bored with being close and then we won't be close any more and I won't care because we were never close. Sometimes it's hard to figure out who's making the rules. It feels like the money, at least, should make you think you're worth something to someone and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. But these thoughts are attachment thoughts and attachment is the root of suffering. If you love a certain cup, drink from it as if it were already broken. I think that's how the koan goes. With every sip you will treasure the reunion with the thing that was lost.
Toby taps with his fintertip again, so soft, and he is putting his finger right into the red. My heart will not break. My heart is already broken. The hurt moves outward like the ripple of a rock dropped in a pond. He withdraws. "OK," he says. "Not today."
I am not a prisoner underground. I am a seed, sleeping in the earth under these soft, cold, February rains.