David bought me a facial at a nearby spa—Hand and Stone—for Christmas. Facials vary and I have no idea what to expect, though I’ve heard good things about this place. While in Singapore, I got in the habit of purchasing expensive spa treatments cheaply from Groupon. Some were impressive; others, not so much. I remember one facial in particular that made me look ten years younger. I raved for weeks. Another time—and the recollection causes me to shudder in horror—the woman repeatedly dragged my skin down my face until I expected to look like an old hound dog when she was through with me.
I approach the front desk of Hand and Stone tentatively. Facials can be creepy, what with the getting undressed in a strange place, and the way the esthetician (their pretentious word, not mine) hovers beside my head, making tiny scrapes and knocks and mysterious swishing noises—and with my eyes closed, how do I know what she’s doing?
The young woman at the counter greets me. Her name’s Briana. She’s amused when I pull out my camera and ask if I can take her picture for my blog. My esthetician, Anita, arrives and leads me through the door and down a dark hallway. This contrived sense of otherworldliness—dim light, confusing corridors, wavering candles—is a trait all these places have in common. Anita addresses me over her shoulder as we progress through the maze. Her voice is soft and accented, eastern European would be my guess. She talks so quickly that I’m unable to catch her words as they sweep past.
“Could you speak louder?” I ask. “I don’t hear well.” This is what I always say to people who mumble, though in actuality my hearing’s fine. She ignores my request, turns into a treatment room, and issues garbled instructions, which I don’t understand.
I ask her if I can take her picture for my blog. She says no, and I decide that I don’t like her. She is the “stone” referred to in the spa title. She leaves and I get out of my clothes and into the provided wrap, then I adjust myself beneath the blanket. She returns, asks if I’m comfortable, and begins.
With gentle fingers, she cleanses my face—and then she attacks it! Her forceful fast fingers work my skin up, up, up. She hates my sagging jawline as much as I do! She is seriously rearranging the deep composition of my face. I suspect that, when I get out of here, I will once again have defined cheeks. She presses the creases of my forehead, demanding that they flatten out. She moves flesh to my temples and holds it there, disciplining it—stay here! In my head, I’m cheering her on—pull it up, girl, pull it up! I feel the shifting of the fatty tissue and muscles beneath my dermis. I decide that I like her after all.
I catch a whiff of her breath. She’s a smoker. I don’t care. She can blow her nasty breath all over me as long as she keeps moving my face upward.
The music is annoying, a mystical tuneless arrangement that’s meant to evoke thoughts of running with wolves on a windy night—but what it really does is make me wonder if the person who composes this crap is proud of his or her work. This generic music is another characteristic common to all spas, which is too bad, because there’s an infinite amount of beautiful music in the world; yet here I am, unable to escape, with this dreck assaulting my ears and mind.
Usually when I have a facial the esthetician slips out at some point, leaving me alone to absorb whatever nutrients or chemicals have been applied—but Anita never leaves me. When it’s time for my face to spend twenty minutes slathered in collagen, she moves to my feet, exfoliates, massages, and moisturizes. My face and my feet! Oh Boy!
Eventually this lovely event comes to an end. Anita thanks me and leaves the room. I arise and don my clothes. Taking up the handheld mirror, I examine my face. Skin smoother, cheeks elevated, forehead wrinkles less prominent. Ordinarily I don’t buy the package, but at Hand and Stone, there is no contract, simply an agreement to pay a monthly fee, which is lower than the price of the treatment. And Brianna waives the joiners’ fee. So in a month, I will have the same facial again, only for less money.
When I get home, Maria, the cleaning lady, is just finishing. I pay her, tell her I’ll see her next week, and close the door on her departing back. So, a good day. I look better and my house is clean. Go, me!