For those of you not from Northeastern Ohio or Western Pennsylvania, a crick is either a small stream where you can wade with your pant legs rolled up hunting for crawdads, making Tom Sawyer and Becky look like preppy Archie and Veronica, or it’s an equally Midwestern condition that lies somewhere between a pulled muscle and a nerve that is being obnoxious.
I refer to the latter.
If you look up What is a crick in the neck you’ll learn that there’s something called cervical radiculopathy, which must be what I have because how I got this is radiculous. I won’t swear to it, but I think I got it from letting a Vietnamese stranger give me a neck massage in a Dallas nail salon.
Before you judge me, know that this started off innocently. I wanted to get my nails done for a wedding, and because I don’t know a thing about where to get your nails done in Texas, I looked up some places on Yelp and made calls until I found a place willing to take a walk-in.
I was already kicking myself for choosing painted fingernails over day-drinking with my husband and his cousins. I worried about my reputation with the bride’s family. I mean, honestly, what woman worth her margarita salt would choose pretty hands over booze? So my attitude about this manicure already sucked and I was regretting it before I even walked in the door.
The place was almost empty, which just made me feel worse. A guy and two women converged on me all at once, doing my pedicure and manicure at the same time. (Yes, I added a pedicure, just to make it worth my while. If I was giving up pre-nuptial cocktails, I was going all out.) As more customers came in, the girls would be sent off to take care of them and the guy would fill in. It was a confusing flurry of people, cuticle remover, Madge’s sudsy water, buffing and tiny fans. I never felt more like the Cowardly Lion in the salon scene from Wizard of Oz.
And then suddenly the guy walked up behind me and started massaging my neck.
Okay, I thought. So we’re doing this.
Acting like something weird is normal so as not to make the weirdo feel bad is my super power. My gravestone may read She never acknowledged awkwardness and everyone loved her. So naturally I just sat there acting like it was the most natural thing in the world for a small Asian man to perform this act of intimacy on me without my permission while I leafed through a Marie Claire.
Maybe because I seemed to be fine with it, the guy started really digging in on a muscle between my shoulder and my neck. I could feel – and I swear hear – something thud. He widened his stance to get better leverage and was really going to town. This aggressive deep-tissue massage was also fine. Perfectly fine. Nothing freaky about this. And then his mouth was next to my ear.
“You want 10 more minutes? I cou–”
“No!” I said as casually as I could, while still being loud — too loud, really — and firm. Like I had actually thought about it already and was quite sure of my answer.
“You pretty tight in there.”
“No! I’m good!” I glanced over at an elderly gentleman who was getting a pedicure straight across from me. His eyes said:
Are you okay over there?
And my eyes responded:
I’m good. This is normal, right?
But you’re, what, 80, and you’re getting a foot massage.
I blinked twice to signal I was ending the eye conversation. Mr. Handsy, realizing he wasn’t going to get any massage money out of me, lost interest and moved away. And my neck hasn’t been right since.
Still, I wonder what fresh-hell-in-a-neckbrace I would have encountered if I had agreed to that added 10 minutes.