I sat at the edge of the massage table and did my best to accentuate leg muscles that might or might not exist.
The masseuse/physical therapist pushed on my left leg just above my knee.
She pushed again, and frowned. “No me gusta — está flácido.”
I choked involuntarily as that particular word, in any language, is particularly off-putting to a man of any age, nationality or physique.
She again pushed her index finger into the flesh above my knee and, this time with an accompanying clucking noise and a shake of her head, restated, “Está flácido.”
I’d submitted to this abuse because I’d embarked upon a run around the property we’d rented in Monteverde, Costa Rica, a few weeks back. Monteverde is close to a mile above sea level and, as the name states, involves a mountain. During this heroic run up a tiny portion of the mountain my left calf exploded. There was no shrapnel, but the result was the same.
I’d limped around the house for a couple of weeks but, embracing denial, still engaged in 5+ mile walks around town on a frequent basis. I’d also gone to the local pharmacy and received what was described as an anti-inflammatory shot in a curtained-off area behind the counter. While there I’d purchased an ACE bandage so I could wrap the painful area, which had marched down my leg closer to my Achilles tendon. The shot did nothing and the bandage just made my swell up.
Still firmly in denial, I decided that what I needed was a good old-fashioned massage on the affected area. I Googled local masseuses and found the most highly-rated individual (this was #1 out of a pool of 3). I called and left a message. A day later the phone rang and, unfortunately, as the only one in the house at the time, I answered.
Answering the phone at our new home was not a happy event. The majority of the callers wanted to speak to our landlords, who’d had the number for more than 20 years but had not told many of their family and friends that they’d moved as a way to add a little spice to everyone’s Tuesday afternoon. I grabbed every fifth word of what was being said, wishing the caller could see the imbelic look on my face and understand that a lengthy pause, and perhaps a dictionary, was now required.
I eventually realized that the caller was the masseuse I’d left a message with the day before, but she wasn’t going to be available for a considerable amount of time. She gave me the name of another woman who might be able to help me.
I paid the pain forward, called this other therapist and made an appointment to see her that afternoon.
This same physical therapist was now using the other f-word whilst poking about my leg. I was still reeling from the emotional wounds created by being described as flaccid when she upped the ante by suggesting something ominous regarding my age.
I took a deep breath and decided that a recap was needed. “So you’re saying that my leg muscles are flaccid, almost nonexistent, and, furthermore, I’m too old to be running around on trails?”
She took in my barrage of grammatically horrendous Spanish and simply answered, “Si.”
She then applied a hot water bottle and some sort of electrode treatment for about 20 minutes. After paying her the $30 she requested, I limped out on my old, flaccid legs. My calf eventually recovered, but my ego now needs its own electrode treatment.