Here is another piece from Touched, a narrative non-fiction story about learning the art of Osho Rebalancing in Pune, India.

heart in hands

The blue Nivea bottle is slick and warm. Just a drop, said Komala, displaying a nickel-sized dollop at the base of her palm. Just go slow, and you’ll be fine.

My partner is Jivan from Germany. He has short copper-coloured hair and constellations of matching freckles all over his long body. I think his eyes are green but he’s already taken off his glasses, closed his eyes, and turned his head away. He lies like a gift on the table before me, his hands palms-up at his hips. It’s his fingers that draw me. They are heavy and elegant at once. Would it be all right to start there with the hands? We’ve been told to go to where we’ve been drawn. But we know nothing yet about how to go anywhere.

Jivan didn’t choose me; I asked him. He gave a short nod, but I couldn’t read that nod, couldn’t determine whether he was shy or aloof. We chose a heavy wood table frame from the jumble of them at the edge of our Radha Hall group room, and floated it to a spot by the window, and then he went for a mattress while I pulled two stiff blue sheets from a shelf. He doesn’t have a translator, so I assume his English is good.

I tip the Nivea bottle and squeeze. A great ocean of white cream fills my palm. Since we’ve had no instruction all the assistants are trading sessions, happily, busily, competently running hands up spines, rocking bodies, sliding forearms along thighs… I stare at the handful of lotion in my palm. I jerk a glance at the peaceful red-head awaiting my touch and back again to the white stuff leaking through my fingers.

Bending down, I rub my palms together and begin to slather my dry shins and calves, white tears leaking into the cracks of my toes.

“What are you doing?” His eyes are green. They track the movement of my hands.

“I… uh… took too much.”  

He repositions his head and closes his eyes.

Straightening, I take in a slow breath and let my shoulders drop as I breathe out. I reach out both arms to lay my hands on Jivan’s smooth dappled back. With long rounded strokes I begin to massage that back, which is not exactly stiff, but unreadable, like him.

His palms open like smooth cups at his sides. I could place a small pebble in each one, or one half each of an amethyst geode from the ashram road. As my hands glide across his back I try to recall how Makarand did it; how it felt and how I might replicate those feelings. Slow. That was what had made it so special. That and the love. I see Jivan’s hand stroking the fur of a brown and black dog, its head bumping that hand for more; see it holding a brush or a microphone, see it cup a heavy breast, its nipple caught between thumb and forefinger.

massaging hand

“You can’t do it wrong.” The assistant named Madir has turned from her massage table where Amrita’s dark hair fans around her peaceful head. She knows how to be touched and Madir obviously knows how to touch.

I look at my stiff hands on the speckled field of Jivan’s back. How long have they been still while I gazed upon his capable hands? Before we began the American guy with a thick head of grey-black hair and matching beard did push-ups with his fingers on his massage table, saying, you have to keep your fingers strong. He’s already a massage therapist so he knows what he’s talking about. When I tried putting my weight on my fingers like that, they just buckled. On one hand, I can carry four Villeroy and Bosch plates complete with Carres d’Agneaux and Pommes Dauphines, but I don’t think I can manage this finger thing.

Theoretically, I believe Madir, but in fact I know I’m doing it wrong. Jivan’s torso lifts and twists, his eyes sliding open to meet mine. He’s not glaring at me; that’s good. He’s not smiling, either. I glance at Madir and she tips her head, encouraging me to carry on, but I can’t move. It’s all I can do not to drop to my knees and beg his forgiveness. For wasting his time. For bothering him. For asking him to be my partner. Beyond Madir and Amrita is a sea of blue-sheeted tables topped with blissful naked bodies being stroked and rocked by a forest of gently swaying new Rebalancers who already know what to do and how to do it. I will never touch a body the way Makarand touched mine. I’m too full of ruckus and hurry; too crazy with desire to evoke what was evoked in me.

But Sam catches my eye from the far end of the long room where he stands rock-still, his fingers rigid and suspended above the face-down woman. I’m grateful for his terror.