I wouldn’t say I was scared, but I did get a little nervous when she began placing the electrodes. I’d been forced to seek out Dr. Agee, a naprapath, by a frightful pairing of words—BACK and SPASM—that left me lying prostrate on the floor of my office.
It had been a stressful several weeks. The deadline loomed like a funnel cloud and yet the magazine wasn’t finished. I’d laid out most of the articles, designed all necessary ads, scanned and placed new author’s photos, but as the in-house graphic artist, I still didn’t have a cover design. My boss paced near my door, apparently trying to inspire creativity with his presence, but his hovering added to my stress, which swirled into a nasty timebomb in the sinew of my back.
As the naprapath sent electric currents through the small disks on my back, I felt a bit like my car’s spent battery getting a jump. After a few therapeutic volts, Dr. Agee, a rather large woman with equally ample hands, proceeded to knead my back vigorously. She pushed and pressed, squishing me into the table one moment, lifting me nearly off it the next. Any other time I might have found humor in such a pummeling massage, but considering the paralyzing pain I’d endured that morning, I wouldn’t have minded her using a sledgehammer to loosen me up.
“Do you have it yet, Andrea?” my boss didn’t hide his impatience.
“Not yet, Doug,” I smiled, shooting him a look that said, I know you’re the boss, but back off! “Soon, I promise.”
Half an hour later, I handed him a printout, watching his face for signs of approval. I didn’t wait long.
“I hate it!” He tossed the sheet back to me. “Come on, Andrea. This is for college kids, it needs to be hip, current.”
That’s when I felt the first twinge. I froze, riding out a stiffening wave that traveled the length of my spine before dispersing. It was quickly forgotten, and I returned to my office for a redesign.
After a thorough roughing up by Dr. Agee, she helped me off the table and called in her husband, who promptly responded, taking a wide-legged stance behind me. “Relax and stand perfectly still,” he said, slightly freaking me out, but I did not move as he placed his hands just under my ears and lifted me off my feet. He held me in the air and shook his arms, making my body swing like wet laundry and causing an avalanche of cracking down my back, before returning me to the ground. Freaky but impressive.
“Color, I need more color!” I brainstormed alone, and tapped the keyboard to make it so. “Yeah, that’s better.”
But the twinges were back, increasing in fact, and becoming more like hot knives slicing designs of their own in my flesh. Allowing my busy-ness to reign, however, I ignored them as best I could and continued working.
“A sweet duotone here … knockout that text …” my voice rose with excitement as I hit the print button and stood, but time itself stopped at that moment, the moment back and spasm formed their unholy alliance and paid me a visit. It held me captive for an instant, arched upright against my printer, before loosening its hold enough for me to slink to the carpet.
“As small as you are, I thought you’d be easy,” Dr. Agee confessed after my treatment, “but your back was like concrete.” No surprise there; it felt like shifting cement on the inside too.
“I got it this time, Doug!” I told my boss. “It’s there, in the printer.”
He stepped in and took it, keeping his eyes on me. “Why are you laying on the floor, Andrea?”
* * * *
Doug loved my cover design, and gave me the rest of the day off to get my back fixed.
Although Dr. Agee thought I’d need several follow-up visits, I saw her just once, and haven’t had a back spasm since. I was a little sore following my treatment, but thankful the remedial beatdown had bested the convulsions.
We were artists, the two of us: my art, graphic design; Dr. Agee’s, manipulating the human body. But somehow I don’t think anyone would ever be as thankful for my art as I was for hers.
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