That Wall


That wall by Sandis Helvigs at
Photo by Andis Selvigs,

“I want that wall,” she says, and my back arches like a cat’s. I know exactly what she is talking about, and it’s not a Pink Floyd album. A leading Presidential candidate wants to erect a wall to keep out immigrants and my petite blond massage therapist likes the idea.

She leads the now rankled me down a quiet hallway to a dimly lit room in the spa I visit every month. The soft music and floral scent are pleasant as always, but her words have unnerved me. She looks like the same woman who is so good at working the kinks out of my back and shoulders. We have shared opinions about many things: raising kids, her brush with breast cancer, my back pain. I like her. A lot. And I can hardly believe my ears.

“I want to be Donald Trump’s massage therapist. I wrote to him.”

I sit on the chair to remove my shoes and my words rush out, too fast.

“Are you kidding? He’s a racist bigot.” My friends have been saying it for months. In here it sounds like a knee-jerk liberal talking point.

The young woman shakes her head, her wiry curls bouncing. Her dark eye flash. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

My mind goes to his face on the TV news – every day, all day, angry, vitriolic, threatening.

“I’m just shocked,” I say, holding a sock in my lap. “I don’t know anybody who likes him. I’m 180 degrees from where you are on this.”

“Well, I’ve had it with Obama. I can’t afford my health insurance.” She taps a foot. “Anything going on with you today?”

I say no, just give me a regular tune-up. She knows my issues – side pain, my need for pillows under my knees and stomach, stiffness in the hand I broke years ago – and reads up on them to better help me.

“Okay, I’ll give you a minute to get comfortable.” She leaves the room closing the door behind her.

Comfortable? How do I get comfortable with a woman I like voting for Donald Trump? I undress and lay face down under a blanket.

When she comes back I imagine her touch is unfriendly. I tell myself nothing has changed but my attitude toward her. Which means everything has changed.

I can’t let it go. “You can’t afford your health insurance?”

“No, I’m just a lowly massage therapist.”

“That’s too bad,” I say. And that’s all. I’m not going to argue during my massage. Instead, I concentrate on my slowly relaxing muscles. We are silent for the next 50 minutes.

On the way out, I don’t reschedule as I usually do. I’m still shaken. I think I’ll quit and tell the manager it’s because of her inappropriate political remarks. But then I’d have to go somewhere else for my body work. Shall I give up my principles for convenience? Or do I try to convert her to the “good” side?

In no way do I want to add to the rancor all around us these days. I believe strongly that most people just want to be heard. I teach my students to write their personal stories, to express themselves on the page. But this is the first time someone I like has come out in favor of a candidate I abhor and I don’t want to hear it.

My husband does not share my outrage. “He won’t win,” he says. But I’m not so sure. Now that I’ve heard from my young massage therapist, I wonder about all the others like her. As we progress toward the future, some people feel left behind. They want someone to blame for that. And they want what they perceive to be a strong leader, someone who says he will protect them.

My friends post anti-Trump messages online comparing him to Hitler, ridiculing his hair and other body parts. It’s way too easy, on social media, to get carried away with the vitriol. No one is standing right there, looking back at us. Someone we might know. And like.

Today I made another appointment for massage at the same spa with the same therapist. I don’t plan to bring up politics, but if she has something more to say, I plan to upgrade my listening practice. Maybe I’ll ask a few questions. That doesn’t mean I’ll ever support her choice. But I may learn something. And she may feel heard. We’ll take it from there.

16 thoughts on “That Wall

  1. Your message was at the forefront of my thoughts today also. My hairdresser hit me with her decision to vote for Trump at my appointment. She posted on FB all the vitriol we’ve read against Hillary. I read it there after hearing it in her cubicle. My choice is to not go back untikl after the election. It’s about sensitivity to customers, although some would say I’m not being open to the opinions of others….insensitive me. I can’t wait until the election is all over. I think.


  2. Linda, I share your political views and am also surprised when I hear that someone I know is actually for Trump. I think you’ve hit the nail when you say you plan to “upgrade your listening practice”. I feel like a line’s been drawn and we’ve all selected one side or the other. From our side, we just stand yelling at each other. Both sides seem to have lost the ability to listen. As much as I dislike Donald Trump, I don’t think he created the acrimony we’re seeing. He’s unleased something that’s been dormant for a long time and, no matter who wins in Nov., we need to find a way to address it.


  3. I, too, share your political views, Linda, and I was surprised to read that a massage therapist (my expectations and filters, I suppose) would vote for someone like Trump. I have been seeing him as a catalyst for revealing a deep, dark shadow side in our country — one of anger, hate and frustration. Hopefully, now that the shadow side has emerged, we can begin to address and heal the divisions and begin to listen. Thank you for this post.


  4. As part of upgrading your listening practice, you might ask whether she had health insurance before the Affordable Care Act and whether it was affordable.


  5. A moving and thought provoking piece. I have been surprised myself by some of the people I know who are voting for Trump. It’s a temptation to argue with them. But I am trying to just listen and acknowledge what has led them to their decision. Sometimes people just need to be heard.


  6. I just came back to this, to read the comments – something I rarely do. You’ve started a good discussion. We need to figure out why so many people (many of them living seemingly secure, stable lives) feel so threatened and afraid. I’m convinced that fear is really at the heart of hatred.


  7. I loved your scenic depiction of this and your reflection, Linda. The exact same thing happened to me with a massage therapist. I didn’t go back. Religion and politics are dangerous things to bring up, as Mama said! And for a proprietor, crazy. It’s one thing if a client wants to air her feelings, but for the therapist!? Not prudent.


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