Where do those indulgent, copper-toned spa photos come from, those meditative images emitting echoes of bamboo flutes and waterfalls? They come from someone (me) getting massaged while someone else (Shelly Strazis, a colleague) points a lens at my naked flank. I’m not used to having my unclothed body photographed. At the beach I like to wear a complete white linen suit, plus socks to keep my feet from burning. This staged moment should induce anxiety, not to say panic.
But Chi-Chi, a masseuse at Sugar Ridge hotel’s Aveda spa in Antigua, has skills. Only deep pressure can reveal the truth: The planet, like this isle, is a beautiful speck in space, peopled with roadside saints and talented bartenders. Shelly and I have spent five long days chasing a story. She lugged 15 pounds of gear through four miles of thorn bushes. She vomited over the rail of a fishing boat in big seas. She needs the treatment I’m getting, but I can’t take the pictures. Chi-Chi does pressure-point palpations on my hand, which is cramped from note-taking. Freed toxins course into my brain like opiates. “Can you lie still, please?” Shelly says even though I can’t move. She seems mad.
A private setting is nice, but what matters most is whose hands are rubbing you. Shelly adjusts my arm as Chi-Chi massages muscles. Someone tucks the sheet under me. Clack, clack goes the camera, recording my skin tone and body-fat percentage. Who cares? I’m almost unconscious. I want Shelly to photograph the angels I hear weeping in harmony, but my slack jaw won’t form words.
Time’s almost up. I’ll have to put my pants back on and re-enter society. I’m supposed to paddle a surfboard in an hour, and I’m going to get thrashed. But we’re going to see a rainbow, Shelly. Everything is going to be OK.