Day 30: Nancy

April 24, 2020

Me at Whole Foods without Nancy

Tomorrow is Saturday, my day of rest from this blog. Back on Sunday. Be well and be safe!

I met Nancy because I get too many migraines.

A few years ago, she set up a massage chair at my local Whole Foods. I would walk by and see her sitting on a stool, reading a romance novel, her blue leather chair at her side, and I would wonder: should I treat myself to a massage?

It seemed so decadent and bizarre at the same time. Massages are supposed to be something you gift yourself on a big birthday, not a treat you indulge in next to the olive bar at the market.

But I get these migraines that start in my neck, the muscles tensing and tensing, until they shoot up past my hairline, around my ears and my temples, to the back of my eyes, at which point I’m pretty much toast. Medication helps (yes I have a prescription — remember, I’m married to a doctor), but it has side effects and anyway, if you take it too often, there’s a rebound thing that happens.

However — if someone can massage my neck and back just as it’s starting, sometimes the migraine scuttles away.

Obviously, it was only going to be a matter of time before I sat down in that chair.

I’ve had so many massages from Nancy in the years since that they all kind of merge together. Did I mention that I can walk to that Whole Foods in 15 minutes, drive there in five? She’s a magician. Her fingers know exactly where the pain lives and, like a weed, where it’s driven its roots. She extracts them one by one. When I leave her chair, after 15 or 20 minutes, the migraine may still be with me. Within an hour, though, it fades away. I have no idea how she does this.

But that’s not the best part of Nancy. The best part of Nancy is… well… Nancy. It turns out massaging is her day job. She’s an actress who approaches her roles with the rigor and fierce intellect you’d expect of a graduate of Smith College. She’s a tireless fundraiser for Alzheimer’s research, having lost multiple members of her family, including her mother, to the devastating disease. She’s an active member of her Episcopalian church, drawing on her deep faith to pull her through life’s challenges. And most importantly, she’s a good, good friend.

Nancy cheers me on. She cheers on my children and my husband. She’s the bright spark waving when you walk into the market, smiling at you when you walk out. Talking to her is to be showered in compliments you don’t deserve.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going. Nancy isn’t at Whole Foods anymore because she can’t be there. No touching allowed in a pandemic. We’ve sent a few texts back and forth, but it’s not the same.

This pandemic hasn’t been all bad. Because everything has stopped, my life is calmer. My anxiety, which can sometimes fly off the charts, is way, way down. It turns out what stresses me isn’t so much the events in my life as the pace at which I’m trying to process those events.

But this virus has taken, too. It’s torn away joys big and small. Sometimes, I don’t even see the hole in my life until I’m tripping right through it.

Like today, when I went to Whole Foods and the only person that greeted me was a security guard in a mask and gloves, ticking me off on his counter. I was simply one more person allowed to enter the store.

I miss my massages. But I miss Nancy more.