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THE 
BODY 
HORIZONTAL

By Jeff Gaydos
MICHIGAN: The Magazine of the Detroit News
May 8, 1988
 
She has
certificates in
massage and
yoga, but she has
the hands of an 
angel with a Ph.D.

The table is warm. The lights are low. The music is gentle. The body is tense.
Kathryn begins by massaging the little toe of the left foot. She spills heated oil of almond in her palms so her hands will slide smoothly over every muscle, around every bone.She is silent, she is small, yet she rules The Body Horizontal.The Body Vertical is taut. It walks. It sits. It tenses and groans in its upright, uptight world.The car acts up and The Body Vertical's neck tightens. Its kids whine and a shoulder stiffens. It asks for eggs over medium but they arrive over hard and suddenly there's lower back pain.This is life.With Kathryn, thinks The Body Horizontal, this is living.Other Bodies Vertical take two weeks at the lake. They load the car with suitcases and inner tubes, set their hands at two and ten o'clock on the steering wheel, and fight traffic for five hours to get there.Suppose it rains? Suppose someone says it's not fun to go to the lake? The Body Vertical is back to life again. Back to knots and a clenched jaw. Back to the reason for the vacation in the first place.But Kathryn—now there's a holiday.She oils up and works on an arm of The Body Horizontal, whose legs and toes are now so much dead weight, and in whose form blood is flowing into places where it hasn't entered for years. She stretches limbs that yearn to be stretched. Twists fingers that need twisting."Don't lift your arm," she says quietly. "Let me do it for you."The Body Horizontal sighs.Where has Kathryn Knox been? Why are there no billboards celebrating her?She is hidden away in a back room of the Side Street Salon in Birmingham. A vacation paradise.She has certificates in massage and yoga, but she has the hands of an angel with a Ph.D., thinks The Body Horizontal.Other thoughts follow blissfully.
—Will I walk again?
—Will I want to?
—Will my wife mind if I bring Kathryn home?
No one pampers the Body Vertical. They are nice to it. They bring it coffee. They tuck it in. They give it five minutes here or there, but they expect it to do things it tires of doing.They make it work. They make it lift and kneel. They give it pains, yet they know not what they do. They are Vertical too. Life's like that.Sometimes The Body must be prone. Sometimes it must go limp. Sometimes the knots must be untied by educated fingers, warm oil of mint and hot towels.The Body Horizontal has learned its lesson well. Above the neck as well as below.Kathryn does ears nose and eye sockets. She awakens the scalp with a firm yet soothing massage. She massages the hair for gosh sakes. And then she's done. The Body Horizontal has forgotten the trials of life straight up ."Aw the hell with it," The Body Horizontal thinks as it lies alone on the warm table in the little back room in Birmingham.Kathryn said to relax a while. And Kathryn rules The Body Horizontal.Minutes pass like weeks in Tahiti
The Body Horizontal knows it is time to rise, and does so slowly. For there will be more of being horizontal today. Today the Body Horizontal will float, too.
Two miles away at Tranquil Visions, near 14 Mile and Woodward, The Body Vertical will again remove its clothing and lie down, this time to be hugged by Epsom salt water in a room pitch-dark and totally soundproof.So The Body makes its way south to Royal Oak, one arm at two o'clock, the other hanging limp next to the steering wheel.Bodies Vertical whiz past in their Audis and Country Estate wagons."Where's the fire, what's the rush?" The Body partially Horizontal thinks.Then it has more thoughts on thinking:
—Idle thoughts? Good tension.
—Deep thoughts? Bad tension.
—Idle tension? Good thoughts.
—Deep tension? Bad thoughts.
Yes. That's it.
What goes around comes around.And another problem is solved. Another truth proven.With that in mind, The Body partially Horizontal struggles up the stairway to seek Tranquil Visions.Pete, who owns the place, is sipping bottled water, but he takes a break and leads The Body to find profound relaxation in nine inches of very salty, warm water.He gives it ear plugs and in a kind way tells it the rules.
Undress. Insert ear plugs. Shower. 
Lie in isolation in the waiting womb of water. 
Alliterate. Vegetate. 
Large buttons on the wall are in reach of the floater. The one to the right turns out the light. The one to the left controls the sound system on which Pete will play a 20-minute stress reduction tape. 
So much to remember. So little to forget. 

Idly, The Buoyant Body Horizontal follows all the rules. It is virtually weightless, floating both in darkness and in the fluid stress-free reaches of its mind. 
Pete's tape drones instructions to its feet, legs, trunk, arms, neck and head. But The Body Horizontal is beyond them. It feels small pockets of tensions where a gall bladder might be, or a stomach, and sets them free. 
Soon, there is no motion. There is no light. There is no sound, nor is there proof of life outside the walls of tranquility.
The minutes pass like burgers at McDonald's, The Body Horizontal thinks, and a ripple of nasty stress gobbles up space where nothingness reigned. 
It passes quickly.
The hour passes, too. The Body Horizontal knows because Pete is now playing tapes of soothing, surreal string sonatas. 
And now the work begins.
"SIT UP!" the brain barks. 
"Suck eggs!" The Body answers.
"SHOWER! DRESS! HIT THE ROAD!"
In Pete's lobby, the lobby of love and tranquility, sits a curly-haired woman. She is dressed for business, but her grin and eyes have the look of aged hashish.
"I was graduated from Harvard!" she volunteers. "I've been floating for 10 years! I'm a psychologist! How was your float?" 
"Heh, heh," The Body replies, trying to fathom the meaning of it all.
"Heh, heh. Good float. Yeah."
This is deep stuff. The curly head bobs in agreement, sending streams of exclamation points into the room. 
The Body Vertical is Horizontal. 
It thinks, therefore it am.
Jeff Gaydos is a News staff writer. 
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