I’ve had Therapy!
Nope, not that kind (although it probably wouldn’t hurt).
Ian Bowen, my burly redheaded biker from Toy Run, is a certified physical therapist. I’ve been through PT three times in my life, and every one of those times had a cool “professional torturer” but never anyone quite like Ian. He’s a strong, silent type who thinks he’s idling below everyone’s radar—in fact, he’s pretty sure he has more than one or two things figured out, but life isn’t quite as black-and-white as he thinks.
I’m not going to spend a few hundred words telling you about the ways Ian’s ideas are skewed—you’ll have to read the story to find that out. This is about physical therapy and how great it is.
Yep, you read that right—how great it is. Two of my three stints in PT are in the running for the most painful things I ever did that didn’t involve sex. I’d walk in the door knowing that within the next hour I’d do things that would make me hurt for the rest of the day. Sometimes I had to force myself, others it was easier (thoughts of vicodin and regaining use of a limb will do that). But each time, I was lucky to draw a therapist who really cared that I was successful. They minimized the pain and maximized the benefits whenever they could, and we worked together to get me whole again. That’s who Ian is—he’s the guy who feels a deep satisfaction when a client gains another degree or two in their range of motion, the guy who’s happiest when he’s helping someone. I didn’t set out to write a thank-you story to all my physical therapists but I can give this one guy his happy ending, and that makes me happy too.
How about you? Have you known someone like that? A physical therapist or a teacher or a counselor who truly wanted to see you heal (or succeed, or fulfill your goal, whatever that may’ve been). Share your stories and one random commenter will win a copy of Toy Run!
Former physical therapist and reluctant loner Ian Bowen has spent the three years since his grandfather’s death searching for a man to inspire him to park his Harley for a while—without much hope of finding him. On a whim, he shows up for a Toy Run and meets Ed Gonzalez, another loner with a pile of toys lashed to his bike. A few beers at the end-of-the-run party turn into an invite to Ed’s for homebrew. But instead of a night of fun, the unseasonable cold renders Ed immobile with pain. When he tells Ian he just needs meds, Ian does one of the things he does best—he massages Ed’s pain away, allowing him a rare restful night’s sleep and creating intimacy neither wants to lose. Ian thinks two men have to follow certain rules to be together, but Ed’s prepared to show him how wrong he is.
“It’s okay. I know what I’m doing.”
“Just need a muscle relaxer and—”
“That’ll take too long.” It had been a while since my last session, and I’d never done a hip like his before, but it was startling how quickly the basics came back. I could almost see the paths his muscles and connective tissue took beneath his—oh my, shit, how fucking soft was his skin.
The first few touches made him shudder and sweat, but just as he opened his mouth to tell me to get my hands off him and stop making it worse, his body started to respond. A little bit of the tightness gave way, and he relaxed the tiniest bit.
“What you need isn’t an antispasmodic on top of beer, but regular soft tissue work.”
By then his eyes were closed, his chin pointed at the ceiling. “How’d you learn to do this?”
“I’m a licensed physical therapist in California.” One of my best tricks was to slip the painful maneuvers in while I was talking.
Ed cried out but didn’t make a move against me, so I didn’t stop.
“Professional torturer?” He panted, but his body had relaxed more than I thought possible in so short a time. “How long?”
“About ten years.” I moved my hands toward his thigh as I talked and found another pocket of tightness and scar tissue. He grunted and clenched his jaw even harder. “Quit almost three years ago. They couldn’t just leave me alone to help people, too much paperwork and meetings and a goddamned tie—once Granddad was gone, there wasn’t much point in sticking around there.”
I kept telling Ed my life story as I worked on his mangled body. Told him how my granddad kept me out of trouble with teardowns in the living room every winter and car restorations in the summer, and about his brother Oliver who’d been in The War. About having no direction after Granddad died, the guilt that threatened to take me out because I’d never found the stones to tell him anything that really mattered, and the panic because there I was, thirty-two years old, and all I knew about being gay could be summed up in the three-hour ride to a bar I’d taken once every few months since I turned twenty-one.
It wasn’t intentional, spilling my guts to this guy I’d just met, just an old habit coming back to haunt me. That had been the way to get the worst patients through their therapy so they could get back to the business of living. Distract them with chatter—any kind of chatter would do—and most of them were in so much pain I never worried about them remembering later. Not that I ever told any of them such personal shit, but even though I’d been on the road off and on for almost three years I didn’t have many interesting stories from it. Should’ve known better but I wasn’t thinking, just helping someone.
Thanks for reading!
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About the Author: Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Home is Portland, Oregon, where the weather is like your favorite hard-case writing buddy who won’t let you get away with taking too many days off, and in some places you can be as weird as you are without fear. As an out and proud bisexual and life-long weird-o, she thinks that last part is pretty cool.
Rattle Charley’s cages—she’d love to hear from you!