Knowing Kigali: Emily’s hands

Therapy that uses physical agents: exercise and massage and other modalities.

I hoped to be a physiotherapist once; many moons ago in my teenage years.
Or a masseuse. With a parlour (back then it wasn’t called a spa) of my own. Easing out tired, tense muscles. Relaxing overworked bodies.

Physiotherapist. Masseuse. Either name conjured an unusual, rare profession that I wanted to be associated with. Like diamonds, there were scarcely any therapy parlours – spas – around then; it wasn’t even considered a thing.

Expectedly, friends and acquaintances regarded me with incredulous looks when I voiced out my desires. What on earth is she talking about? But it was its rarity, unfamiliarity and seeming untested terrain (in this part of the world) that held widening appeal for me, as well as my amateur practices at home.

I was the resident hands when all manner of pains/aches plagued my siblings or parents. Despite the temporary relief I proffered with my little knowledge of the art (no Youtube to the rescue back then), my hands needed training, direction; I was just feeling my way through every massage I gave, improvising as I went along, adopting techniques that paid off to my rough, budding skills. So, I thought: Why not study this at a university degree level and make a career out of it?

This year makes it my 17th out of the university. Apparently, between that eureka moment and gaining admission into a higher institution of learning, some other passion (writing, editing…) replaced this specific skilled labour.

As Emily introduced her palms, slippery with aromatic oils, to my knackered back, my forgotten career path flashed through my mind.

Our last night in Kigali saw me in a spa, having a full- bodied massage. A fitting end to the holiday, if I should say so myself. I just wished I didn’t have to get up so early to begin the journey back home tomorrow, with two lovely, never-tiring, excited children.

Emily was her name. My masseuse, that is.

Circular motions on my upper back threw up sessions with one of my elder brothers, whose athletic ambitions and, consequently, hectic trainings for one sports event or the other came with accompanied, sometimes, excruciating pains.

As her practiced fingers glided smoothly over my weary waist muscles, my uncle’s moans of pain as I dug into his (as I kneaded the skin in my palms) came to mind.

Fleetingly, I focused on her sequences. Firm to-and-fro-, side-to-side-, and up-and-down actions. Attempting to memorize some (if not all) of them; making a faint imprint on the very exhausted stretch of fabric that was my mind before, giving up, and succumbing to the mesmerizing sensations of her motions. How she hit the right spot of pain on my legs (with the exact measure of pressure) I hadn’t realized was apparent before then. The mix of utter calm, relaxation and somnolence that all descended on my body – one after the other. And how can I forget that soothing strain of violin strings at the background?

What was I trying to retain again? And why? Maybe later…right now, I’d indulge in this present bliss. Thoroughly.

Hours later just before I turned in for the night, those masseuse – inspired and infused thoughts reared again, ever so subtly. Nudging me towards others, creating alternate scenarios.
What if I had pursued my passion for physiotherapy? Would Emily’s hands have worked the magic they had on me or would I have spent that time analyzing, paralyzing, comparing instead of enjoying every bit of the moments spent stretched out on the padded board – like bed?

Just how different would my present life be if I hadn’t become the writer, editor I am known as? Perhaps it is not too late to find out.

Only recently, I’ve begun questioning: What would I have been if I had chosen not to go the writing/editing route?

Could physiotherapy be one of those ifs?

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