Words that rhyme with danger: red rooms, crystal balls, strobe lights, red rugs, incense, her; all of those in one place. It all seemed like a setup. From the neon lights that rolled at tight corners of the room, to the high-heeled shoes that spread across the floor, and cowries that lay on table tops, I felt like I had walked into a sin city of some sort. And I probably will have taken a run for the door if I wasn’t so damn curious. “What even is this place?”
The street that housed the massage parlor was a quiet rickety street somewhere in Ajah. My friend and I had driven down the street in silence and parked in front of the story building that looked like it had not been painted in a long time. “Are you sure this is the place?” I asked him as we parked in front of the gate. I had not been to this part of Lagos before and I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to be here. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I’d heard about private massage rooms as these before but I had never been to any. And at the ungodly hour of 10:30 when we arrived, there was no saying what awaited within the gates of the house. However, when we walked in, I was even more terrified.
A strikingly beautiful lady welcomed us and ushered us in. She introduced herself as Eve with a warm smile. “Please make yourself comfortable while I change. I’ll be back in a minute.” I removed my shoes as the door slid open and set my bare feet on the rose-coloured fur rug. A milky wallpaper poured across the entire wall of the small room.
On it, abstract paintings hung by their necks and flower pots holding tiny pieces of green sat on different locations of the floor. The bed, also covered in red fur, was neatly set and a small body table sat in the middle of the room with a basket right beside it, revealing oils of various colours and bottle sizes. Also, I could smell incense burning.
Eve was a professional Tantra masseuse; while she did give regular massages, which is what I had come for, her expertise was in the art of giving an interesting kind of massages. Erotic massages, but not quite. Tantric massages employ methods that involve words like energy and chakras to relax individuals into the depth of their beings.
The idea is to eliminate all physical boundaries and create the semblance of a being in a trance. According to Zen philosophy, the massages are supposed to offer a path to enlightenment – whatever that meant. My friend had offered to pay for a regular massage for me as long as I agreed that it was going to be here.
When Eve walked back into the room, I understood why. She had transformed into a siren. Her face shone like she had applied a few coats of bronzer – amongst other artificial facial enhancers. Four thin waist beads danced around her waist and the bikini she wore looked like it had been taken off a Playboy runway. To complete the look, she wore silver heels that were at least 8 ft tall. I was in awe: at the confidence she carried herself with, and the entirety of the experience as it were.
As I lay on the table, stripped down and ready to be eased into comfort, I caught a glimpse of a frame on the wall. It read, “What do you do with your talent?” I shut my eyes. Oil dripped all over my bare skin with intensity; falling, then rolling until they were caught in the cups of her palms. Her hands moved on my bare back, shoulders, and waist like a dance where the dancer conjured all emotions through movement. Visceral, not verbal.
In the background, indecipherable soulful music played. Her hand movements felt like they had been practiced, then perfected over time. In those moments under her moving palms, my mind embraced the idea of new extremes. As she moved oil over my brown skin, towards my laps, reality felt stranger than my imaginations. It was just a massage but her commanding palms troubled my sanity like a genie granting a bad wish. I eased into light slumber and only woke up to find her massaging my friend. It was then that I sat up, opened my notepad and wrote a poem:
“Let me fulfil your fantasies
I’ll quench your disbelief
And make you experience the climax of life itself
For your eyes to see magic and your hands to feel the
Potter’s work, you have to pay the ultimate price
To recreate your imagination
Your heart must pause,
Your mind must expand,
And your truth must bend
You have to cave into the wiles of the siren
Lose yourself to her weakness
And she’ll make the last moments of your life worth it.”
Hers was beyond a massage. It was an art form and we were the willing canvas upon which she moved her brush. In Lagos, you’ll never know what’s lurking behind strange walls.