Gene came to the massage therapy school because someone there invited him. They also invited an acupuncturist from Seattle to come and work on Gene as a demonstration for the students. Trained acupuncturists were few and far between in the United States in those days. This acupuncturist guy was special. He was thought to be quite good. He studied in China, or at least he learned from a Chinese guy in San Francisco. Something like that.
Someone had the brainstorm that if the school brought the acupuncture practitioner and Gene together, Gene could perhaps, get some relief from the tremors and he wouldn’t be out any money because he would just be serving as a guinea pig. The school would pay for the acupuncturist and provide Gene as the subject for the demonstration.
I guess it really wasn’t all that well thought out, or perhaps, it was just 70s alternative zeal. Wouldn’t it have taken several sessions, with some sort of homework in between, to see results? I realize that now. Back in the 70s though, someone thought acupuncture could work a miracle and heal Gene on the spot. So, they brought the two together. I bought into that idea. I wanted to see the miracle.
So, it was from this perspective that the Acupuncturist, who was a large, puffy, very white man in his late 20s or early 30s, if my memory is anywhere close to accurate, settled in to do his work. He was doomed to failure really. Although considering everything, I think he must have put on a pretty good show because people seemed really fired up by the whole thing. I remember deciding to take notes as he started to talk. He was good.
Then, the Acupuncturist started to work on Gene, I freaked out in a quiet sort of a way. Gene was fine with the whole needle thing. I was not. I was sitting in the very back row of the circle that surrounded the Acupuncturist and Gene. You see, I was just a bystander, not a student or anything. Furthermore, being close to those needles did not appeal to me. From my chosen perch, I was fine with it all until the needles came out and went into various meridians and points along Gene’s body. I couldn’t watch.
As I turned my head and closed my eyes, I felt two hands grasp me near my ears and turn me back towards the entire needle-freaky scene. A voice whispered to me, “Why are you afraid? Gene is not. Look at him. It doesn’t hurt. He’s fine. You need to see this. Get over your fear.”
It was a little hard to turn around to see who was talking since my head was being held into position—held by some very strong massage-trained fingers. I took a few glimpses at Gene as directed. Nope. This wasn’t going to work for me. I closed my eyes and let it all play out. A few tears fell, I shook.
I’m not just frightened by needles. I have one of those irrational phobia things. Bat-shit crazy. Can’t function, tears, sick-to-my-stomach crazy. I am better now. Back then, my phobia verged on uncontrollable.
This was a big deal for me and the whole thing totally flipped me out. OK, that sounds a little too 80s Valley-girl. But you get the idea. Between the needles going into Gene and the hands forcing me to see and the voice telling me to face my fears, I was pushed so far out of my comfort zone (phrasing now a little too 90s) that it made some fundamental changes inside me. My brain shifted.
At this point, this is where memory plays one of those interesting tricks where two things happened simultaneously, two things that are mutually exclusive. I know they both happened; I just don’t remember how.
(Part 3, the final post for this story, coming soon.)