Gua sha, or sand scratching, he calls it.
I’m already sobbing. The culmination of another week of stress and lack of sleep. One disappointment after another.
With the bowl of a porcelain Chinese soup spoon, he scrapes the muscles along the back of my neck.
This causes rupture of the small sub-dermal capillaries (petechia) and may result in sub-cutaneous bruising (ecchymosis).
According to Chinese medical practitioners, the internal toxins in the blood are released and circulation is improved.
Before continuing down my shoulders, he rubs on some Vic’s VapoRub. It lubricates the process, cools the skin to ease the burning discomfort, a mix of eastern and western techniques. The patch he rubs turns a muddy mix of red and garnet, and from this he tells me that I’m working too hard. I have to look after myself better. Relax every day. Take an hour to exercise or walk. The first step to a healthy mind is a healthy body. The colour indicates that I have a lot of toxins built up in my body.
I take a sip from the mug that he hands me, full of pale yellow liquid. It burns going down. Flavourless, but maybe that’s just the congestion.
“It’s spicy”, I mumble, no longer speaking Chinese. It’s too much on my mind. I need to express myself without limitations.
“It’s just ginger-water. If you can’t take it, you can add some sugar.”
I don’t reply. The unassuming consommé raises the internal temperature, killing the sick air. To quell the spasms in my chest, I take slower, deeper breaths. It doesn’t work.
“I admire you, uncle. One day I hope to be a father like you.”
He breathes a short but heavy sigh. I can tell that these words pain him more than anything else I’ve said. He tells me, in Chinese, “Uncle doesn’t make a lot of money. I make sure I spend a lot of time at home”.
“I like you, uncle. I hope that no matter what happens, we can still be friends.”
“No matter what happens, you’ll always have a place to stay with us in Hong Kong.”