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Max and the Buddha

I know all about expressions like “Man proposes and G-d disposes” “Roll with the punches,” “Go with the flow” and others that are supposed to be uplifting. But that doesn’t mean that I have to buy into them when another curve ball comes knocking down the alley.

The latest one came when I tried to get an appointment with my massage therapist, Max, which I am sire isn’t his given name, as there few Chinese men named Max. On the year-end list of popular boys’ names in China, I doubt that “Max” never cracked the top eleven even once. Bar none, is the best massage therapist I have ever visited and about the only man to put me asleep, aside from boring professors, coworkers and the like.

He comes out looking like a college student with straight dark hair a clean-shaven face in jeans and a cotton tee with a logo from the Gap or another store. And I don’t know what it is about his technique, but after he covers me with the yellow blanket with the teddy bears on it, I drift off. “Did I fall asleep?” I ask him. He laughs and says yes.

Around the holidays as I was leaving, he handed me a Buddha necklace and said that it was for the customers. I thought the owner had ordered them and that all the massage therapists were giving them as gifts. Thinking it was only costume jewelry, I wore it and asked if I could have another one the next time I went back to the store, but Max said that he bought them for his customers hadn’t brought any more but that he would bring me a pale orange one the next time.

A few weeks later, a stranger at a grocery store complimented me on the necklace, and I told her it was plastic before singing Max’s praises and giving her the store’s number along with directions in how to get there, but the pale green necklace, cool to the touch, got me to thinking. After coming home, I asked a neighbor from India who said it wasn’t plastic but jade.

I wanted to see him a few more times and a day before moving back to my hometown of Chicago, which was something I’d planned on doing almost as soon as I got off the plane in Chicago. Los Angeles is okay, but it is not Chicago, and I never got the sight of the first snowfall or the sound of lightning and thunder or the way the trees change in autumn out of my system. I’d been planning on leaving for years and only could afford to after retiring, and I’d planned my final visit with Max where I’d explain that I was moving back home, thank him and give him a big tip. But it didn’t work out that way.

Last week, I called for an appointment, but they said that he was on vacation and would be back in a few days. I called again and again and finally learned that he’d gone back to China because it was a place he couldn’t get his homeland out of his system. I planned on saying goodbye to him but he said goodbye to me first.

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