Tucked back in a fairly quaint and non-descript little strip-mall in Salinas is a well-advertised Asian massage parlor that, from its ads, suggests beautiful women are at the ready to help release the stresses of modern day life by way of healing hands. How far those hands would go in satisfying customers was the $45 question.

A number of stings undertaken by the Salinas Police Department last year caught middle-aged Asian masseuses in the act of exchanging sexual favors for money; one such sting operation arrested a 50-year-old woman at the aforementioned Salinas massage parlor.

The tiny shop looked more like a miniature social security office than a questionable body rub establishment, with a closet-sized foyer that housed a glass window above a money exchange slot, and a door leading into the rest of the parlor.

After about a half-minute wait, a middle-aged Asian woman appeared wearing heavy make-up and a short black dress with a low neckline. In a thick accent, she asked, “How long?”

I paid $40 in cash for a half-hour massage, and she led me out of the cramped lobby and into a dimly-lit room with a sliding door and told me to wait a few minutes as she hastily slid the door closed behind her.

No sooner had she departed than I heard a man’s voice through the wall. Speaking softly, I made out very little of what he said, except that he wanted her to know he would be away for awhile and that he planned on visiting the gym so that he’d be in better shape the next time they met. I heard very little from her, but the man proceeded to make noises I could only assume were brought on by one hell of a massage.

Five minutes passed and I heard them make their way into the hall. The man asked if he could use the restroom. Almost immediately, the masseuse popped her head through the sliding door and directed me out and into the room they had just come from.

I realized she was the only one working, and was tasked with playing musical rooms with two customers, never letting them see each other.

She instructed me to remove my clothes and said she’d be back.

The room was darker than the first, and the sheet on the table was disheveled. I could only surmise that she hadn’t had the time to change the sheet or the towel in the face-hole. Bad form for a professional massage parlor, and an especially uncomfortable situation for those who, like me, err on the germophobic side.

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The room had a closed-circuit television screen monitoring four areas of the parlor. In one corner of the screen, the masseuse could be seen fixing her makeup in a mirror. In another, the man made his way out of the bathroom then gestured an appreciation for oral sex, while through the wall, I heard him say it had taken a long time and that he was hungry.

On screen, they wrapped their arms around one another, rubbing each other’s backs as she escorted him through the cramped lobby and finally, out the door.

She returned to my room and though she seemed put off by my request for fresh linens on the table, laid them out. Then began a pretty standard massage. As the body rub progressed, however, with more skin on skin contact as time passed, it became clear this wasn’t your everyday Swedish massage, more than palm on back.

It was darker, primal even. Her thighs seemed to always be touching my arm or hand. At one point, she pressed her hand into mine while my arm was twisted behind my back. A disclosure: This was my first professional massage. But I know it’s not standard practice to straddle a client from behind to work on his lower back—while wearing a miniskirt. And I don’t think it’s standard practice to remove a client’s undergarments, either. (I’d opted to keep my boxers on at the outset.)

After she left the room to allow me to dress after the 30 minutes, she returned quickly to help button my shirt as she asked for a tip with a coy grin. She then escorted me out like she had the man before, rubbing my back and smiling, telling me in broken English to come back soon.

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