I was about two minutes into a foot massage in Bangkok when my masseuse, a plump, jolly, non-English-speaking old Thai woman asked me:
"You write songs?"
Having never met the woman before, and not having brought a guitar or grand piano into the parlor, I considered the question. I was dressed somewhat like a certain strain of Brooklynish hipster songwriter, in tight blue jeans and old Converses; I had written songs for a musical theater troupe in college; I had dabbled in preposterous fake rap lyrics on a semi-popular parody Twitter account. Which of these my masseuse was familiar with, however, was unclear, and I considered it quite, quite unlikely that she was referring to any of these, and so I decided to seek clarification:
"I...?" I asked, and then I arched my eyebrows just so, in the way that means, "The words you just spoke, though undoubtedly English, do not mean a thing to me.
"You like strong?" she asked, this time louder.
This made more sense. She was asking not whether I was a songsmith, based on some extremely irregular knowledge of my past, but rather whether I wanted her to vigorously knead my foot muscles.
"Yes! I like strong!" I answered confidently, pointing at my feet, then flexing my arm muscles like a bodybuilder, and then laughing at my foolishness.
Immediately she stopped massaging, stood up, and left the room.
"Oh no," I thought, "Is she going to bring in her bodybuilding friend to massage my feet," I worried, "Or perhaps a judge's gavel?" I hoped I had not offended her by saying that I wanted to be massaged strongly. It was a quite typical request, I thought, and besides, she had asked me whether or not I preferred strength, so I was hardly at fault.
My reverie was interrupted by a bossa nova rendition of "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion, filling the silence of the massage parlor anteroom.
"Song, song," my plump massage smiled as she re-entered the room, pointing up to the ceiling to indicate the speakers she had activated. "You like songs!"
Yes, old pump Thai masseuse. I like songs. I also write songs. I also like strong. I have also been told I write strong.
I also spoke enough of Thai to have had the conversation in her native language, but hey man, I'm getting a foot massage, and all I want to do is, like, like strong songs and shite. My heart will go strong. My feet will go song. Strong, right? Foot massages.