In Sligo A wants to go to for a seaweed soak, so we walk along the rainy shoreline until we reach a big old bathhouse built into the side of a cliff. It’s very relaxing, she tells me, and though I am frankly rather dubious regarding any new experience that purports to chill me out–I once had an anxiety attack during a massage at the Bliss in the W Hotel like only a true winner can–the boys are golfing and we’re not due in Dublin ’til dinner and we are On Vacation and so I say, sure!
It isn’t a spa, A warns me, like there’s something she isn’t saying.
Sounds awesome, I tell her, and nod.
I don’t know exactly what I’m picturing but what we get is literal bathrooms, old-fashioned tubs full of murky brown water and a scrum of seaweed floating on the bottom. Right away I feel my heart start to pound. The house looks like something out of Downton Abbey and woman who runs it is lovely, from a storybook right down to her fisherman’s sweater, but as soon as we walk through the door I know there is no way this is going to end in anything but tears and possibly an inoperable skin condition. Still, I have paid my 25 Euro so I listen gamely as she explains how to work the steam box, a medieval-looking contraption that turns on with a deafening whoosh that rattles the hundred-year old pipes. “You’ve got the whole hour,” the woman tells me cheerfully. “Just dump the seaweed in the bucket when you’re done.”
When she’s finished her instructions I lock the door behind her. I peel off my jeans and my boots. I curl my fingers around the side of the tub, dip my toe into the water, then let out a yelp as my bare feet slip out from under me and I come within an inch of cracking my skull open all over the tiled floor.
I take a deep breath and try again, muttering a variation of the same thing I’ve been telling myself for three decades now: relax, motherfucker. I lower carefully myself into the water. I spring right out again like it’s infested with sharks. I towel off, shivering, and fish my phone out of my purse: exactly eleven minutes have elapsed.
I get dressed, sit on the windowsill, pull my book out, and settle in.
Relaxation, after all, comes in many forms.