By the time I arrived at my conference, I had a bad cold, which just kept getting worse. I spent the second day of the conference sneezing and spreading the virus to all my friends. I sat at sessions rooting through my bag for dry tissues and trying to be as quiet as possible as I blew my nose. Eventually, I gave up trying to get my brain to function, and I skipped some sessions to take an afternoon nap.
By evening, I was pretty pathetic. My head ached, my nose was red, and my lips hurt. I had given up trying to look professional and was wandering around the hotel in sweatpants and a t-shirt, with my glasses on instead of my contact lenses, with Vaseline rubbed onto my nose and lips. When I'm sick, even my hair looks bad. Instead of a conference program, I clutched handfuls of tissues and a box of tylenol.
I kept apologizing to everyone who came near me. "I'm probably giving you this cold."
To his credit, Philadelphia Guy, who is TOTALLY losing his urban edge, kept saying, "I'll hug you anyhow."
I rallied to attend the evening plenary session, a talk called "Baboon Metaphysics: the Evolution of a Social Mind." Afterwards, one group of friends were heading out to the bars. That was the last thing I felt like doing. Well, maybe if I drank alcohol, the medicinal effect would have been worth it, but being sober AND miserably sick at a bar is not that fun.
Then Artist Friend said, "Want some reiki?"
In my suitcase, I had a small beeswax candle from the monastery. My roommate, who said she knew both reiki and massage, found a soap dish we could put the candle in.
The candle spread warm light across the impersonal hotel room. I stretched out on the bed, still clutching my tissues. Artist Friend pulled the desk chair over, sat near the edge of the bed, and put his hands on my head. Immediately, I could feel this surge of warm energy just pouring over me, sweeping through my clogged skull.
My body relaxed under the tingling heat. I didn't move. Beautiful Italian Woman sat on the bed next to me and massaged my shoulders. Artist Friend kept his hands in my hair, energy flowing through his palms. I snuggled into the quilt on the bed, my headache disappearing. They worked on me — a woman I'd known for less than a day and a man who is one of my dearest friends — until my muscles were melty and my head clear.
I took a photo of the candle the next morning, after a good night sleep.