(Axel Boer) #1

answer.” Mother would say to herself, aloud, “I have a migraine. What will
make it better?” Then she would pick up a bottle of oil, press it to her chest
and, with her eyes closed, say, “Do I need this?” If her body swayed forward
it meant yes, the oil would help her headache. If her body swayed backward
it meant no, and she would test something else.
As she became more skilled, Mother went from using her whole body to
only her fingers. She would cross her middle and index fingers, then flex
slightly to try to uncross them, asking herself a question. If the fingers
remained entwined that meant yes; if they parted it was no. The sound
produced by this method was faint but unmistakable: each time the pad of her
middle finger slipped across the nail of her index, there was a fleshy click.
Mother used muscle testing to experiment with other methods of healing.
Diagrams of chakras and pressure points appeared around the house, and she
began charging clients for something called “energy work.” I didn’t know
what that meant until one afternoon when Mother called me and Richard into
the back room. A woman named Susan was there. Mother’s eyes were closed
and her left hand was resting on Susan’s. The fingers on her other hand were
crossed, and she was whispering questions to herself. After a few she turned
to the woman and said, “Your relationship with your father is damaging your
kidneys. Think of him while we adjust the chakra.” Mother explained that
energy work is most effective when several people are present. “So we can
draw from everyone’s energy,” she said. Mother pointed to my forehead and
told me to tap the center, between my eyebrows, while with my other hand I
was to grab Susan’s arm. Richard was to tap a pressure point on his chest
while reaching out to me with his other hand, and Mother was to hold a point
in her palm while touching Richard with her foot. “That’s it,” she said as I
took my brother’s arm. We stood in silence for ten minutes, a human chain.
When I think of that afternoon, what I remember first is the awkwardness
of it: Mother said she could feel the hot energy moving through our bodies,
but I felt nothing. Mother and Richard stood still, eyes shut, breath shallow.
They could feel the energy and were transported by it. I fidgeted. I tried to
focus, then worried that I was ruining things for Susan, that I was a break in
the chain, that Mother and Richard’s healing power would never reach her
because I was failing to conduct it. When the ten minutes were up, Susan
gave Mother twenty dollars and the next customer came in.
If I was skeptical, my skepticism was not entirely my fault. It was the
result of my not being able to decide which of my mothers to trust. A year

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