C’mon in! The water’s fine!
the heARTery is designed for fun and frolicking, but with an underlying deep and abiding sense of purpose.
A short story (non-fiction) to kick off your curiosity:
I can’t start at the beginning, or even in the dead center of the day because laughter still erupts immediately as Suzanne disrobes following our hammam and massage.
In a predominantly Moslem country, the hammam is a wondrous release from the strict roles most women follow. Sequestered from male prerogatives and influence, it is not only a safe zone for the full expression of womanhood, but a luxurious treatment of the full body. Here we begin being massaged thoroughly with orange oil while reclining on hot marble slabs. The room fills with the perfumed vapor of the citrus blossoms as our muscles slowly uncurl themselves from their daily struggle to keep our bodies erect. The tendons tenderize. The legs loosen. Every muscle metamorphasizes from solid to gel.
The pummeling begins immediately after. Steam breathed Hammam
in suffuses every pore.
Halfway between a tickle and a scratching my masseuse applies moderate pressure always asking, always in a small sweet courteous voice,” How is madame? Is this too much? Or a little more? Encore un peu?” French flows from their lips as easily as English crating an ambience even more elegant and romantic. It’s a retreat complete from the hubbub of the Medina teeming with people just outside the door.
This experience is satin to the usual cotton of everyday. A special time, a treasured space. Throughout the two hours I can hear contented murmurs from Suzanne. We are the only people in the room.
Later we move to a room where not only our hair but our entire bodies are shampooed. Then more oils applied. Then my mind oozes into daydreamland and nothing matters but the silken silence with a melodic flute playing quietly, just enough to put our senses in overdrive.
When one of the ladies who have been taking care of me asks,”Can you sit up please? Here is your robe. I will pull it on for you.” I hardly am aware that our time is nearing completion and have to rouse myself from the hedonistic into the realistic.
That’s when Suzanne reaches in her pocket for the keys to the small lockers they’ve given us to safeguard our clothes and valuables while we had been laying like limp rubber bands on hot marble slabs and getting pummeled and scaled, rubbed and kneaded.
When she extracts her hand from the thick blue terry cloth, a squirrel-skewed smile draws the corners of her lips up. “ Do you think I should tell the massage ladies about this? What if they think it’s ours? Or maybe I simply ignore it?”
I barely suppress a giggle, put my hand over my mouth and lean into her. “What do you have there in your hand? It looks like…I think it’s just the same in the States..isn’t it?”
“What should we tell them?”
“I could just slip it back into the pocket and pretend I didn’t even notice it.” Suzanne looks sheepish, but that smile continues to play around her mouth.
I shrug off my robe. “You want me to tell them? I think I can do it without them thinking it’s something we’ve planted. Or that we have anything to do with it.”
As I finish speaking, Suzanne slips off her bathrobe and two more fall to the floor. We both look at the floor bumping our heads together and stare at the small spots. “Guess we better let them know.” I pick them off the floor,. We quickly throw on our clothes and walk to the small front desk where the proprietress stands asking us, “ How did you like your hammam?”
I proffer my hand putting all three plastic circles in her palm. When she looks at them, she’s a bit confused. “What are These?”
She jerks back as if her hand’s on fire, and then roars out in full bodied laughter. “ Ils sont preservatifs ! There were two men last week who came in. Foreigners. They got their massage. And when they were about to pay one man looked at me and said: ‘now that we’re done with the massage, how much for what follows? The sex? We have brought our condoms!’ Please, please …understand we are not prostitutes. We are legitimate hammam!”
Our three masseuses, the proprietress, and the two of us snicker, look abased, get angry, laugh, chuckle, whisper and then slap one another on the back.
Suzanne and I have well-massaged bellies jiggling in girly giggles as we take our leave and as we catch the eye of each of the masseuses, we burst out in yet another round of raucous laughter.
Nothing like a condom in your bathrobe pocket to liven up the day.