Originally published on August 7, 2007. This is probably one of the most beautiful moments in my life. If I hadn't been quite so shocked, I might have come to my knees. This, like 'I always cry' is about being connected to the human race, being part of a larger whole, or more importantly how EASY it is to allow yourself to connect or be connected with when we, you, I let our collective guards down. How many of you would do this? How many of you would let this happen? Would any of you initiate it? I miss her but I have her, she never really went away, only I did. I left the locker room and went home.
This isn't my photograph. When I wrote the post, for some reason I went online instead of grabbing one of my own. No idea why. I had plenty of good shots. We were there in November, 2005.
Ridgewalker wants to hear (read) the locker room story. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to tell it as well as he remembers it because he was probably more traumatized than I over the event. I'll do my best but, RW, if I've forgotten stuff, you'll just have to add what you remember.
Strangely, this story also takes place in Israel (even at JFK, when you are in the company of El Al security, you must consider yourself in Israel). It was my honeymoon. My last honeymoon. I've had three of them and fittingly, this was the best ('cause he's the best guy, right?).
To set the stage you have to understand that we began in Rome. Rome is a wonderful place; a living breathing history and art lesson. It is also the height of civilization if you look at our trip as a whole. This was the best hotel and the easiest adjustment and just, well the height of luxury, for me anyway. From Rome we went to Greece, Athens to start. Athens was a bit of a shocker after Rome. It's like Rome before they cleaned it up and put all the pieces back together. We adjusted but it did take just about the entire five days. Israel was the last stop. Tel Aviv is where my company's development team was headquartered and so of course I had to go there. Tel Aviv itself is a pretty cool city. Think big city in a start up country, kind of like start up company. Everything is moving at the speed of light; you can almost see the city running itself over in a race against itself and the world's benchmarks. I do love Tel Aviv but there is ever so much more to Israel than just the city.
We did the usual trek through Jerusalem and even managed to go to the museum. I could write a book on that museum but this is a story about another place and time. We went to Masada and wandered the ruins of that ancient fortress. And on the last day, the day we were to depart the country at midnight, we made our way with driver and guide to the bottom of the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is beyond description. I'm told there must be water feeding it from somewhere or it would simply be gone but to look at it you'd never believe this. It is the lowest dry point on earth; you are literally below sea level as you make your way into the basin and can watch the sea walls rise above, imagining the ocean bed before the drought. It is a bit like going to the end of the world, or maybe the bottom.
Our driver was a friend and took us to a hotel that would give us access to the sea and a nice massage as well. I like a nice massage every now and then; who doesn't, right? The driver and the guide (who's worth many entries on his own) checked us in, pointed us in the right direction and immediately abandoned us. We went downstairs for our massages and were immediately separated and handed over to completely non English speaking hosts.
I had trouble in the mud room. I didn't know how much of my clothing to remove for the mud wrap. I would have assumed everything but I'd recently been told on two occasions in two different countries that I had to wear a little paper thong at all times. I didn't see a little paper thong so I took everthing off and got up on the table. Soon I was cocooned in a thick layer of mud, wrapped in plastic and then a blanket to retain as much heat as possible. I was pretty damn near freakout from claustrophobia by the time she came back to let me out. The woman motioned me to the shower and proceeded to hose me down like a hot horse after an all day event. In the end she left me to my own devices to get the mud out of the personal crevices. I fear there might still be some in there.
From the mudroom I returned to the waiting area until I was collected by the next non-English speaking person. I was taken another room, placed naked on a table and then, while the din of shutdown occurred right outside my room I was bathed in oil. And I mean bathed. There had to have been more than two gallons poured into my hair in a slow dribble. This is where I began to surrender. My hair! Good God! My hair! How the hell am I going to get this crap out of my hair? Surely they will have thought of that.
They had not.
I hooked up with my husband an hour later barely wiped off and wrapped in a wet towel. He had apparently undergone similar treatment except his hosing down was a bit more difficult as he'd left on his shorts. Oops.
The sun was setting as we made our way to the banks of the sea and waded in up to our waists. It was cold and we didn't care. We were in the Dead Sea and about to float. We sat back in the water and just let go, expecting, I think to sink to the bottom and sit with our faces poking up into the night air. That's not what happened. Instead we bobbed like two corks adrift in the galaxy. It was terrifying and brilliant and too damn cold to tolerate for long.
When we got out and gathered our things, still not having spoken coherently to anyone in two hours we tried to figure out what to do. There was no one to catch us and take us to the nice cleaning places equipped with private showers and salon shampoos and hot fresh towels and blow driers and the like to fix us up and send us on our way. We found two more towels and headed to the communal bathrooms.
The women's bath was like a YMCA or a small gym. Two shower stalls with curtains letting out into a steamy vestibule that leads to sinks and toilets. Bring your own soap. Oops. But I'm pragmatic, it's OK. I grabbed a handful of paper towels, the c-fold kind, and filled them with hand soap from the dispensers. I entered the shower and proceeded to scrub the bejesus out of my body and my hair. In the end I gave up, there just wasn't enough soap to get the oil out. I exited the shower stall stark raving naked nude (and I need to tell you that I am EXTREMELY BODY CONSCIOUS AND DON'T LIKE TO BE LOOKED AT BY ANYONE SAVE MAYBE MY HUSBAND ON A GOOD DAY) and was met with another naked woman.
No biggie, right? We've all been there. We avert our eyes, dry ourselves off and get on with our business dressing as quickly as possible. Riiigggghhht.
She was probably in her late fifties or early sixties. She was zoftig and I don't mean fat, I mean the old fashioned use of the word, zoftig. Think Marilyn. She said the only English words she could muster.
You have a beautiful body.
I tried not to suck my toes up through my nostrils and smiled.
We began to 'talk'. First we went through our possible common languages. Her: French, Hebrew and Italian with a smattering of German. Me: English. After that we made do with sign language. We named our cities and our places of birth. On the wall we counted the number of children we had and in her case, the number of grandchildren. She told me her mother was dead and made the saddest face I've ever seen. I told her my mother was living and that I was sure glad of it.
We were both still naked.
In the end I knew we needed to wrap it up. I told my new friend, in the best way I could think (I drew it on the wall in the steam), that I had a flight to catch. She beamed at me, positively beamed.
And then out of nowhere came the full frontal completely naked nude without a scrap of clothing, no not anywhere, body hug. Not a tee-pee hug, a pee-pee hug. Except we don't have pee-pees, but you get the point. She was crying when she left me completely unhinged and alone in the middle of nowhere at the bottom of the Dead Sea.
I put my clothes on, finger combed my greasy hair and walked out to meet up with my husband.
Later on, on the terrace outside the hotel while we smoked our last smokes before heading back to civilization we met up with a terrorist who had quite a story to tell. But that's for another time. This was about the locker room.
There you go. How did I do?