By John Yager
This is one more in the series of short vignettes collectively titled Places.
Andrew, thank you again for much needed help with proofing and editing and your mastery of the Queen's English.
This work is copyright © by the author, 2003, and may not be reproduced in any form without specific written permission from the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
"Is it your first time, sir?" the boy asked as he took my money and handed me a metal basket and a large towel.
"Yes," I replied, assuming he was asking if I'd been to a public bath before.
I went on into the dressing area and stripped, folding my clothes and putting them in the basket. The only light came from four bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling and reflecting off the rather clinical white walls.
I saw two old men entering the dressing room through a door which I assumed led to the actual baths. Billows of steam followed them as they came through and they closed the door quickly behind them. Following their example, I wrapped the big towel tightly around my waist and went to the window which connected to the entry area, and passed the basket containing my clothes back through to a middle aged man who seemed to have replaced the boy who'd greeted me.
Going through the door to the baths was a little like entering Dante's Third Circle. The steam surrounded me and the heat caused my skin to suddenly bead with sweat.
Here the light was even dimmer. I felt as if I'd entered some sort of prehistoric cave where ancient rites were practiced, secrets kept.
Murmurs, whispers, the occasional drip of water, perhaps a moan, the sounds reached my ears as echoes. I stood very still, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the faint light.
"Can I help," I heard a voice say. It was the boy from the front desk, beside me in the fog, no longer wearing a long white jellaba, but now bare-chested, a towel wrapped around his waist.
"I'm just not sure of the protocol," I said, my own voice hushed. I wondered if he'd understand the word, but he seemed to and I realized it was the same in French.
"It is very simple, really," he said, his voice soft, each English word enunciated. "My name is Jamal."
"I am very pleased to meet you, Mister John."
"Not 'mister,' Jamal, just John."
"All right, John," he said shyly, lowering his eyes to the floor. "There are basins over there," he said, gesturing to my left. "Wash yourself and rinse with the large dippers. Then you may soak in the big communal tub or rest in the steam chamber. When you have spent all the time you wish, you may rinse again and rest on one of the pallets in the alcoves." He paused and looked at me, his eyes running slowly over my shoulders and chest. "If you wish my services, please call."
"Thank you," I said, wondering what services this slight boy offered. His olive skin seemed to glow, even in the soft light and his jet black hair glistened.
"Did you bring your own soap and razor?"
"No," I said, not realizing I'd need them.
"No matter," he said. "I can bring you soap and a disposable razor."
Within a minute he was back with a fresh bar of soap and I followed his instructions, washing myself and then tossed aside the towel and slipped naked into the hot pool, soaking for five or ten minutes. There were two other men in the pool with me, both middle aged and seemingly uninterested in conversation. The few minutes I spent in the scalding water was all I could stand and when I moved on to the steam room my skin was hot to the touch and as puckered as a prune.
I spent another five minutes in the steam room and then went back into the cooler outer room in search of one of the rest alcoves Jamal had mentioned. Along the far side of the larger room I discovered a series of half a dozen spaces recessed into the whitewashed wall. They were elevated about two feet off the floor, each reached by a pair of steps and separated from the main room by a thin curtain. When I held the curtain aside and entered the alcove I found its floor was filled with a striped cotton-covered mat. The alcove was about nine feet square and along the rear wall a ledge about a foot off the floor ran its entire width and seemed to serve as a sort of built in table.
The curtain fell back into place and I realized that while I could not see into the alcove from outside, from within it I could see through the curtain and had a veiled view of the space beyond.
I removed the now damp towel from around my waist, spread it on the mat and stretched out. I was exhausted from the heat of the pool and steam room and would have quickly dozed off if it hadn't been for Jamal.
I'd no sooner lain down than he pulled back the curtain and knelt on the mat beside me. His eyes traveled down the length of my naked body and he smiled a shy smile.
"I came to serve you, John," he said, his voice hardly louder than a whisper. I saw he'd brought additional towels, a bowl of water, a bottle of some sort and a still sealed disposable razor.
I rose up a little to look at him but when he put his hand on my chest and pressed me gently down I capitulated and laid back, locking my hands behind my head.
Jamal began by massaging my chest and arms, working the scented oil into my damp skin. He worked with patience and skill, kneading each muscle, working out the tension and fatigue.
"Do you want me to shave you?" he asked when he'd spread the soothing oil over me.
"Yes. It is customary here."
Well, why not, I thought. When in Rome . . . why not when in Casablanca?
"Okay, go ahead," I said. I had very little hair on my chest but as Jamal ran the razor over my oily skin even that disappeared. He worked oil into the patches of hair in my armpits and whisked it away. He removed the sparse trail running down from my navel. When he reached my crotch I hesitated, but he passed over it and instead shaved my legs. It was a very odd sensation.
Finally, when every other part of my body south of my head had been shaved except for my crotch, he looked up at me and whispered, "shall I do your private parts?"
"Is that also usual?"
"Not all men want it done, but many do." Without another word, he stood and removed the towel from his own waist. His body, I realized for the first time, was completely void of hair.
"It must be pretty scratchy as it grows back," I said.
"Not if you come regularly and let me keep you smooth."
"I'll only be here a few days, Jamal."
"Well, come for as long as you can and then keep your skin oiled as the hair grows back. You will have very little discomfort."
In reality, I had been shaved before during my swimming team days, but that had been years ago.
"Go ahead," I said, giving myself over his attention.
He scurried away and was back in a minute or two with a pair of shears. As if fearful that I'd change my mind, he began at once to clip back the grove of pubic hair. When it was as clipped as the shears would allow, he rubbed oil over the entire area and began to shave it carefully. My balls had drawn up against my body and my cock was hard. He took it lovingly in his left hand and held it as he worked the razor over the shaft and the areas around it. Within a few minutes I was as smooth as a newborn baby.
"Let us go to the basins," he said, pulling me up.
There he poured water over my body, rinsing away any stray hair. When he was finished he led me to the hot pool, where we entered the steaming water together and laid back against the tiled edge.
When we got out he led me back to the alcove and had me lie down.
"Now, please let me help you relax ," he whispered. I wasn't sure what he meant but lay back and let him do as he pleased. He spread my legs and knelt between them. Then, lowering his lips to my cock, he drew me in and slowly, gently, sucked me dry. It didn't take so very long and I couldn't remember when I'd had a more intense orgasm. It was oddly impersonal, almost clinical, but my body responded to his skill and soon arched in the throes of my climax.
"Rest now," he whispered as he spread a dry towel over me, gathered his equipment, and left.
When I walked out into the street
an hour later the evening air was filled with the fragrance of jasmine.