Non-Fiction Short Stories. Travel, oldsters, love, moments worthy of pause. Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Because the idea of sitting in a hot room and being scrubbed by a stranger sounds more like Dante than vacation, I’m parked in the waiting room of the Turkish bath. It is packed with recently exfoliated tourists. Male employees stand behind a fortress of towels. The waiting room floor is marble and coated in rugs that remind one of the American Southwest. These are functional, not related to the ornate options for sale at every neighboring shop. The air smells like soap, or occasionally wafts of oily meat blowing in from across the alley.
Men waddle through in towels with red and white checkered patterns, like tablecloths for picnics. Women are directed to a generally private side of the building, but men are made to wander through, gripping the cloth around their waist in direct correlation to their personal and cultural feelings about exposure.
There is a man whose job is to say to male customers–after they have paid–“Yes, welcome! Upstairs, yes,” He is extremely gifted at folding towels. “Yes yes, upstairs.” A Turkish tour guide with a pack from his tour stands by the towel artist while his group moves as directed. The tour guide looks like a cross between John Cusack and someone scrawnier who speaks Japanese.
The towel artist sends someone toward me, someone who leans over my shoulder, over my notebook. Then he laughs, heads back to the quick-folds and the leaning employees. They thought I was sketching, drawing, perhaps. They wanted to see what I was seeing.