She works in the steam baths in Istanbul, has never had her own man, but when an odd woman arrives for a massage, it looks like the gods have smiled in her direction at last.
To some people the massage is the medium. They speak with their hands with such eloquence that no nuance of intention can be misconstrue d. Theirs is a strange dictionary, one where even a thumbprint annotated.
Aniza had lived in Istanbul her entire life. The steam-filled room where she worked with the other masseuses had left her skin with a deep softness and luxurious texture rarely found with thinner women. Or, for that matter, married women.
Aniza was neither thin nor married. Her huge breasts flowed down upon the tourist women who came to have their wealthy cares rubbed away, evaporated by the steam. Their moans were animal-like; guttural Germans; passionate French; stiff, chortling Britishers; yipping, repressed Americans. Aniza saw them beneath their towels, fresh from the baths, and only after she started working on them did their separate nationalities surface from their throats. They had nothing in common with her. Their skin had died out in the international air, where Aniza's had flourished, safe in the Turkish steam.
On the eve of the feast day of Azar, Aniza left her small room and walked stolidly down the marble corridor to her massage table. She had nothing planned for the feast day, but looked forward to having a few hours on her own. Most people gathered with family or friends to eat and exchange small gifts, but Aniza had neither. She had been an orphan taken in and trained by the matron of the bath house. But that was work, and she had never received a gift on the Holy Day. Perhaps she would take the bus to the Blue Mosque, just to gaze at its magnificence from the street. Like her life, Aniza's pleasures were simple.
Upon entering her workroom, she noticed a tall woman lying on her table. For the moment, Aniza felt a certain impatience at having her immediate future distracted away so quickly. As she began her work on the slender woman, her breasts flowed down over the subject, well-oiled hands working into the dry skin. Aniza's fingers moved with practiced precision, searching out the tender places, working deeply within the feminine musculature beneath them.
The years of this work had given Aniza's fingers certain instincts regarding the flesh they manipulated. Thousands of women had lain mutely beneath their administration. But the flesh beneath the wings of this particular tourist had a certain texture that was raising odd signals within Aniza's hands. The soft, puffy flesh around the hip saddle was definitely missing; the bones improperly positioned.
Not wishing to create a scene or disturb the quiet subject beneath her, Aniza decided to investigate more completely, working her hands up near the neck, she unobtrusively moved toward the larynx. An alien lump of flesh and cartilage met her fingertips.
Aniza was shocked. No woman she had ever massaged had ever had the knuckle of Mohammed! Still not wishing to alert the tourist to her distress, Aniza worked the trimly muscled thighs and calves, noting the length of this "woman's" toes. Aniza felt feverish. She had never massaged a man before, much less even touched one.
As she continued the work, Aniza thought furiously about how this person had slipped into her domain. She knew she should alert the matron, but felt restrained by a simple ambivalence; there were things she wanted to know about men, and this may be her only opportunity to do so.
The moans from his throat were deep and sensuous, and Aniza worked harder to elicit more of this masculine music. The secret pouch of his sexuality must have been tucked between his legs, for her subtle movements failed to uncover them.
Aniza's own breathing became quick and raggedly apprehensive. This was a revelation. And his skin! So soft, luxuriantly oiled, taut and supple like ocean waves. Aniza worked over the back of his head, his long, hippy-length hair was clean and perfumed. Aniza overcame a moment of madness that found her wanting to quickly slip her tongue into his ear like a concubine, let him know he was the first man she had ever touched. Deep shudders came from her lower torso and her hands faltered.
The tourist offered a low, menacing murmur of complaint and Aniza returned to his lower back and buttocks with renewed vigor, readjusting the tenor of his moans. Aniza looked around the room several times to insure no one was aware of her subtle frenzy. Finally, the moment came to turn over her prize, and she leaned over covetously to prevent the others from spying the prize between his legs.
His face was without beard, and his features were soft and gentle. Aniza cursed her heaviness. As yet, she couldn't feel his tumescence, and she resisted an urge to kiss him, ever so lightly on the lips. Instead, her fingertips worked their way up under the smooth jaw. She smiled as his knuckle of Mohammed bobbed in appreciation for her efforts. His chest rose up to meet her fingers and she was surprised by its softness.
Finally, Aniza raised herself and prepared her fingers for their plunge into his lower belly. She hoped he wouldn't cry out. His stomach was softer than she expected but she hardly noticed as her fingers began the last part of the search. His dark, silken hair was like a forest, and she couldn't understand why her prey eluded her.
He moaned questioningly and Aniza's eyebrows arched with surprise as she rubbed the entire area with no discovery. His hips began to move rhythmically as Aniza's shoulders sagged forward in uncomprehending defeat. She awoke from her disconcertion and immediately moved to work the shoulder area, less susceptible to such response.
Aniza's perplexity gave way to the routine of years of training. Large tears dropped and splattered on the smooth skin below and she winced as an inner earthquake subsided and doubled back on itself, a sharp pain attacked her for the betrayal of her senses.
She looked down and noticed the tourist's eyes were open and staring at her. Aniza felt cow-like and stupid. This was woman may have been built differently, but Allah had definitely made her a woman. Aniza sighed indifferently as the Westerner took the towel and nodded her thanks.
The matron gave Aniza half the large tip left by the foreigner. Aniza wiped the sweat from her hands and placed the money gingerly in her small purse. Then she dropped heavily into one of the hot baths and closed her eyes. She recreated, muscle by muscle, the woman's body and still couldn't find the answer she needed.
The next morning the matron directed Aniza to take the bus to an address in the hotel district. It was not uncommon for the masseuses to go out for special customers who couldn't make it to the baths themselves. Aniza nodded. She wasn't completely happy with the idea of working on the feast day, but was in no position to complain. Perhaps she would stop by the Blue Mosque on her way back.
On the bus, the problem of this strange woman occupied Aniza's mind so completely she nearly missed her stop. Sighing, feeling the weight of her footsteps on the pavement, she felt every one of the ninety-plus degrees.
At the hotel, the clerk directed her up the elevator to the fifth floor. He amazed her, speaking perfect Turkish to her then turning to the man behind her and speaking quickly in another language Aniza couldn't decipher.
The clerk's facility occupied Aniza until she tapped at the proper door and was surprised to see the tourist from the day previous. The woman took Aniza's hand and led her inside, bidding her to sit in the chair beside the bed.
There was a small picture frame on the low table beside her and Aniza noticed it was a man in a military uniform. As far as she could tell the man was very handsome. The tourist sat on the edge of the bed and smiled. Aniza smiled in return and pointed to her ring finger to ask the question of marriage. The woman laughed lightly, then pointed to herself, putting the picture up next to her face.
Aniza shook her head back and forth, unbelieving. The woman nodded 'yes', and then slipped out of her robe before laying back on the bed, motioning for the massage to begin. Taking one more look at the picture, Aniza removed her loose dress and took a bottle of scented oil from her small bag, pouring some onto her hands to begin.
This time, the woman lay on her back, and when Aniza started with her shoulders, the woman took her hand and placed it between the trimly thighs. There was laughter in those foreign, foreign eyes, and Aniza watched the magical knuckle of Mohammed begin to jump spasmodically. The tourist pulled the masseuse toward her and Aniza threw one last desperate look at the picture. He had been a beautiful man.
Aniza allowed her hands to move with the same rhythm as the day before, giving them free play of the body below them. The body responded as she had hoped. After her passion was completely spent, the woman motioned for Aniza to lay back on the bed. At first, the request confused Aniza, but the foreigner's eyes shone so brightly she could hardly refuse.
Aniza glanced one more time at the picture on the table and then looked up at the ceiling. If Allah decreed that she should come only this close to a man, and this close only, then so be it. If this was to be her first and only gift on the Feast Day of Azar, who was she to argue with Allah? She was, after all, in his hands