83: Clean Start

83: Clean Start

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Clean Start

If you don’t go, ten years from now you won’t even remember what you were doing that week. But if you go, you’ll remember exactly where you were!

~Author Unknown

Thirty-five years into what I thought was a happy marriage, my husband dumped me for a younger model. I couldn’t seem to get over it. My life was an ongoing pity party with me as the guest of honor.

Then one day I accidentally caught my reflection in the hall mirror. The sad sack reflected there was someone I’d try to avoid sitting next to on an airplane. I suddenly realized I was sick of this misery. I wanted the joy back in my life. I wanted to wake up with a smile on my face.

As if the Fates were applauding my return to sanity, an old friend called. “Would you be interested in going on a cruise of the Greek Islands?”

Even though it would strain my budget, it might be just what I needed. “If you can stand my company, I think I can squeeze it in.”

That trip lived up to all my expectations and ripped holes in the black cloud that had been hanging over me. My friend and I clambered through ancient ruins, ate delicious Greek salads, ogled sexy Greek men, and spent a fascinating day in the central market in Istanbul.

But the absolute pearl of the trip was our visit to the Turkish baths.

We almost didn’t go. On our last morning in Istanbul, I put the question to my friend Cammy. “Well, are we going to the baths, or not?”

“I don’t know. The idea feels a little scary.”

“Yep,” I agreed, “but when will we have a chance like this again?”

She considered, reaching for another pastry to buy time. Then nodded her head decisively. “You’re right. We shouldn’t miss it!”

I gave a mental fist pump.

A cab dropped us off. Minutes after entering, we knew the experience would be memorable. In the babble of voices surrounding us, not one word of English could be heard. We paid, though what we had paid for remained deliciously uncertain.

We were led to a tiny box of a dressing room. Sign language from our escort made it clear we were to disrobe.

When she left, I whispered to Cammy. “Are we supposed to leave our passports, credit cards, and clothes in here? Did you see that lock? A two-year-old could break in.”

“I guess we should have left our stuff back in the room. Well, we’re here now. Let’s just say a prayer and cross our fingers,” Cammy whispered back.

I stared at her. When did Cammy get so brave?

We wrapped our scanty towels around our goose-pimpled bodies and stepped out of our cubicle. We were led into a bath area resembling something out of the Arabian Nights. It was a circular room of white marble, the ceiling towering twenty or thirty feet above us. Light poured in through windows circling the wall high above our heads, and basins mounted at intervals overflowed, the water making a soothing sound as it cascaded to the floor.

Our guide gestured toward the basins and departed. Nervously we each sat down next to one, hugging our knees to our chests and clutching our tiny towels tightly. The wait was probably no more than ten minutes, but it seemed an eternity as second thoughts about the wisdom of coming here chased each other through my head.

I was about to suggest to Cammy that we forget the whole thing and leave, when two giant thong-clad women walked through the door.

I murmured softly, “Should we make a run for it? They don’t look very fast.”

The women reached us and took our arms, drawing us gently but firmly toward the raised altar-like section in the middle of the room. Its similarity to the sacrificial stone atop the pyramid at Chichen Itza flashed into my mind, as gentle pressure forced me into a prone position. Before fear had time to blossom into full-blown panic, I found myself being rubbed all over with what appeared to be a small mop. The mopping was a delight once I relaxed, and after that I was pummeled and prodded until I was mellower than I thought possible. When the magic fingers finally stopped their ministrations, my body felt like a wet noodle. A sigh of pure happiness slipped out before my arm was again taken in a firm grip.

At the basin, water was poured over my head as the precursor to a good head scrubbing. I realized I’d leave here looking not like a sophisticated woman of the world, but like a drowned rat.

I relaxed. What did I care? Our trip to the Turkish baths would be kept sparkling and alive by frequent retelling. I’d be smiling when I woke up tomorrow.

~Pam Bailes

More stories from our partners