Showing Off

I don’t remember how old I was when I begged my mother for a shapely swimsuit. She agreed, provided I’d work hard at school. I outdid myself all year long while envisioning myself in movie stars’ garb. Any color or style would do, one shoulder, strapless, or zipped suit as long as it enhanced my throbbing buds.

The following summer shone with expectations. The salesperson assured me the suit I’d picked would fit perfectly with some cotton filler. I decided to show it off on a Sunday at the Sporting Club when everyone sat by the Olympic pool sipping lemon granitas and cold drinks under large parasols.

I kept pacing back and forth along the diving board as though walking the catwalk, looking on the sly to make sure I wasn’t unnoticed. When the intense heat prompted me to jump into the water, I rose with cotton balls floating around me. I saw my flattened chest emerging and can’t recall how I managed to get to the dressing room.

Khristos, the Anointed One

He’d come through the door smiling, Yassou! Kalimera! Kalispera! His loud laughter was followed by an ominous silence around this heaven-sent executor of the medical instruction. The roaring of his motorcycle preceded him, preparing us for the worst. Our nanny affirmed that as soon as Khristos, the anointed one, took off his helmet, an invisible halo irradiated the room. Seated by a table, he’d get a small grey metal box out of his attaché case. Needles and syringes shone as he set out to boil his instruments over a Primus kerosene burner’s wavering blue flame.

I suffered from scarlet fever as a child with subsequent nephritis. They had me pee in a chamber pot. I’d see the reddish-brown color invade the white ceramic with fear. Khristos treated me regularly with daily vitamin B12 injections as well as antibiotics. He always smiled, “it’s going to be fine, kaló koritsi, good girl!” Mother held my face down and lowered my undies. It was quick and painless.

I loved watching him perform cupping sessions on my mother’s back. He’d swiftly apply a flame inside each cup and place it on the smooth skin. Heated cups aligned like pawns on a chessboard and suction made her pale skin redden and swell in small mounds that subsided after the cups’ removal. It must have been painful, though, because she’d bite her lips.

Our worst nightmare was when alongside my mom and nanny, he administered enemas. We had to lie down on our sides. One of them inserted inside our rectum an ivory nozzle connected to a long tube leading to a tall flask containing warm soapy suds that had to be held up high. They synchronized the twist of the nozzle’s tap with the height of the liquid. It seemed like a concerted effort of this spectral trio in tormenting us.

In retrospect, I laugh at the fact that our amiable Khristos was familiar with the thighs and butts of the entire population of Heliopolis, whether soft, dry, grainy, hairy, dark, light, firm, toned, flabby, saggy, wrinkled or crepey. No secrets were kept from the anointed one who acted like a motorized savior for decades and taught us our first Greek words, Yassou! Kalimera! Kalispera!

Hedy Habra’s third poetry collection, The Taste of the Earth, won the 2020 Silver Nautilus Award, Honorable Mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and was finalist for the USA Best Book Award. Tea in Heliopolis won the USA Best Book Award and Under Brushstrokes was finalist for the International Book Award. Her story collection, Flying Carpets, won the Arab American Book Award’s Honorable Mention. She is a twenty-one-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.