I have just walked back into the office after my first Arabic lesson with Suhir. I’m on cloud nine. Suhir will help me to brush up my language skills in preparation to teach the creative writing workshop in the Shatila refugee camp this summer. My Arabic is rusty – after all I haven’t spoken it for a few years – but even after today’s session I can feel it’s all still there and has started to resurface.
Peirene is sitting at her desk. ‘I think he’s downstairs in the kitchen. Working from there.’
‘Why?’ I’m surprised.
The Nymph shrugs her shoulders. ‘He said I’m disturbing his concentration.’
I reply to a few urgent emails, before I pick up the thread of our conversation. ‘What did you do to James?’
‘I didn’t do anything. He’s a joy killer,’ Peirene says decisively. Then she rises from her chair, dropping the cardigan she is wearing from her shoulders. Underneath it she reveals a sequined belly dance bra top, tassel skirt and in her belly button sparkles a big fake blue stone. She glitters so much that for a moment I have to avert my eyes. Arabic music begins to blast in high volume from her laptop and she starts to move through the room thrusting forward first her right hip, then her left hip.
‘I thought that I too should prepare for our workshop in the summer,’ she gasps, struggling to draw enough breath in between her wild dancing movements. ‘And while you do the serious bit – the teaching – I decided that my role will be to entertain the workshop participants in the evening.’ She’s now bending her upper body forward and backwards, shaking it wildly. I’m not sure what to say. ‘Look I’m getting better.’ She beams across her face while sweat is streaming down her forehead. And suddenly I worry that she might have a heart attack. I walk over to her laptop and turn off the music.
‘Why did you do that for?’ She bends forward, then collapses onto the floor. ‘You’re behaving just like James.’ She says between gasps for air.
‘We love you, Peirene.’ I hand her a glass of water. ‘And I guess, both James and I feel that belly dancing might not be the best thing to do for an Ancient Greek Nymph. You are not fit enough.’
She gulps down the water. ‘Ok. Here is a deal: I promise I will go the gym regularly to get fit and you in the meantime set me up with some proper belly dance classes. And then come July, you and I will deliver a workshop that truly enhances both the mind and the body.’
I agree. Fortunately it’s a long time till July. Between then and now, I’m hoping that Peirene’s enthusiasm for belly dance might diminish. Perhaps even be forgotten.
Image by SupportPDX, creative commons.