The whisper of air against flesh was a new sensation. I had never been nude outdoors, not since I had breasts and hips, not since I had something to hide. V and I joined a line of women outside a smaller dwelling similar to the one we had left our clothing in. I shivered and dug my fingers into my forearms. V let me enter before her. At first, I could see nothing. Then I made out the eyes, then the curves of elder women wrapped in dark indigo cloth. They sat on a stone bench and beckoned me gently. The amusement on their lips made me feel safe. Still, I stood before them shyly.
The soft clucking of conversation swirled around me, but I couldn’t understand the words. One of the women grasped me by the hips and guided me to a large wooden bowl. I watched her hands leave my body and dip into the bowl. I drew back slightly when her hands emerged, cupped, full of a dark red oil. She opened her hands at my waist. I watched as the oil dripped over my belly. The woman’s fingers caught the drippings and rubbed the oil over my abdomen. My eyes drifted to the ceiling as the hands picked up a rhythm. Their palms circled the oil into my skin. My eyes slid closed. The other woman’s hands pressed oil into my shoulder blades and down my back. I bit my lip trying to keep track of the stroking. Fingers wiggled between my knees and tripped up the inside of my thighs.
By the time the women reached the back of my legs, my body was humming. I wanted to spread my legs and will the women’s fingers to reach inside me. I spread my arms instead. The women coated them from shoulder to wrist. Oil slicked down both sides of my torso, then brushed over my nipples one two three times. Their fingers flew over my face. Before I knew it, I was pushed out of the opposite side of the hut. When I turned back, the women had returned to their stone bench. I caught a glimpse of V stepping into the hut. She flashed me a wicked smile. The women bent over the wooden bowl to fill their palms with oil and I backed away.
More indigo-clad women waited outside the hut. They tied my wrists with soft pieces of leather and crisscrossed leather beads across my chest. They circled around me, wrapping a rope-like adornment around my waist. I could feel something heavy like a talisman or a pendent resting right above the crease of my buttocks. I grasped the whip the women placed in my hand and took a few steps forward.
Around me, women were now similarly adorned. I watched them eagerly rush ahead, buttocks shaking, breasts bouncing, whips swinging. I felt the quiver of anticipation pierce me. Dizziness swooped down on me as the oil-laden hands flashed through my mind. I imagined twelve of them pressing on my body. Heat rolled over me. I staggered. The earth dipped. I almost gave way to a swoon, but V grabbed my arm and held me upright.
“Follow me,” she whispered.
I grabbed V’s hand and ran across a field to join a cluster of women. V nudged us close to the center. I was surrounded by sound. It was a deep, droning, throbbing hum. All around us women swayed, heads thrown back, voices joined in song. Without warning V squeezed her way out of the singing throng. I heard a snap and looked toward the outskirts of the group. V was standing, legs spread, arm lifted overhead swirling her whip high in the air. An echoing swooping noise issued forth. The women punctuated the sound of V’s whip with a high-pitched yelling.
On that cue, dust began to rise in the distance.