I started writing this story in April when I was staying at the Notre Dame Center, the Vatican's guesthouse in Jerusalem where I was attending a conference. See accompanying pictures (needless to say, my room didn't look at all like the one on their website, but aside from the room description, the rest of this story is entirely fictional). Oh, and shukran jazeelan to Youssef who helped me with some of the Arabic as mine is a bit rusty at the moment. ;)
The Old City [F/F]
I found the St. Joseph’s hostel in one of those travel books. Lonely Planet or something like that. It seemed cheap and in a good location. Just inside the New Gate of the Old City. Run by some Italian nuns.
“You are pilgrim, si?” asked Sister Maria, the short, plump nun in her dark blue habit who gave me the key to my room.
“Si…well, sorta. And to study.” I did want to be near the Holy Places. But I also hoped to expand my Arabic a bit. My priest had put me in touch with a friend of a friend who lived in a monastery in the Old City and could use a few extra shekels in income tutoring me.
“Bueno.” She gave a curt smile and pointed me to my room. A small cell at the end of the dark, stone hallway. With a crucifix over the bed and an icon of the Holy Mother on the opposite wall. I set my backpack on the bed and examined the card on the desk with instructions in English and Italian.
“Please label all food left in the kitchen.”
“There is a launderette near the Post Office on Jaffa Road outside of the New Gate.”
“Note that the gate to the hostel closes at 10:30 pm and you must be in your room by the beginning of quiet hours at 11 pm.”
Good, I thought. I like to go to bed early.
I began my Arabic lessons with Brother Elias the next day in the lobby of the hostel. We trudged through lesson 8 in Al-Kitab, which is where my Arabic class left off at the end of the year. Brother Elias continuously corrected the slight Egyptian accent I’d begun to pick up from characters used in the audio cassettes with the book.
“La! Do not say ‘gaamiah,’ say ‘Jaamiah.” He would always point is finger up into the air when he’d say ‘la!’
After my lessons, I roamed through the Old City. Down the winding alleys of stone where the smell of incense and urine mingled in the hot summer sun. Through the souqs where I learned quickly to ignore the offers of tea that were really the prelude to a high pressure sales pitch. Ate my share of falafel and hummus and shwerma. Managed to meet people from all over. Ethiopian pilgrims. New York Hassidim. French imams. British students attending BirZeit University in the West Bank.
It was that last group that got me into trouble. Not anything political, which is usually the case in these parts. No, trouble at the hostel.
With Sister Maria.
Who pretended not to listen in on my Arabic lessons, which I, more often than not, had failed to study for the night before.
Who would only speak to me in Arabic, particularly with vocabulary she knew I was supposed to know.
Who tutted every night as I barely made it through the gate at 10:30 upon returning from a night of frivolity with my new friends.
And of course, it had to happen. I left Ramallah one night a bit late. My taxi got held up at a checkpoint. By the time I reached the hostel, Sister Maria was walking up the stairs, having just locked the gate.
“Oh, Sister. Please let me in. I’m soooo sorry I’m late.”
“Marrat-thani, min fdlik?” I knew what her request to repeat again meant.
“Uh…er, um,” I hunted around for my Arabic. “Min fdlik, iftari al bab, ya ukht? It was probably wrong grammatically, but I think it got across the idea.
She grunted. Came down the stairs. Took out the key and opened the metal bars. Then grabbed my ear.
“Ohh! Ow. Please. I mean, min fdlik…” I kept trying to pull away, which just made her grab hold even tighter.
All the way to her office behind the front desk.
She finally let go and then let out a torrid of Arabic. I picked up words here and there. Tdruse – study. ‘Asdeq’aek – friends. Strained to figure out more. Though I didn’t really need to.
Then she pulled out a chair, placing the back of it toward me.
“Enhany ‘ala-lkoorsee.” She pointed to the chair. I blinked at her. What the hell did ‘enhany’ mean?
Damnit…what the hell was she saying?
“Over…chair…” She motioned with her hand. When I continued looking puzzled, she briefly bent over the back of the chair.
“Enhany ‘ala-lkoorsee,” she said as she stood back up.
She wanted me to what? Bend over the chair? Like she was going to spank me or something?
That’s when I remembered those first few nights. Before I met my friends and would be in my room by ten. When it was 11:00, Sister Maria would roam the hallways, smacking the bottoms of people still not in their rooms. Everyone giggled as they headed to bed.
Oh my god! She was going to spank me!
“Uh,…um…laaa…I mean, c’mon…”
“Enhany ‘ala-lkoorsee.” With dark eyes and a stern mouth pressed tight between her pudgy cheeks. And strong fingers that reached out and grabbed my ear again and pushed me over the chair.
Well, okay, how bad could it really be?
Next thing I know, she’s lifting my skirt up over my bottom. I tried to stand up to push it back down, but she held me firm. Along with the hem of my skirt.
Then came a big splat and a hot pain beneath my panties.
It was something wooden. A ruler I think. That stung like hell.
Again I started to stand up. And again, she held me firmly over that chair.
And rained down splat after hot, painful splat. Echoing amid the stone walls.
I curled my toes. Gripped the seat of the chair. Tried to twist my bottom away from that vicious ruler. Especially when she smacked the under side of my cheeks where my panties didn’t quite reach.
My eyes began to mist. “Min fdlik…Please…oh please stop.”
And she did stop. Began lecturing me again in Arabic. With her arm pinning me to the chair.
Then more splats with the ruler.
When I kicked my right leg up, she smacked my calf so hard I howled. Then smacked my bottom harder and faster.
“I’m sorry…I’m sorry – Aasifa…” I blubbered.
She scolded me more in Arabic. More about studying and my friends. Smacked me a few more times.
“Qefi.” She removed her arm from my back. Patted my bottom softly. Lowered my skirt. I wiped my eyes and stood up.
Sister Maria smiled at me. “You…good girl.” Nodding. With a smile that glowed and warmed my insides as much as she had warmed my bottom.
I sniffled and smiled back. “Shukran.”
She said something about my room and motioned her head toward the door. I nodded.
And you know, I made it back to the hostel every night after that spanking well before the gate closed. Which, of course, left me with plenty of time to study for my sessions with Brother Elias.
Wa atikilm al-lugha al-‘arabiyye tamaman ‘endaman amshee fi’lmadina al-qadeema. (And I speak the Arabic language perfectly when I walk in the Old City.)
A point I made certain to thank Sister Maria for when it was time to leave the Old City, to which she responded by patting my bottom with a smile.
“La shukr ‘ala wajib.” (There is no thank you for doing what is a duty.)