When a campfire massage goes too far…
The tired old jeep made its way up the precarious mountain path. Two Bedouin, Mohammed and Ahmed, sat in the front with their heads wrapped in cloth tied by rope and long, flowing white gowns around their bodies. Naming a firstborn son after the great prophet of Islam seemed more of a law than a tradition in Egypt. Mohammed’s were everywhere. Ahmed was in fact just a different variation on the name.
Mohammed drove the rusty stick shift with grinding precision. Headlights were only deemed necessary in the darkest of shadows. I sat in the back with the two Swedish girls and tried to keep my nerves cool.
“Come with us. We will take you to the mountain where we can make a fire and smoke some good ganja.” The offer was made that morning. As usual it was directed mainly towards Marie who seemed to make impromptu friends wherever she turned. Certainly it was due to her friendly open manner but no doubt the interest further stemmed from her more obvious physical attributes. Sara had plenty of admirers also but was slightly more guarded in her approach to strangers. I was respected as simply the man of the group providing some illusion of safety for the two blond beauties.
“Yes, we’d love to come.” Marie was eager as ever to jump into any situation with both feet firmly strapped together. “Wouldn’t we guys?” There was nothing for it but to agree. The world seemed safe enough in the sunlight. Setting a time for the meeting we were now committed to spend an evening in the Sinai Mountains surrounded by nothing but vast emptiness and the company of two Mohammed’s we barely knew. Not surprisingly I was a bit cautious about the whole arrangement.
“You’re sure these guys are okay? We can trust them right?”
“Sure, Aram, of course.” Marie put her arm around me and gave me a squeeze. She had grown physically distant on this journey. I could see the desire was there but with no private place available she kept her emotions firmly in check. I suspected she didn’t want Sara feeling like a third wheel.
“Alright, but we should come up with a signal so if things aren’t right we can tell each other it’s time to get back to camp.”
“What? You mean something like, ‘The bears are shitting in the woods.'”
“Something like that yes, but not that. How about, ‘it looks like rain.'”
“Or…’The stars are beautiful'”
“Yes, that’s good. Let’s use that one.”
“Okay, so if you want to return to camp because these guys are getting too touchy with you or whatever, the phrase is, ‘the stars are beautiful.’ Everybody remember that?”
Our cunning plan felt pretty weak now bouncing and rolling further up the unknown rocky terrain with intermittent headlight illumination. Mohammed and Ahmed both seemed quite friendly and harmless however so I began to relax as we reached a small turn off and pulled to a stop. Stepping from the battered jeep only its twin beams broke through the purest darkness afforded by the complete lack of light pollution on the mountaintop. The stars above our heads were a million pinpoints of unmolested brilliance. It was a beautiful, pure sight.
Looking down the direction we had come I could make out tiny lights of life in dwellings reflected dimly from both shores of the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba. The engine of the jeep was switched off and silence sucked itself into the remaining vacuum of stillness. Only our breathing sounded in the chill air for a few seconds.
“We will build a fire here.” Mohammed spoke up. Ahmed was already pulling broken tree branches and stumps from the back of the jeep. Pouring a bit of petrol onto the dry pile of wood the burning match that followed it sparked up flames in seconds.
He laughed at our faces aglow in the flickering light, “A good way to make a fire yes.”
We gathered around the heat, escaping the coolness of the night, and settled ourselves on blankets Mohammed laid out for us. Ahmed had an empty plastic pop bottle in his hands. Swiftly and artistically melting its shape over the fire he stuck a pipe through one side of the bottom half, added a small portion of water and a primitive bong was created before our eyes. A stash of fresh bud emerged from one of the countless pockets in his robe-like dress. The baggie looked about as big as my head.
“This is good stuff, very good stuff. You no have this back home I promise you. Make your head dance with the sky. Float like the stars above.” Marie and I exchanged glances at Ahmed’s choice of words.
“Sounds great to me, let’s give it a go then. Nice night for it.” I was feeling good now in our secluded place of beauty.
The bowl of the pipe packed with grass and we each sucked back a bong in turn. Water bubbled merrily in the bottle when we inhaled the offering. Rough smoke burned my throat on the way down but my lungs took the impact and I forced down a cough. Gotta stay cool, I told myself, but already the hood slid over my brain.
Again the bong was passed around in quick succession. Various bits of small talk became harder to maintain and we soon found we’d rather be lying back on the blankets while organic THC danced its way through our minds. Everything heightened its intensity and we found ourselves searching for the meaning to various twisted dilemmas we had never even considered before. Until we began giggling like fools.
The Bedouin laughed with us but it was obvious that they smoked every day and continued to pass the bong between them. Mohammed came to sit with Sara and after a few words she lifted her head into his lap and let him begin to massage her shoulders. I glanced over with a protector’s look but Sara caught my eye and waved me off with a ‘no worries’ gesture. Her glazed eyes shone with the big grin on her face.
It soon became almost impossible to speak or manage conversation at all. My mind ballooned and five over-charged senses absorbed the details of the lucid environment around me like a highly susceptible set of sponges. Marie lay on her back to my left staring up at the sky with a blissful look spread across her face. I held her hand tight. Mohammed continued to massage Sara and both seemed to be having a mutually good time. And Ahmed was…? Where was Ahmed?
I felt the hand slide up along my chest from my right side and turned to greet Ahmed’s black-stained smile perched mere inches from my face. I almost had a heart attack right there and then.
“You want me massage you?” Ahmed rubbed me gently in lieu of a reply.
“I…um…” Leaning over to Marie on my other side I whispered frantically in her ear: “The stars are beautiful.”
She barely turned her head in response; her glistening eyes continued to stare heavenward.
“Yes they are, aren’t they.”
The uninvited hand caressed my rigid body further forcing my whisper hoarse and desperate.
“No, no, I mean ‘The stars are beautiful!’ They’re really fucking beautiful!”
Helpless fear hit me and rough fingers took full advantage of my paralyzed response. Leathery hands dug calloused tips deeper into screaming muscle. Bedouin breath exhaled warmth into my ear.
“Marie.” I tried again, my voice seemingly empty white noise across a barren landscape. “Marie, the stars are so damn beautiful, don’t you see?”
“Yes.” Her response was a distant echo. “Yes I see.”
My grip on her arm became almost as deep as the determined grip on my body.
Comprehension dawned ever so slowly on her face. She looked over at me and with a careless grin at my predicament she gave me a saucy wink.
“Sara.” She called across the night. Hours passed before Sara responded.
Their ensuing exchange in Swedish was filled with altogether too much laughter and chuckling in my opinion. Endless kneading pushed harder and deeper. I felt like fresh bread dough.
Marie finally turned to Ahmed who reluctantly looked up at her. “Ah, we need to get back.” She forced herself to stand.
“There is no rush, stay.” Mohammed happily rubbed Sara’s back and Ahmed looked ready to camp out against me for the night.
Marie swayed on her feet. “Sorry, we must…leave…early…for Dahab tomorrow…need to sleep.”
Ahmed’s probing fingers slid from the buttons of my shirt and let me rise reluctantly.
Piled back in the jeep we headed down the starlit road but my trip continued. “Where are we going?” I kept asking Marie in frightened whispers, “Are you sure this is the right way?”
Marie and Sara thought I was hilarious yet outside the window it seemed most likely that we barrelled down a different route and headed instead to some secret place of unspeakable humiliations.
When my mind, working in scattered unison with my eyes, finally registered our arrival safe back at Big Duna I almost cried in relief. I even managed to pull myself together enough to thank Mohammed and Ahmed for the unique experience before I half-walked, half-ran to the safety of our small straw enclosure. Sara and Marie joined me on the mats after a bit and soon the wild buzz lay forgotten and stoned laughter sparked up once again.
What a night it was. The stars really were beautiful.