No Shame in Rooms Like That

No Shame in Rooms Like That by David Ebenbach

Tawnya gave me that look. “You know you have to do something, too, right?”

“Hey,” I said. “I’ve been walking.” I had a plan to get off the Metro a stop early and walk down to campus from there. Through all that DC heat, Lord help me.

She signed up and went to her first session the next Sunday morning; we were never big churchgoers anyway. I’ll admit that I was a little excited, that day, for her to get home and show me what she’d learned. I went out walking for part of the time she was gone, out around the neighborhood, sweating it up, and had my thoughts about having a belly dancer in the apartment, which made me sweat a little more.

It’s a nice neighborhood we live in, by anybody’s standards. Safe, clean, some restaurants and even some shops. It wasn’t like this when I was a kid, but things are always changing around here. It’s funny to think that when we moved in, young and professional and whatnot, we were part of the change ourselves. Part of the gentrification. I thought about that, too, while I walked. Not fast, but around.

I was back on the couch with the newspaper in genuine hard copy—on my days off, I’m off—when Tawnya got home, showered and already in her regular clothes. She had a look on her face that was somewhere between feeling good and feeling scared, almost like she’d just gotten away with something. She stood at the door looking at me with wide eyes.

“Hey, baby,” I said, dropping the Post’s tech pages on the coffee table. “How was it?”

“Oh, Huey,” she said. “It was good.” She clapped once. “It was good!”

“Yeah?” I liked seeing her like that.

She sat down with me and held my hands. “Those are some powerful women,” she said. “All sizes. Sisters, white women, everybody.”

“Any Greek ladies?” I said.

Tawnya looked at me sideways. “How am I supposed to know if someone in there is Greek?”

“I did some research,” I said. “Belly dance comes from ancient Greece.”

She smiled. “I didn’t know about that.”

“I would have guessed Persia,” I said. “Someplace like Persia.”

She touched my face. “Well, nobody broke out into Greek while I was there. But it was all kinds of people.”

“Was everybody just beginning?”

“Well, more or less. But nobody was new as me,” she said. “You should have seen me in there, shaking my hips like I knew anything about it.”

“I wish I did,” I said. “You shook those hips?”

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David Ebenbach is the author of several books, including two short story collections—Into the Wilderness (Washington Writers’ Publishing House) and Between Camelots (University of Pittsburgh Press)—and a guide to creativity called The Artist’s Torah (Cascade Books); he teaches Creative Writing at Georgetown University. Find out more at