No Shame in Rooms Like That

No Shame in Rooms Like That by David Ebenbach

When she got home, she was angry. She came in and found me at the kitchen table and sat down hard in the chair across from me. She was still in her makeup, her eyes pulled with black liner into almond shapes and her face and hair shining with glitter. She had on a jacket, but I could see that her dancing outfit was under it. She had lost some weight for sure. “Are you going to tell me what happened?” she said. “Did you get sick? You don’t look sick.”

“It’s nothing like that,” I said. “I just couldn’t stay.”


“Why are you doing this?” I said. “What’s this belly dancing about, really?”

She shook her head. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s hard not getting to have this part of you. It’s hard sharing you,” I said. But that wasn’t it, exactly. I didn’t know how to put the thing into words.

“Sharing me? I don’t understand a thing coming out of your mouth.” Her hands were up in the air.

I thought for a minute. I had wanted to tell her about that shame I felt, and all the other things I had thought about on the couch when I got home. But right then I saw that none of that was important, really. It might have been related somehow, but it wasn’t what was important.

I said, “You’re not like those women. You don’t need what those women need. Do you?”

Tawnya sat back in her chair. I wasn’t trying to put her on her heels. I just wanted to talk this out straight. “Huey—” she said, and then she stopped and stared at me.

There was a long moment where nobody said anything. It might have been a minute or more. She was thinking hard. Finally she took my hands. We held on and we sat.

“We have some things to talk about, don’t we?” she said. In her eyes I thought I could maybe finally see the word baby. At least the first syllable or letter.

I know what was in my eyes. “Yeah,” I said.

“Okay.” She nodded.

“I’m sorry I took off tonight,” I said. “That was wrong.”

“Yes, it was,” she said. And then she reached across and cupped my cheek. The kitchen was so quiet. I could feel, in her hand, how round my cheek was.

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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