The other evening, before this mild sickness fell like a cloche over us, my friend and I went to a belly dancing class. It lined up perfectly with my current obsession: Salome. ‘She’ is about her, and my attempt to fall backwards into a mysterious, half-formed history and craft a version of what might have really happened.
Did Salome really listen to her mother and call for the head of John the Baptist after her acrobatic, sexy little belly dance (which most likely bore little resemblance to the modern belly dance techniques that are taught today)? Did her step-father lust after her tight little body so much that he ignored the sin of trying to bed his wife’s child? What did beautiful Herodias feel for radical, intense, raven-locked John? Maybe Herodias wanted him. Maybe Salome did, too. Maybe she thought Salome and John might run away and share a tent together for a week, their bodies turning and snaking together, both forgetting their station, their faith, their tradition, everything but the way that the other one smelled in the heat that they made together. Maybe Herodias, lovely but growing older, couldn’t bear that both intellectual, questioning, crying in the wilderness John and her powerful husband Herod Antipas both desired her daughter instead of her. Antipas had left his first wife for her, true, but she was maybe growing thick in the middle, her kohl might be settling deeper into the lines around her eyes, and her daughter was fresh, smooth, and had a way with her hips. How dark can jealousy turn a woman? Or was she merely (most likely historically of course) an onlooker to her husband’s political plots?
Or maybe it was different. Maybe Herodias saw the way Salome looked at John, and the way that John grew taller when Salome walked near him. Maybe she saw how John’s head raised in fervent anticipation when he heard the bells jangle on Salome’s soft brown feet. Maybe her body, curves forming under silk covering, turned his faith and his mind inside out. Maybe she loved her daughter fiercely enough to shake the world for her. Maybe an elaborate tapestry was woven to fool the men and to send the two lovers away forever and ever Amen. Scholars have said that Salome went on to have children, far from her mother and stepfather in exile. Maybe Herodias spearheaded the planned escape. A hoax to rescue passion. Who knows?
A few times during the belly dancing class I closed my eyes and felt an odd hum in the room, and when I opened my eye everyone looked intensely beautiful. We glowed. It will be interesting to see where this weird research and this ancient, connected feeling will lead.