After a wonderful massage by a large and silent creature of undeterminate gender, who had ten digits on each hand and enormous strength, my muscles were liquid. I walked slowly to the bath house in a cozy robe and slippers, and entered the hall of waters. The smell of lavender and other essential oils hung in the air, mingling with billowy clouds of steam rising from the blue depths of the pools. I saw familiar faces, leaning contentedly against the side of the pools, fellow travelers all. I slipped off the robe and slid quickly into the deep end of the first pool, one surrounded by rocks, plants and flora in a naturalistic setting that brought to mind a waterfall and pool in the rain forest. I sighed with relief and release as the hot water contacted my skin. I felt small creatures flicking around my calves and knees, and looked within the water to find tiny fish, a vivid blue, nipping at my skin. The sensation tickled but was not unpleasant. I leaned my head back and relaxed.

After some time, I felt others slip into the water, and opened my eyes. I felt a bit nervous about being with quasi-strangers, naked. Instinctively, I folded my arms across my chest. Some of the others were a bit inhibited, as well, but a few lay back in the water, arms open to the heat and bliss, uncaring that they were exposed. There was a bit of idle talk, some comments and praise all around regarding the performances the other night, but mostly quiet. The steam mingled with our breath, and rose from the pool like gossamer. I began to feel the need for a breath of fresh air, but felt uncomfortable getting out of the pool. The other travelers would see my body—the scars around my breasts, my slightly sagging belly, the bulges in my thighs. I waited, hoping for courage to descend. Instead, as we were quietly talking, a large woman entered the room, completely naked, no towel or robe or anything. She was at least 375 pounds, massively tall, and glistened with oil. Her great breasts lay atop her generous belly, her thighs rubbed together when she walked, and her buttocks quivered with each step. She had hairy legs, stretch marks, and a slight mustache, if I were to be truthful. She strutted in and announced to the entire room,

“That was the greatest single massage I have ever experienced. I feel as if I may melt.” She walked over to our pool, and actually leapt in, performing sort of a modified cannonball. Waves broke over all of us in the pool, wetting our faces and leaving us gasping and red.She settled herself in the corner of the pool, chuckling.

“Sorry, gals, can’t be helped. The best way to enter any situation is to jump right in, with both feet. She lifted first one giant breast, then the other, allowing the water to wash beneath them as they gently bobbed near the surface. “Ah, the old girls feel good, swimming free,” she said. She raised both her arms and stretched luxuriously. I looked away, politely.

Suddenly, she moved to my side. Her arm slid around my neck. She clasped me to her bosom.

“Sister!” she said, “It is so good to see you.”

I was shocked and somewhat panicky, skin to skin with this expansive woman, this woman I didn’t even know.

“Um, excuse me, but I don’t think we’ve met,” I said, attempting to free myself from her wet oily clutches.

“Oh, I’m sure we have,” she said. “Somewhere.” She loosed me then and went swimming about the pool, as graceful as a dolphin, splashing about and kicking her legs in the air. “La-de-da, la-de-da,” she sang.

“Really, madam,” I said sternly. “You are splashing all of us while we are trying to relax. Control yourself.”

She looked at me, winked, and threw a handful of water in my face. I sputtered and hiccupped. I wrenched myself up onto the edge of the pool, and reached for my robe, preparing to leave. But I was too slow. The impossible fat woman had grabbed it and plunged it into the water. It was soaking wet. I ducked back under the water.

“Oh, tut-tut, darling. You won’t want to get out of the pool now. I mean really, do you want everyone to see that tiny little stomach of yours? Why it’s hardly large enough to give birth to the world. And those thighs, darling…they are more like sticks than sturdy tree trunks. And your breasts don’t flop around at all; they aren’t really very festive, are they, darling?”

I was incredulous. This woman, this enormous creature, felt herself beautiful, gorgeous, voluptuous, and to her, I was nothing but a six foot, two hundred pound….stick woman. I sat hunched in the pool, feeling bitter and embarrassed.

“Oh, now, mustn’t pout, sweetie. We all can’t be…well, spectacular. You are lovely in your own way…”

“And what way is that?” I asked coldly.

“Well, darling, in the way that is somewhat…well, confined, I guess. Correct me if I am wrong, but you have worked very hard to stay as small as you are, and you still feel you are too large. Am I right?” I nodded, slightly. “And I watched you walk in from the massage hut, darling, furtively, as if wolves were after you. Meanwhile, I was doing a dance for all of the massage creatures and other guests. I figure that once I am relaxed and oiled up, everyone should view the magnificence that is me. I can tell you, I got quite a round of applause, and even a few coppers, though I lack a pocket at the present to keep them in.” She lurched onto the side of the pool and stood, water streaming off of her great curves. “This is who I am, darling, and I am luscious. Now, who are you?”

“I am…just…a woman.” I said, rather at a loss.

“Exactly, my dear. A woman. A woman is all lovely curves, generous spaces, hidden clefts, nourishing hills, succulent valleys, hidden meadows, and flowing rivers.” As she recited this litany, she moved. Her hips wound round in circles, her arms moved about in the air, her hands stroked her great curves, her dark hair slapped wetly against her back and breasts. “We must flow, like lava, like water, like air. We cannot be confined. In order to be the real women, the true women, that we are, WE MUST FLOW!” She reached down and took my hands, pulling me out of the pool. I struggled against her, but she brought me onto the surface. “Now, darling, look at me.” I glanced at my fellow travelers, but they were all watching the large woman. I looked at her. “Now, dance.”

She began to move, and holding my hands in her own, I was forced to move as well. I began to sway my hips, move my shoulders, and shuffle my feet. The air cooled my skin.

“Look at me, darling, look at me!” she said.

As I gazed into her eyes, I saw a vision. She was seated on a throne, dressed only in a belt of gold, and adorned with many jewels. Man and women were bowing down to worship her. Her bounteous flesh overflowed her throne, and her subjects reached out to touch it, afterward kissing their own hands and looking at their fingers with rapture.

“Hmmm? What do you say, Darling?” She smiled merrily at me, still dancing round and round.

Suddenly her vision shifted, and I saw myself, naked in a room full of men and women. I was in the corner, and no one noticed me. But soon, I began to change, shifting and growing. My body became rounder, fuller, and more voluptuous. I could feel the sag of my flesh, the drop of my belly, the weight of my breasts lying on my stomach. I became voluminous. Suddenly, all of the people in the room were watching me, and I became aware of a sound. The people were all chanting, in a strange language, but one that I knew somehow. It was my name they were chanting, only they called me Gaia:

Gaia, who created us
Gaia, who comforts us
Gaia, who protects us
Gaia, who contains us
Gaia, who birthed the universe
Gaia, who nourishes the world
Gaia, bless us.

Suddenly I slipped inside my own skin, the skin that I had worn uncomfortably for forty years, and as I did, the woman embraced me, her tears falling on my skin, mingling with my own as they streamed down my face. We stood, flesh to flesh, skin to skin, woman to woman, and felt our strength, the strength of the mother of the world, the strength of the body, the strength of birth, death, and everything between it. A moment later, we stepped apart, and she cupped my chin in her hand for a moment, and said, “Now we both know who you are. Goodbye, darling.”

I looked at all of my travel companions, seated there in the pool, and I raised my arms overhead and began to dance, a wild dance of joy and abandon, followed by a leap into the pool that splashed everyone, even the ones in the next pool over. My fellow travelers just smiled and wiped the water from their eyes. I looked at the ceiling and whispered, “Thanks be to Gaia.”