Well, clearly I didn't come home. The fact that I've already written here that I loved my trip and am so glad I went should be the spoiler alert that I managed to stay.
But I was really not sure I would be able to.
Once the bags of ice had started to bring down my core temperature somewhat, my co-worker friend (who needs a name... how about Mark?) Mark came in his car and asked if I wanted to come have dinner at their place.
Something in me shouted "this is a good idea!" so even though I was still scared of the heat, I said yes.
And I pulled on a dress over my bikini (because somehow I felt that my co-worker shouldn't have to see me in my bikini) and we threw my bike in the back (he was not allowed by the DMV to drive after dark so I was likely going to have to bike my way home) and we drove (less than 5 mph remember) through the dusty bumpy roads, across the desert to his place.
He'd insisted I bring my camera, which hadn't been out much the previous days, and I'm glad I did. But even the ride there was more fun than I'd had so far.
Seeing everyone out and about, and maybe even feeling a little bit of a breeze. (Of which there was none under our shade shelter) I was already feeling a bit better.
We stopped and picked up some passengers which was also fun and soon enough we were at their place.
They'd brought their kids, which was nice, and somehow reassuring to see a pretty normal family life situation (eat your dinner please!) in this not so normal place.
I realized it was the first meal I'd eaten since Monday morning. Sure, I'd had protein bars or nuts or some beef jerky, but this was a cheeseburger.
Our fridge didn't work, and our stove didn't work either (both worked before we got there, but didn't once we arrived) and so watching Mark cook on his mini BBQ and his wife produce cold juice drinks felt like a not-so small miracle.
And I was full after half the burger, but I knew my body needed and wanted the protein and energy so I made myself eat it all, slowly, but surely.
And you guys, these two saved my burn.
Mark and his wife, feeding me, having me over to their place in this world full of strangers was so reassuring. And just what I (and my poor body needed.)
I was still overheated, and the dress didn't last long (too hot!) but Mark's wife asked if she could put some sparkly make up on me.
I felt like saying no, but again, it's Burning Man, I told myself, just go with it.
It was hard not to cry as she did my makeup. Again, perhaps that feeling of being unused to people being kind to me, taking care of me, doing something nice for me just because.
Her three year old daughter insisted on lots of sparkles and some blue nail polish (but just on one finger.)
I started to feel like I fit in. Like I wasn't just surviving.
We took some pictures, and then watched the sun going down (and I was fully in love with the people and how they love the sun going down behind the hills) and then we, the entire family and I (Mark in his costume, his children in theirs and his wife and I in our sparkle-makeup) on our bikes, off to look at art in the desert.
It was great being with them. Everyone loved the kids, and I loved being out and about with people I knew (remember, they'd had me over for dinner a month or two before Burning Man and so I knew them a little) and felt comfortable with (they'd been before, and had a great setup at their camp and I felt safe and happy.)
I would have loved to have stayed out with them longer, but I'd not brought my glasses in my backpack and I can't see very well without them past dusk. I went back to camp, and wasn't sure what exactly I was going to do with my evening, now that I could see, and Jay showed up.
It was, again, just what I needed.
As I write this, I'm struck by a saying that's sometimes heard on the playa. Not "safety third!", that's a different saying for another story, but "The Playa provides."
Because as I sit here, looking back on this day, the day I thought I would be going home and talking about how Mark, and then Jay came, just at the right time to turn everything around for me, I realize it's an example of how the playa provides.
And it did.
Jay showing up was just what I needed.
I was still only able to wear my bikini, but I think I maybe threw on my tutu too (I was still so damn hot you guys.) and Jay and I set out to explore the city at night.
I'd been out our very first night, to see the man and the temple and the lit up city and art cars, but I hadn't actually been out. The night before had been my heat exhaustion fuelled attempt to sleep, so this was my first real time experiencing Black Rock City.
As I'd left Mark and his family, I'd heard a massive sound stage blasting Pink Floyd. Which, hello, could anything have been any more perfect? And Connor had told me that they were showing a rare Floyd movie that night.
(But, as an aside, not at the actual movie theatre that I discovered was out in deep playa. Yes, someone built an actual movie theatre out on the desert. With a big screen and popcorn and they showed movies. I never got to it but still... mind blowing.)
I told Jay I'd like to find it, but that I was only vaguely sure of where it was.
I was still not good with directions or how to get anywhere and so when I tried to describe where Mark's place had been and where in the city/playa the Floyd had been coming from I wasn't very helpful.
Jay and I decided to try to find it if we could, but to do whatever else we ran into.
I realized, fairly soon, that Jay was drunk. Not wasted drunk, but tipsy. And I've never seen Jay tipsy.
Other than one time when he was away and he and his co workers had been celebrating and he got drunk and passed out on a video call with me (which I found hilarious and he's not sure he remembers) Jay is not a drinker. And so this tipsy version of him was pretty amusing to me.
And he wasn't shy with his hands. Or his lips. Which was fine with me.
It was really nice to be in familiar territory.
My stomach wasn't thrilled with having to process an entire burger's worth of meat after so little food for the two previous days so when we got to one particular art piece, I sat and put in my headphones and listened to music while Jay went up to the highest level of the piece and chatted with people.
I kept making eye contact with this one guy who eventually came over and asked me what I was listening to. We listened together for a bit, exchanged some conversation, hugged and he left.
I went down to our bikes and waited for Jay.
We wandered through a bit more art on the playa and then headed back into town. (I'd given up on trying to find the Floyd, I was so clearly disoriented.) We wanted to find bathrooms and Jay decided to ask at the "Bureau of Misinformation" but after we'd both flashed them (me feeling really shy, and quickly showing one quick boobie to the girl, Jay happy to strip down to nothing for a spanking) they told us something random and I was ready to leave.
Jay, however, was ready to sit with a hot chick and play giant Jenga, so I flopped down on a bean bag, sort of annoyed at having to watch him... flirt... even if it was just friendly, and even if we didn't have any claim on each other anymore.
I did, however, enjoy the tail end of a male burlesque show, and we found portapotties (which is when I discovered the ones near my camp were really super clean compared to the "party zones" of town) and then Jay decided to try a trampoline based ride and the second time he went on it, there was blood. And it was his, and so off to the medical tent we went.
He was lucky that he'd been wearing a scarf around his head and so the gash didn't need stitches. The medical care was awesome. Volunteers, but all EMTs or nurses or doctors. Incredible.
I was still too warm, so we went to a cool place that had great live music, and went to their back tent where there were couches and pillows and we just relaxed.
Jay wasn't feeling awesome from his wound, and it was too hot to snuggle, well, ok, I was too hot to snuggle, but it felt really nice to be with him and near him and he suggested a camp he knew of that had air conditioning.
AIR CONDITIONING? SIGN ME UP!
So we biked there and had a nap, curled up together, because finally it was a reasonable temperature and my body went "phew" and after a while we slowly biked our way back to my place and Jay spent the night.
He spent the night under my sleeping bag, while I spent the night out in the open. My tent, I'd left the doors open so it was cooler, but not cool. But there was enough air with the doors left open for me to breathe.
And I didn't care if anyone bothered to look in and saw me naked. I just was happy to be able to sleep.
I was finally cooler (if still too warm) and I cleaned my teeth (didn't use paste as I didn't want to have to go spit it in the porta potty) and wiped myself down with baby wipes a little. (I felt like while I didn't have B.O. I did have a sort of playa scent to me. It wasn't a bad smell, but I noticed it. And I didn't particularly care.)
Earplugs, face mask, and I slept well. Relieved to have had food, and friends and a great evening. Comfort. And just a little bit cooler.