Rubber gloves

I’m allocated half of a rectangular, beige tent, mounted on some kind of wooden platform. Inside, bedding, and under the pillow, a resealable plastic bag containing condoms and two pairs of rubber gloves – one small, one large. If only there was some hope I’d need them.

The coach here from Portland was like a school trip – communal singing, hilarity, lust and loneliness.

The taste of latex, and the smell of it – such a turn-off, and so hard to expunge. I recall  hours after use, despite scrubbing, the smell of condom still on my fingers. Yuk.

The place is huge – wide valley of desert scrub, high up on the Oregon plateau. I’m maybe a mile from the central complex, and yellow school buses circulate to transport me and other red-clad beauties down.

A German ma, older than me (most are). Walking through the camp site, I’m breathing with her, audibly, and holding my hand, not touching, over chakras in her back. Breathing. She’s in a freaked out state, and, poor imitator, I imagine I can help.

“Are you doing that for me? Weird.”

Nonetheless, we continue onto the bus in some kind of companionship.

Bhagwan will be here, silent, in the vast, hangar-like hall. My first time, after such build-up – reading, listening, visiting UK sites, feeling such heightened hopes. I’m overwhelmed by the place, and by loneliness.

Nick’s here, though. I feel he’s keen not to end up with a liability, in a caring role, but he’s kind all the same.

Lay-by

I’m awake – or am I? My ears are buzzing, vibrating. It’s like some ghost has grabbed my head and delivers a flow of uncanny energy to my skull.

The desert is dark and statuesque through the windscreen and cold-misted panes.

Suddenly, I’m somersaulting into the air, through the gold roof. I’m spinning. The ears buzz, buzz. Then, whoosh, like retracting tape measure, I’m sucked back in, still shaking, back in my sleeping bag on the down-folded rear seats.

God, I must be tired.

I clunk open the door, swivel into my trousers, and pull on shoes. The road is silent. My pee hisses onto the sparse vegetation of the verge, arced stream briefly refracting the light of stars.

What is it – maybe 2am? Breakfast time. Granola – same as dinner. I shake out a big handful and let it filter out between forefinger and thumb into my upturned mouth. Brushing the crumbs off on my thigh, I settle into the driving seat, and turn the ignition. Engine softly wakes, and headlights illuminate the upcoming stretch of highway.

Muesli

Half a tank of gas and a bag of granola is all I have to sustain me for the 1,000 mile return drive. Repairing the wheels has all but emptied my wallet. I’d asked them to repair it for no more than $50, so they patched it up and billed me 80. There’s no realistic prospect of making it “home”, so I set off with no plan.

Just driving and driving. I curve up the side of a broad, gently sloping valley, beginning to leave Portland behind. The German woman I’d shared a room and bed with at Hotel Rajneesh had left for her flight at 4am, concerned whether I’d be OK – rightly so, in hindsight, but no use to me now. The granola sits open on the passenger seat beside me, sweet, buttery and crunchy, as I watch the fuel dial slowly drift south.

I have some kind of a half baked plan now. Lewis’s US relations live somewhere in Oregon, right? How about I find my way to them and ask for enough cash to get me back to Tahoe? I tussle with the atlas and my primitive navigation skills, and drive up into a sprawling hillside suburb. What’s that pick-up truck doing? Seems to be following me – surely not lost in the same convoluted and incompetent way? The guy looks pretty mean.

It dawns on me that my red and orange garb, feminine looks and beaded mala possibly make me stand out just a tad. A possible target – especially as the spectacular collapse of Rajneeshpuram dominates this week’s news.

Gran Torino

I felt like I was driving a Rolls Royce, through the golden prosperous world of Lake Tahoe. In fact, $300 had bought me a metallic gold Ford Gran Torino. As my first ever car, at age eighteen, it was a blast – easing along in automatic on “the wrong side of the road”, wide, wide and smooth, with a mile of bonnet between me and the oncoming traffic.

When Rajneeshpuram was apparently opening its doors for less than a small fortune, I packed my frugal belongings in and began the journey north to Oregon. Partnered with a guy in a camper van. We parked up, down in the empty campsite in desert dusk, and I played Wollenweider on the stereo and danced under the stars.

Next morning, I hastened away before he awoke, purring through the miles of American emptiness, heading for Big Muddy Ranch.

Entering Rajneeshpuram involved miles of dirt tracks up into the hills. I trailed a wake of sunlit dust.

Pulling into the reception car park early morning, I stretched out of the door with dry and dusty mouth, eyeing the low-key security with surprise. On previous visits, lavender-suited “Peace Force” armed police would have patrolled the scene with gentle efficiency.