Sitting with my eyes closed, breathing into the feeling, pen in hand. A first few lines scratch onto the paper. Over-long thumbnail digs into fingertip, in the pen’s clench.

Casting around for “What is this?”


Then the words, “Not knowing your fate hurts” arise. I’m not crying, but my eyes smart, and chest heaves, with a sigh. Is that cliché, or just the perfect description – “chest heaves”? It always seems to be “heaves”.

I’m reaching in to catch hold of whatever that elusive thing is – of loss, tenderness, preciousness. Something that makes this whole long life feel meaningful – beneath all the noise, the interminable activity.

In that moment, Enya begins a call to the bank, on speaker phone. The automated voice says “Please enter your four digit PIN number, then press the hash key.”

Is that it? I’m forgetting my access code? Let me try tapping some random numbers on my soul.

The satin down duvet wraps me warmly in my throne, and the radiator hums.


There’s that weird pink one for smokers that just about blows my tongue off, it’s so strong. And the striped stuff. I never quite got how they make the stripes. Perhaps I’ll slit a tube open with a Stanley knife and find out.

It’s an odd thing, waking with mouth tasting so stale, and the first urge is to get up and brush teeth rather than risk breathing on anyone. And if the window’s been shut, the whole bedroom stuffy with our breath. Shouldn’t it be all sweet and lovely? Or are these toxins, derived from unnatural eating and tainted food?

Mind you, I bet raw-meat-eating cavemen had pretty stinky breath in the morning, too.

The bristles become splayed and curved over time, and I should institute a three-monthly replacement scheme, but somehow I don’t. When I finally get around to it, the new one’s so much stiffer that my gums hurt, and maybe bleed.

Yet, despite all efforts (well – except flossing – always seems pointless and ineffective and cumbersome) the tartar builds up on my incisors, and at the six-monthly check has to be buzzed off with the ultrasound buzzer.

“If you need me to stop, just raise your hand.”

I moan occasionally, and twist on the couch, but as a point of pride, try so hard not to interrupt the torture. I will not confess.

Finally released, I’m directed to the white plastic cup of pink liquid that sits in the swirly sink. I gargle, spit blood, and pat my face clean with a paper tissue.

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.

Dungeon (IV)

She opens the door, familiar sweet elven face registering surprise.

“Wow! What are you doing here?”

We’d met up only earlier in the week and said our farewells.

“What happened? I thought you were in Cambridge!”

“Yeah. Phhh… Zelda wasn’t pleased to see me. She said I could still stay for the night, but I couldn’t face it.”

“Oh… Aw, you poor thing. I’m sorry.”

She offers a chaste yet sympathetic hug. I can feel my tears hovering. Her long black hair brushes my face and neck, and her animal smell… Sweet, like that intimacy of feeding a horse handfuls of grass – hot, sweet breath. The child in me just longs to be held and comforted.