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.


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.

Dungeon (III)

I’ve got a metre length of loo roll wrapped around my wrist, and the near end is soaked in snot. The hissing of my neighbours’ nasal breath is chaotic, and I periodically have to pause and snort into the tissue. My arms flap and head jerks from side to side. I try to vary the rhythm – some times deep and from the belly, others chesty and quick. I love the rapid, loud drumming underpinning it all on the chunky sound system in the carpeted studio’s corner.

The second gong sounds, reverberates. Keep moving! Sounds, not sure what yet, but keep moving! Gibberish. Annoyance.

Yah! La! Yah! Ga!

People are thrashing around, and a cushion or two thumping, though my eyes are closed. Someone’s shouting:

Fuck off! Fuck off! Bastard!

Wait, that’s me, actually. I’m rolling on the ground, flailing at the carpet, clenching fists, almost spitting with rage. I stuff the crumpled tissue in my pocket, tear off my T-shirt and sling it to the side of the room.

I don’t know what this is, or who it is, or what I’m caring about, but I know it’s annoyance, tension, frustration, and I can taste it bitter in my snarling mouth.