Wearing my green Hot Grieving MILF button, my friends and I rode bikes towards the Temple in a white out on Friday night. We found one person there looking for us, though I heard later there were others seeking us out at various times throughout the night. It was a small but loving and supportive crew.
I was worried that the memorial poster I had made was too big, that there wouldn’t be a spot for it by Friday night, 36 hours before the Temple closed for burn prep. A friend carried it the entire ride, quickly borrowed a stapler and suddenly, there he was, my partner on the wall of the Temple. I heard loud sounds of grief, and realized they were coming from me. “Let it out, we’ve got you,” I heard. I caught my breath and quieted down a few minutes later, and I put the colander on my head. Together, we read the Flying Spaghetti Monster prayer aloud.
I shared a story from last year’s burn. Rupert and I were walking along the Esplanade. “Honey, of all the lives that have come before us, of all the people alive now, of all the lives to come, how come we get to do this?” I asked. “Why do we get to be a part of such a small percentage of humans who get to experience Burning Man?” We talked this over for some time, and I will carry what I learned from him for the rest of my days. “It doesn’t mean anything but what we apply to it, and someday we’ll all be gone and forgotten. All we have is now.”
When the memorial was complete and many hugs and tears were shared, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. “So we did that,” someone said. A few people went back to camp, while three of us rode off into the night. We explored the Black Rock Apothecary and walked out to find a Flying Spaghetti Monster art car. I gave them a copy of the memorial prayer, and they gave us hats. We turned around to find Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where we were served banana chocolate pancakes. We found ourselves at the trash fence and listened to a man sing. “You can tell your friends you’ve seen Daft Punk at the trash fence!” he said. “I love you guys!” I yelled. I was surprised to find myself having fun.
The next day, Saturday, was burn night. My friend gave me a button:
I put the button on and took it to heart. I had grieved at the Temple. I needed a night off from grieving. I went off duty. With two of my closest friends who had grieved the hardest with me, we laughed for eight or nine hours as we made our way across the playa. The evening ended shortly before dawn at first camp’s absinthe bar, where we were served grilled cheese sandwiches and my own absinthe by Grover Norquist. We sat by the fire and discussed politics with him. We were clear that we did not agree with his politics, and he was kind, open, easy to talk to, and very interesting.
I wore my off duty button with my hot grieving MILF button the next day. Temple burn day. Rupert’s poster and ashes were in it. This was big. I wasn’t sure what emotions were going to turn up for me. Though we drove out with two trucks full of people, somehow it was me and my bestie, surrounded by strangers. As Rupert was at his death, “surrounded by the kindness of strangers,” an eye witness had told me. I had her hand in mine, my boyfriend was dead in the Temple in front of us, and her boyfriend was behind us in the crowd. It felt symbolic, like the playa was showing us the importance of sisterhood. We held hands, and she said, “This is okay, we can do this. It’s the natural result of the work we have done.” I felt a sense of ease come over me. Right. We’ve done the work. We have grieved hard. We have memorialized him with friends and family at home, and we have memorialized him and placed him in the Temple.
The Temple glowed from within and quickly the flames surrounded the structure as it burned and, with the awed and hushed crowd watching, the Temple finally fell to the ground. And that was it. The Temple had burned. The pretty octopus painted wooden box with his ashes was gone. My friends went to bed. I went back to camp and wandered over to Jerk Church. I bartended the annual Sunday night church while musicians performed and sang. I felt happy.
The next morning, I rode out to the Temple and joined the archeological dig. I was hoping to find the box clasp or a hinge, a needle in a burning haystack. Amongst the still smoldering wood, ashes, and nails, I found a lovely gold heart still closed with ashes inside and a half dozen blackened sea shells. I put my treasures in my bag and rode away.
With the Temple at my back near the burn site of the Man, I stopped my bike and pulled out my phone. I opened facebook and removed my relationship status. It was time. It was right. I had released him. My time at Burning Man had aligned my heart with my head. I felt balanced and centered for the first time since he died.
After packing up and mooping camp, I pulled up to my passenger’s camp and shared my Sunday morning Temple experience. A friend made me a bowl of ramen. I looked at the magic 8 ball on the table and thought about how many times I’d been told something that was hard to hear.
“You won’t have any trouble finding someone wonderful,” my campmate, a recent widow I met this week, told me.
“Rupert is going to send you someone amazing,” a longtime friend shared with me.
My mother had been telling me this for two months now. Truth is, I miss being in a relationship. I miss being in love. I miss having a partner, and when I go to bed at night, I’m lonely. So I asked that magic 8 ball if that was true, if I would find happy love again, like I’ve been hearing.
“Yes, you can rely on it.”
Okay then. Thanks, magic 8 ball, for telling me what I’ve been hearing is true, even if it is unthinkable right now.
I’m writing this in exodus. We left camp over three hours ago. I’m not wearing my Hot Grieving MILF button nor my Off Duty button. I feel strong. I feel healed. I still have hard work ahead of me, like the Portland memorial, the memorial tattoo, and the grief workshop at Esalen. With his ring on my finger, I will have hard waves that hit unexpectedly, and I will miss my love for the rest of my life.
I’ve listened, playa. I’m taking your lessons home with me. Once this exit line moves, I’ll be off campus. Burning Man provided what I need.
All we have is now. Thanks, Rupert. Thanks, Burning Man. )'(