The announcement was made during the Critical Tits event, “White out in approximately ten minutes,” just enough time to get back to camp, maybe. I immediately began my return on my aging bike, a bare-bones, second-hand, yellow vehicle, fifteen speed new, now one. As miserable as the dust storms can be, a greater concern was visibility and the importance of being in our 1958 Jewel trailer as soon as possible.
Five minutes later, having passed from the open playa into the congested residential area, the wind and dust brought my escape to a screeching halt. I dismounted my bike and immediately grabbed my goggles and mask. I could see perhaps twenty feet at best, allowing me a minute to seek protection until I could continue. I found a hollow between a small building and a trailer, just enough to keep me out of the path of the wind. I covered my head as best possible and prepared myself for what could be a long unpleasant stay.
With nothing to do, my mind wandered and laid out what I thought might be the most direct route back to camp. It was likely I would be walking my bike and guessing my location from minute to minute.
After some ten minutes of idle standing, I was alarmed by a nudging on my left side. There, a figure shoulder high had attached himself, or herself, to me, their arm around me and nestled into the hollow between my arm and my torso. There was no introduction, nothing said, just the embrace of someone seeking some protection and company. Neither of us were inclined to introduce ourselves or strike up a conversation given the conditions. Time passed as we both suffered, but at the same time took comfort in the huddle and companionship that comes with the Burning Man experience.
Perhaps twenty minutes passed before the wind settled and dust thinned and I could imagine a possible retreat. It was then, just as unexpected as the attachment, the figure slid away, never having said a word, never showing his/her face. I was back in camp twenty minutes later, still befuddled and inclined to share my experience with our camp. The memory and sensations felt at the time have stayed with me for years, a moment of mutual comfort and connection between strangers, ships in the night, seeking refuge from the storm.
by Stiff Breeze