Flame Retardant: a questionable account of Burning Man 2012 (4 of 8)

INTERLUDE by Damian

A mutual friend told me that Ivy would be dancing at Distrikt today. Since Distrikt is almost directly across from the Duckpond, I don’t mind making a sweep of the massive, gyrating crowd. But 15 minutes was the limit I put on this little Where’s Waldo? exercise. I’m not chasing anyone this year. Searching for people, waiting for people, at Burning Man will devolve into “Waiting for Godot” before you know what happened.

I’m about to leave when here comes a tall, beautiful woman. She has jet black hair and is wearing some sort of skin-tight, space corset adorned with esoteric symbols. She very beautiful. Many would say she’s too tall for a man my height. Honestly, I’m a little intimidated.

Then I remember that I don’t give a shit. I’ll never see this woman again and have nothing invested in this interaction. I go for the easy opener.

“What do those symbols mean?”

She stops and stares at me without a hint of emotion.

“You’re the first person to ask me that,” she says.

“Really?”

I look again and realize her techno-corset is actually painted on; she’s completely topless. It’s so well done that it really resembles a textured fabric from a short distance. Better to just pretend I knew that the whole time.

Her green eyes are already searching for a more interesting location than my immediate company.

I ask, “Are you saying most people are too busy gawking at your body?”

“Pretty much.”

“I guess you should keep better company.”

“And that would be you, right?”

“I may have a little time later.”

“I’m flattered.”

“I’m Damian.”

“Francesca.”

“Good to meet you.”

“Excuse me, folks,” says a young guy walking up to us. He’s wearing a steampunk vest, an army helmet and has a video camera wrapped in plastic. “How’s it going? I’m doing a project and I need some volunteers. I’m making a time capsule for people who come to Burning Man 10 years from now. Can I record both of you separately giving some brief advice to future burners?”

“As long as it’s from the neck up,” Francesca say. He points the camera at her face as he steals a quick glance at her sci-fi painted breasts. Which are fantastic.

“And… go,” the man says. I wonder why he didn’t say “action.”

“DON’T BE SO QUICK TO FORGET EVERYTHING YOUR PARENTS TAUGHT YOU. HANDS TO YOURSELVES, BOYS. ASK BEFORE TOUCHING. ‘NO’ MEANS NO. IT MAY BE THE DESERT. WE MAY DRESS LIKE SLUTS AND SAVAGES, BUT YOU STILL BETTER BEHAVE LIKE GENTLEMEN.”

“Ouch!” I say. “That’s a serious preemptive scolding for the future.”

“You can’t coddle them,” she says without looking at me. This whole moment is clearly a forgettable interlude for her. “Who says there’ll even be a Burning Man 10 years from now?”

“Your turn, sir,” says the camerman. I think for moment.

“MAKE NO MISTAKE: YOU ARE A CAUSE OF THE VERY ENTROPY YOU BITCH ABOUT. YOUR GENERATION IS NOT THE OUTCOME OF NATURAL SELECTION. THE KINGDOM IS FULL. DON’T BRING YOUR SOCIAL DECAY TO BURNING MAN. THE EFFIGY IS INSIGNIFICANT. THE PLAYA HAS CHANGED. BLACK ROCK DOESN’T WANT YOU KIND ANYMORE. IT HAS A NEW GOD… and Safety Third.”

The young guy laughs, turns off the camera and thanks us. Francesca is staring at me.

“That came from deep,” she says, holding back a smile.

“Yours was so good, I felt I had to escalate. I don’t even know what most of that meant.”

She squints her eyes at me me for a moment then says “You ever think about sitting down with someone?”

I grin and say, “My camp’s bar has some comfortable seating. It’s right across the street.”

She laughs.

“I’m actually going to dance at Distrikt for a while. You can join me… if you can find me.”

“You any good?”

She makes a gasp/scoff like she genuinely can’t believe I had the nerve to ask that. Interestingly, she had barely flinched when I said the crazy shit.

Without another word, Francesca does a saucy little strut towards the dance floor to the beat of the music, looks back at me once and disappears into the crowd.

I take my bike and pedal out into the street feeling strangely satisfied.

I’m not chasing anyone this year.

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