Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.
Captain Amazing and Sticks rode into the magical playa that evening, the cool wind licked her face, causing her furry bear ears to wiggle and flap around incessantly. He pedaled with all his strength, carrying the black silhouette of a little bear on his LED trimmed bike, lights spun with each turn of the wheel, pulsating to the music of the night. Sticks stood on pegs that were attached to the back wheel. It felt as if she was gliding through the desert effortlessly… It felt like that every time he took her for a ride… they went everywhere together that year. This night was special. They didn’t know it then, but the memory of it would remain deep in their hearts only to burst forth at a later time unexpectedly, like a six tier rainbow that reveals itself after a freak thunderstorm in the desert.
Something glimmering in the distance caught his eyes and he said, “Let’s stop here” as he slowed down the bike to let little Sticks jump off.
Together they walked towards the larger than life art installation that stood before them. It was truly a gift of love… someone had conceptualized and realized this work of art for all who would come across it and most likely it would be burned down at the end of the week. Four letters of the alphabet stood before them, each one taller than the Captain’s towering 6’3 frame. The capital letters of “L”, “O”, “V” and “E” were clearly there but try as they did, it was impossible to view it in a way that allowed the letters to spell the all-too-familiar word. They ran around it left and right, backed up a few feet, closed one eye and then the other, even did a headstand and a backwards flip… but still, there was no “love” to be spelt. That year the theme was Evolution, so perhaps the artist intended people to E-V-O-L-V-E from trying so hard to find “love”.
Fat markers hung from the sides of the 3-D blocks of white letters which, upon closer inspection were covered with love messages. Sticks could think of nothing better than to write a short poem on the letter “E” dedicated to the two E’s in her life… It went something like this: “E is for Eric… and sometimes Edison… but mostly Eric… penis bigger-er anyway”… she then encapsulated the poem with a drawing of a large penis and a smaller one inside it, followed by an even smaller one inside that one.
“What did you write?” Sticks asked Captain Amazing. She hopped and pranced around eagerly, trying to look over his sexy broad shoulders…
“I’m not telling you” was his response… Sticks knew well enough she’d have to wait for a more opportune moment to dig it out of him.
“Ok. Just don’t forget it when you do decide to tell me.” She knew it was only a matter of time. In her heart, he’d already told her because he intended to. Time didn’t matter.
Then, out of nowhere a song began to play… it was the kind of sexy, bluesy, soul music like the Otis Redding tracks Captain would play back in the default world. The kind of music that the two lovers would listen to before drowning in each other’s eyes, lips and every part of the body for a night of deep, inspiring sex. But out here in the middle of nowhere out on the playa, which was the middle of nowhere in Black Rock City, which basically is the middle of nowhere… Captain Amazing turned to his little Sticks and asked; “Wanna dance?” he smiled knowingly because standing before him was a girl who said “Yes” to simply everything.
Sticks draped her furry arms around his shoulders, pressed her face into the concave of his chest and breathed. The couple swayed to the music a little… it was only the second time they slow danced, ever. The first time was at his office Christmas party almost a year before. They were a couple in every way except for the title.
Sometime after the burn, Sticks had a house warming party and Captain Amazing came over with his friends. They were looking through photographs from the burn, some more R-rated than others, when one friend stumbled upon the poem Sticks had written that night. Everyone had a good laugh, especially the Captain since it was his first time learning what she had written. Sticks took the opportunity to ask him what he wrote, but the stubborn bastard kept his mouth shut tight.
Christmas rolled around and Sticks found herself up in Sacramento with the Captain’s family. It brought her back to that summer’s burning man trip since they had made a pit stop at his parent’s home. She thought he’d be crazy to refuse her the secret message during the holiday season which doubled as her birthday… “Uh… I forgot what I wrote,” he proved to be crazy.
Valentine’s Day arrived and Captain Amazing took Sticks to a fancy shmancy restaurant with the most stunning view of tidal waves crashing against the sea shore, complete with real sea gulls flying above the water. It was late in the evening, but a light fixture kept the ocean perfectly visible. Sticks thought it looked like a movie set from some documentary film like Planet Earth.
After dinner and dessert came the awkward gift exchange which turned out to be only slightly weird because the Captain had watery eyes while Sticks laughed out loud out of sheer delight of the holy moment when they realized that they had both gifted each other something to remind them of the night they danced in the desert at burning man…
She had drawn stick figures of them coming across the art installation and inside the card was the poem she wrote that night along with a few more phrases on “e”verything he meant to her.
He had given her a tiny slip of paper resembling those found in fortune cookies, but instead of a fortune he’d finally confessed the sacred words he wrote in the desert, “I realized I loved you.”
“You fuckin bastard… I knew you didn’t forget it.” She smiled and all he could do was kiss her.