Esalen experience


I am surrounded by sea foam green. Tugged and twisted, stroked and pummeled. As my body lies still, it is tossed and turned in a turbulent tide. It floats under the ocean’s surface, comforted, suspended. I am completely safe.

My breath aligns with the relentless undulation of the surf, crashing, roaring. Warm salty air sweeps over my physical being. I can taste the brine. The more the waves caress my limbs, the more vivid my vision. Slowly I start to see myself as copper-colored kelp. Bulbous. Rubbery. Bendable. Unbreakable.

My body is a fragile sack of skin holding bones and muscle and blood-pumping organs, a temporary vessel of mortality and movement.

As the sea stretches my limbs, the symbiosis between seaweed and surf solidifies. Surrounded by jade green luminescence I have transcended my body, tight and stiff and aging, I am rapturously fluid, flexible, floating. I have died and gone to heaven.

The sea sounds diminish as I hear a divine voice whisper: I’m Elise. Your massage is over.”


“Last Dance”


“Last Dance. It’s my last chance for love…” The disco diva’s voice soars. I smile with memories of moving to the relentless beat. Suddenly I realize my eyes have filled with tears and I am weeping. What? Why? I am remembering all my dance partners, seeing them raise their arms, kick their legs, shake their booties. Full of life, desiring love.

We are filled with the bone-marrow loud music, and likely some drugs. The lights flash, a glitter ball twirls, colors shoot in every direction. I am here and I am there, but they — most of them — are no longer here: Randy, John, Frank, Matt, Tom…

My heart can’t hold the names of all the friends cut down too soon. But it can, and it does. They are here now with me in the music, their souls in the sound waves, their smiles in mine, their dance floor moves never sharper, more focused. I smell their sweat, the poppers, patchouli, stale beer and I dance with them, without them.

“I need you, by me, beside me, to guide me, to hold me…”

Transported across the decades, I am laughing and crying and knowing I’ll be joining them someday soon. We’re all moving in the same direction, different timing, different steps, but the beat is the same. It’s a heart beat, the rhythm of our breath, partly from one too many high energy songs back-to-back, the unseen DJ unwilling to give us a chance to catch our breath.

I miss these men. They were my brothers. We were in this together. Until one by one they were taken away, like some macabre version of musical chairs.

“Disco is dead” proclaimed those who didn’t understand. They were wrong. As long as disco was alive so were we. So were the flamboyant queens with huge shiny fans preening, cavorting, presenting themselves to the world, night after night. And though they’re gone, they’re not really. I am grateful for the grief. Grateful for their return on Donna Summer’s vibrato. They show their ID, order a drink, and sashay on to the dance floor of my heart, one more time. “Last dance…”

It’s happening again, right now, as I write this. I am laughing and sobbing simultaneously, making an imaginary rainbow. And that too makes me smile, at the corny cliché that’s perfect, as I remember my departed dear friends dancing.

And now I realize it’s not only them I’m remembering but myself. The cute clueless guy looking for love, not just sex like everyone else, and never quite finding it. And now I know I have, thanks to Donna Summer. “It’s my last chance for love…”