Somewhere between Nudity and a Onesie

Cheyenne Puil
Illustration by Tiki Jay One

I try to stand up but I cannot find my balance. My happy place has become a nightmare. The main stage at Bass Coast Festival this year is an explosion of huge wooden tentacles reaching into space, reminiscent of the Kraken. I was visited by the Kraken last night. Her name was Lucy. She dragged me, unwilling, into outer space. I saw all the atoms in the world as individual pricks of fire burning around me and within me, if that makes sense. It doesn’t. It did last night. Oh yes, Lucy, that cruel mistress. It was like absolute silence meets the first moans of an orgasm meets stumbling through the dark. Yeah, those. That’s what it feels like to be trapped within the spiral of Lucy’s tugging hand. If only I had known it was going to be so fucked up. I’m in a dance troupe, and our biggest performance of the year is tonight. But I can’t do it.

I’ve waited too long to break the news. I need to face reality, to the other members of my team. “I don’t think I can do it,” I start, “I just…fuck I don’t know…” I trail off, hoping for them to respond with magic, with some incredible idea that will alleviate my inner-chaos. They remain still, a complete obverse of my spinning world. No words, no movement. I have never felt more uncomfortable. Lucy’s lurching tentacles begin to creep in once more. I fear for my dear eyes as I feel them shriveling up, retracting backwards in sheer discomfort from the sight of this world. You gotta love flashbacks, eh? I need to sit down.

Finally, Tara pipes up, “Okay, don’t stress. It’s still early in the day. Take it easy, drink loads of water and remember the Mobile Sauna Society is beside our campsite.” I have no idea what she’s talking about but her confidence in me is inspiring.  

Usually, I’m the one leading the warm up, getting everyone psyched, blasting a myriad of drum and bass, Beats Antique and Beyonce. But today, I struggle to stand up. My onesie is suffocating me. I can’t bear to watch them warming up without me, so I make my way to the sauna. Cleanse me please.

I reach a bright red school bus with a wooden sauna in the rear, complete with lemongrass scented steam wafting out of the windows. It burns my nostrils, and I like it. I walk inside. Slowly, I peel off my velvet onesie. Without my second skin, I feel vulnerable. I open the door with trepidation. Heat envelops me, and I feel Lucy’s tentacles return, smothering. No. No! I refuse to be overtaken! Lucy is no longer with me, this sauna will heal me- what is happening, fuck!

I don’t know what comes first, the sweat or the tears. They mix, covering my body in a salty wetness. I breathe deeply and begin to let go. Sweating, crying, breathing, releasing. I’m not sure how long I stay like this. One hour, two? With each exhale, Lucy’s grip on me loosens. Finally, I step outside of the sauna, continuing to focus on my breath. The cold air slams into me, a refreshing release.

I repeat this routine all day: jump in the sauna, breathe, step outside, breathe. An entire day of self-care, healing, and reflection. I cannot remember ever having done that before. It feels really good. Where has this been my whole life? It is my fifth year performing at Bass Coast. My troupe has always camped in the same spot, and so has the mobile sauna, yet I’ve never noticed it before. Reminiscing about past festival seasons, I realize how busy I have always been. Performing has become more of an obsession than a passion. No time for self-care. No time to explore or to sit with myself. I have been pushing myself too hard, always going-going-going and now I can’t enjoy dancing, the thing I love most.

My body has given up on me and I simply break down.

Illustration by Tiki Jay One

In the midst of my sobbing, a man opens the door, and a rush of cold air sweeps in disrupting the thick stale air. Before he notices me, he changes his mind, closing the door and leaves me in peace. The cold air settles into the sauna, cooling the space, calming me.

And then I realize, in a moment of clarity. It’s all about balance. Days off are okay. Self-care is crucial. Reflection is important. Healing is necessary. I am glowing, and it’s not because of the heat. I am amazed with my luck at having the sauna to myself for hours, and smile for the first time today. I zip up my onesie half-way – a little covered, a little naked. I feel strong, yet completely relaxed, a feeling I realize I have been yearning for years. I have faced reality, and I am ready to connect with my team.

I make my way to the stage and am greeted by the Kraken once more, the wooden tentacles seek me out but not as an enemy. Now she can’t get to me. I take hold of her tentacles and hoist myself onto the stage, with her, a part of her. Together we rise high above the crowd and I unleash her strength, her unyielding grip in my performance, in dance.

Cheyenne Puil   @festivalbeings_

BIO- ‘Imagine galloping on a horse, wild as can be. Endless possibilities on the horizon. That exhilarating feeling is known by Tibetan Buddhists as Windhorse and that is the feeling Cheyenne craves. When performing, travelling and experiencing music festivals, Cheyenne embodies Windhorse. At the moment she can be found in the northern most tip of South America; about to embark on a desert journey. If she survives she’ll be returning to Canada for festival season where she’ll be interviewing the quirky individuals found in @festivalbeings_’