Maria Finn | Longreads | August 2017 | 18 minutes (4,403 words)
There’s an adage that you should never make major life decisions right after Burning Man. Once back in your “default life,” wait three months before moving in with the man you met atop a giant rubber duck art car, quitting your job in tech to become a trapeze artist, or getting a shark tattoo. This is considered enough time for the exhilaration of spontaneous love, boundless possibilities, and radical self-expression to subside.
I didn’t meet Danny at Burning Man, but I fell in love with him there. We were introduced at a mutual friend’s birthday party the previous spring. My older brother had recently committed suicide, but our friend encouraged me to come and try to take my mind off it. I went, still a stunned, open wound of a person.
I vaguely remembered talking with a nice guy, and when someone went to take a group picture, he flung his arm around my shoulders and for just a moment, I was not adrift in sadness and shock.
Danny had told me that he and a couple of friends were going to Burning Man that year for the first time to celebrate their birthdays. I promised to show them around if I went. I had a ticket, but didn’t know if I could do it.
My older brother, Bill, had lit himself on fire in front of the Veteran’s Hospital where he was being treated for a damaged knee sustained when parachuting in Panama during our “War on Drugs.” He was also being treated for alcoholism, and diagnosed with PTSD. For treatment, the VA mailed him 1,000 pills of Vicodin (actually generic Hydrocodone) each month, whether he finished the previous prescription or not. My brother Steve had called the VA and asked them to stop giving Bill the drugs. Already troubled, Bill crashed. Steve, who had once studied to be an actuary, later noted, “Someone in the military probably ran the numbers and figured out it was cheaper to send the drugs so these guys overdose or kill themselves.”