We huddle into the small room, folding our towels neatly on the benches and making sure our metal jewelry had been removed. We speak in hushed tones that reveal our excitement, and our nerves prove themselves through our hesitation.
Finally, together we shove ourselves into the room on the other side of the door—this room even smaller than the last—and the air is so hot and dry that it burns our lungs. We laugh and screech and feign misery. I would’ve gasped for air if it hadn’t have been so painful.
It’s so dark in the room that I can hardly see across to the other side, the side where the guys had entered and taken their seats.
Soon jokes start from their side about passing out, and remembering the times that they’ve been here before. On our side, the girls’ side, there are complaints about the heat, the air, and rising heart rates.
I’d been in a sauna before, but never one so dry. I keep my mouth closed as my body willingly starts taking shallow breaths. All I can think of is what’s coming next until someone from the other side pulls my focus.
“You’d better be careful in here, Abby. You’re gonna burn three meals worth of calories in here.”
I laugh, and for the first time I realize how little I really have been eating—just a minor downfall of being a vegan on retreat.
As someone comes back in with a pale of water to pour over the coals to create steam, my mind is drawn back to the excitement of it all—the steam was my idea, after all (albeit, a bad one).
As the water hits the coals, he’s forced to jump away from the sizzling liquid. Within seconds, a girl at the top shouts, and after a quick count to three we all run out of the shed, down the pier and into the water.
It feels like ice, and suddenly my whole body is wired. Every sense is on high alert and my skin tightens by the nanosecond. I scream at the shock, but not for fear, for fun. And before I know it we’re all shouting and splashing and laughing so hard that our stomachs hurt.
Before our bodies have a chance to adjust to the cold, we run back into the fire,
and we do it all over again.