While she did so she kept up a babble about “toxins”, but then said something more to my liking: “Think of all the bloody great things you’ve done.” I would have loved to do this, only the fear of the next crack of the whip kept interfering. Worse, I was fretting about how much longer I could stay in this inferno before my blood started to boil in my veins.
Finally, we were released. We put on our dressing gowns and filed out into the murk and made our way over the road. Passing motorists took no notice of the stream of people with beetroot faces in white gowns and slippers going down to the jetty.
I lowered myself into the sea, yelling as the cold gripped like an iron clamp around my body, swam six strokes around to the steps at the other side and heaved myself out. My heart was hammering and I was shouting in both agony and joy. Never had I experienced pleasure and pain that had been so tightly joined together. As I stood there on the jetty all I could think was: I want more. So I got back in, and counted to five, trying to pay attention to what was happening. My heart hammered. More crushing pain. More wild exhilaration.
This time when I got out I was incoherent with cold. My jaws were slamming together. I looked at my skin, which had taken on a sinister piebald look of rhubarb and custard. Never have I felt more alive. Never have I looked more as if I were about die.
Back in the sauna a second time, even the cracking of the whip and the scalding steam held no terror. It was over; I wanted to do it again.
This can’t be good for us, I said to a young woman as we got dressed. She concurred: the last time she’d felt anything like it was after having taken a large amount of MDMA.