In the heat, I try to make myself feel less awkward. I speak more, my complacency melts and becomes less hard shell. In fact, I often become aggressive. Imagine that. I am no more a turtle when the sun blazes! I become mean, I become fire! I grow teeth longer than thumb nails, and believe me, sometimes I scratch and sometimes I bite.
In the winter I remember chatting with a middle aged married couple outside of the Sandwich Shop in Bloomfield. We sat outside at the tables, and I remember how beautiful the woman looked in her fuzzy, faux fur lined coat. Usually, when gaudy rayon meets polyester, it is a pleasant day.
It was barely winter then, cold enough for boots and stockings, but warm enough still to not use buttons. Her silk blouse was low cut and blowsy and her husband was wearing a fedora. The couple had just moved up to Pittsburgh from New Orleans. They told me about how in the city in the summer it gets so hot that the murder rate skyrockets, people shooting people everywhere! And I sit there sipping coffee, imagining little boys running back and forth on a hot street, sweating, laughing, ducking behind dilapidated houses with chipped paint, playing tag with water guns as the murder rate rises.
Some days, I get so angry, I want to punch strangers in the face.
Someday, I will let you know when I’ve done it.
In the winter I took a job in which half the time I work in an office, and the other half I go and visit old people. It always takes me by surprise how strange I constantly feel around peers I work with in an office. In an office, where people always seem to have families and assets and stable lives, I always feel a little too far out to fit in. Its something that you think will go away as you grow and change, but then, it doesn’t. However, at the time, because it was continually becoming colder, I was able to layer myself. By the time January came around, I was so bundled, no one could see the real me. Now that its hot, I have displayed myself nakedly, without saying a word at all. Sometimes, on days when I’m angry, I will steal a ream of printer paper, a roll of toilet paper, instead of punching someone in the face. And it helps.
Old people are nice though, because they affirm that everything you’re doing is okay. They love you no matter what, because you care. And then they tell you to get the hell out, go do something, be young, every day. I visit a 90 year old woman who always treats me kind. She is smart, still has her head. She always gives me this sad smile I don’t quite understand. She tells me she’s one of the lucky ones, tells me her best friend died after five years of chronic pain. She says she doesn’t feel pain like that, but some days are real strange. I ask her what she is able to do for socialization; she tells me she does paperwork most days, trying to figure out how to get by. She says after 90 years its still just as hard to get by. She’s tired a lot, she explains, but sometimes the little neighbor boy will come peep through the window, ask her for candy after school. She leaves it in a dish on a table by the door, and he always there, calling for her, and, she explains, it gives her something to do in the afternoon.
I usually don’t accept when they offer me coffee, but today I accepted, graciously. She says when I’m old there won’t be much left for the world to give. Sometimes I sigh, sometimes I don’t think she’s wrong.
This summer a lot of people have told me I’m crazy for not purchasing a portable AC. Its not that I’m trying to be self righteous, and I am willing to admit sometimes too much heat makes me anxious and aggravated. This week I’ve definitely wanted to punch most people in the face. There are definitely some good reasons for AC. Such as, if I had a baby. Such as, if I decided to stop icing my cats and give them cool air instead. However I don’t think an air conditioner is going to solve how I feel about the world today.
And, I suppose, even if today I’m frustrated, I’m on the whole, very lucky.
Today is just a day for being angry, like some days are a day for singing.
A few days are for laying and while the rest are for frolicking. Most are for remembering, laughing.
Years ago, in this same kind of heat, I recall grandiose, silly week long sleepovers with my girlfriends. In seventh grade, I remember how my best friend at the time would stay in her bedroom the entire summer, and watch MTV all day, spritzing herself every few minutes with a spray bottle of water while laying on her bed in her bathing suit, lipstick and sunglasses on, in front of a fan.