If I were at my office, I’d be complaining about central air. I’d be piling on sweaters, and crossing my ankles to retain heat. At the end of day, I’d breathe in hot air and soak up Vitamin D to lift my frozen mood all the while lamenting that summers are spent cooped up in a frozen alternate world.
Instead I’m home sweating bullets in this summer’s second back-to-back heat wave. Moving as little as possible to generate the least amount of body heat. Retreating to my bedroom throughout the day lamenting this old house lacks central air.
Emma heard the thud, like a gob of silly putty had been dropped. Then she felt it. The silly putty fell onto her left foot. It rolled off. The silly putty that is, except that somehow that gob had tiny legs and a long tail. It scurried out of sight. Clatter ensued. Cutting board kerplunked, artichoke leaves flew, knife narrowly missed her foot, but above all, Emma’s shrill bounced off the kitchen walls. Stay-at-home orders were meant for humans, not rodents, she fumed as she scrubbed every inch of her body in the hottest shower that her body could tolerate.
As a child, her head danced in faraway lands. Lands filled with milk and honey, filtered sounds of mandolins, and the sweet fragrance of jasmines. The exotic lands unfolded in treasured stories and filled her fantasies. Today, she faces a new reality. No need to travel outside your front steps, for the world bands together and faces an unknown terror; a virus that doesn’t distinguish cultures or regions. We suffer the same, whether our streets are filled with colorful vendors, or swaying palm trees, or plain old johnny pumps. The new reality chilled her bones. She ached for new fantasies.
A low rumble roused me from deep sleep. The bed shook then swayed in a rhythmic pattern in sync with the imaginary train that chugged alongside the bed.
Lights flickered. The air conditioner died. Electricity shutdown.
As suddenly as it shook, earth halted and heaved a long sigh.
The bed stopped swaying. The imaginary train dissipated.
My subconscious thought I had dreamt some fantastical experience with runaway trains. Save for the silence that ensued. Night creatures had been stunned into a deafening silence. The only sound in the aftermath were distant waves crashing against the beach. Panic followed.
Heat forces us to shut windows tight blocking the sounds of summer nights, such as my husband’s gentle snore, cats yowling, nightingales’ songs, raccoons rustle, lively music from passing cars, and the distant toot from a crawling train. These sounds reassure me that life goes on as I drift off to sleep. Windows shut, on the other hand, heighten mechanical sounds, such as the rhythmic ceiling fan with blades that dip ever so slightly every 100th spin, or the compressor sucking in stale air and pushing through cooled air. In the artificial silence, unfortunately, my husband’s snores jolt me awake.
A month zipped by with barely a trace of sweat. And now it is August. We pack so much expectation into long summer days by revealing our covered bodies, shielding our hair from the unforgiving humidity, and promising ourselves to maximize every minute. The humidity thickens with each passing day and it rains. Days, evenings. When at work, when at home. Our beach excursions are curtailed, our park plans rained on, and our daily routines continue. Before we know it, summer did not change the behavior we are accustomed to. Another summer slips through our days in a shimmery haze.
Yokahú overlooks El Yunque, a fertile rainforest in la Isla del Encanto with its own climate and ecosystem. Stand atop the 142-story tower and close your eyes. Listen to waterfalls, rare birds, and tree frogs indigenous to the land. Take in the true scent of green. Open your eyes and witness to the north the Atlantic Ocean lapping Luquillo.
Ave Maria, what horrors befell on September 20th? Winds pulled trees from their roots like a giant picking off lint from its shirt. The brave mountains fought back. They battered the ferocious storm, but not without loss. Mangled trees lie everywhere.
It’s the end of July. The sky should be bright blue and the sun shining through the haze formed by rising heat. Yet, clouds swish across the sky pushed by the blowing wind. The tops of surrounding skyscrapers are barely visible through the grayness that shrouds the city. Down below, the streets bustle with the comings and goings of gawking tourists. I wonder if the overwhelming pedestrian and vehicular traffic makes them uneasy. When I travel, I want to spread my arms wide. I want my toes free of pulleys and wheelies that constantly trip passersby in this congested realm.
Birds fly high, crickets chirr, and squirrels continue storing their winter supplies. My naked toes greet the light of day. It matters little that the autumn sun sets earlier for a true Indian summer has enveloped the northeast. Brisk winds greeted October early in the month and frost covered our grounds. But now, the air lacks the chill that cut through thin jackets—holdouts for hardy souls who refused to acknowledge the calendar. I embrace this glorious reprieve, a miracle bestowed on our land. Wiggle toes, wiggle joyously before the ground gets too cold and traps our skin beneath layers.
When days grow longer, so long that the sun barely sets and water flows again, circulatory systems pump anew and all that was hidden surfaces. Pete emerges from his home and assesses winter’s damage. The roof needs repairs, a window or two need replacing, the truck needs new brakes. He schedules part-time jobs—waiting tables, guiding tours, pumping gas. Enough, just enough to make his own repairs, stock up for the long winter, and save the prudent 20 percent. When the days get shorter and tourists leave, he breathes again, at peace that he earned his place in this world.