Stage directions: Early April. Temperature outside the workplace claws its brutal way to 96 degrees, the highest recorded temperature in the United States for the day. No, this is not Death Valley…or is it. I am at a loss. The sun beats down with relentless fury, portending bleak times ahead for the mad captain of this ship.
I. When the heat descends, the city upends. Delirium sets in within hours. Citizens spill out into the streets in a jumble of hot bodies and rude noise. The secrets of indoors suddenly become the public spectacles of outdoors. Sidewalks strewn with condoms. Arguments on front stoops. Dogs shuffle with constant tongues hanging. The pavement shimmers. Desperation spreads like smallpox, every sun-bleached surface contaminated. Crime soars. Murderous intent quickens. We are all immersed in the cacophony.
II. Morning, I ride the white-pink gauntlet of Calvert, the cherry trees having all plotted the night before to explode in a synchronous burst of clotted blossoms, their rich fragrance drenching the air. Evening, opposite direction, strong winds shower me in white-pink snow, the pavement scattered for a moment with spring’s transient joy.
III. The suddenness of everyone outside alarms me. Days before, winter still proffered its shield. Now inside is hot and none of us want to be there, though the basement calls to me with its cool concrete floor. How I wish to lay my fevered face against its chilled surface.
IV. At night, strange explosions reverberate in the thick air, like automatic gunfire or heat thunder, ricocheting from east to west and back. I pause in the glow of the sodium lamp, my skin bathed orange. Abort mission, return to home base.
V. Morning breaks open the day like a grey egg. And once again there is nothing to fear.