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Hotter than a match head

June 21, 2012

Remember how I said it was hot yesterday? Well it had nothing on today. I thank God I could walk home from work, because I’m pretty sure I could hear the screams from the pits of Hell as I walked past the entrance to the Herald Square station. I half expected a slimy, claw-like hand to reach up through the steaming subway grates to grab me by the ankles and pull me under. That’s how hot it was.

It was so hot that my office turned off the lights and, eventually the air conditioning. We were all working late because no one wanted to face the weather that waited for us outside the door. At 7 pm, we looked up from our respective computers and realized it was getting warm. That’s one way to get your staff out of the building on a 99 degree day.

When it gets hot in New York, all the women wear dresses to stay cool, but still leave their hair down to look cool. Everyone is in the street at all hours. Every table at every sidewalk cafe is full. In Chelsea, the bars merge with the sidewalk until it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. An elderly couple is trying to carry an enormous air conditioner home in a delicate wire shopping cart. Another elderly couple stops to help while all the twenty-somethings on their phones swarm around them, oblivious.

On the edge of the meat-packing district, dozens of us stop and watch as the blood red sun drops first behind the silhouette of the High Line and then into the river below. Darkness brings no relief. The buildings will echo back the sun’s heat for many hours yet. Tomorrow is trash day and all the garbage is baking in the street. Everything smells of urine and beer and sweat and rotting fruit and the peculiarly bestial odor of the subway. We wonder if we live in a third world country. A third world country where most of the women have paid upwards of $300 for their shoes. A woman in stilettos snaps a picture with her iPhone and nearly topples off the curb.

On my street, a surprising cab actually stops for the stop sign and allows me to cross with neither a honk nor a menacing rev of the engine. Perhaps it is too hot for him too. The waiters in the French sailor’s shirts are dishing ice cream from a cart in front of the restaurant on the corner and talking about the weather. We are all talking about the weather. The door sticks and sticks again, but finally, I am inside, drying my hair over the air conditioner and listening to the unit upstairs drip, drip, dripping on its metal case outside the window. And I seriously consider giving it a hug.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2012 8:43 pm

    The title of your post immediately had my mind jumping to this poem:
    “Paper Matches” by Paulette Jiles
    My aunts washed dishes while the uncles
    squirted each other on the lawn with
    garden hoses. Why are we in here,
    I said, and they are out there.
    That’s the way it is,
    said Aunt Hetty, the shriveled-up one.
    I have the rages that small animals have,
    being small, being animal.
    Written on me was a message,
    “At Your Service” like a book of
    Paper matches. One by one we were
    Taken out and struck.
    We come bearing supper.
    our heads on fire.

  2. Harriet M. Welsch permalink*
    June 21, 2012 9:13 pm

    The line actually comes from this song:
    But I love the poem and did not know of it.

  3. June 22, 2012 5:39 am

    Kent said when he had dinner with friends Wednesday night, they ate on the balcony. He said it wasn’t any cooler, not really, but there was a tiny breeze.

    I could see your NY and bits of my Boston in those descriptions–well except for it being rare that a cab would stop at the stop sign. Boston excels there, the pedestrians really do rule.

    Hang tight, we got cooler weather yesterday and will send it on.

  4. June 22, 2012 7:11 am

    You’re reminding me of the summer of 1995 in Chicago, when I had just a fan.

    BTW, on “Inside the Actors’ Studio” one subject (I forget whom) responded that the occupation or profession he would not like to attempt was hangman. I like this response.

  5. Cranky permalink
    June 22, 2012 8:24 am

    It didn’t seem so bad to me yesterday–today seems a lot worse. But I didn’t spend much time away from the AC.

  6. June 22, 2012 12:25 pm

    Wow, “Hotlanta” hasn’t hit any temperatures even near that!

  7. June 22, 2012 3:09 pm


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