Hotter than a match head
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.