Last night I sat in the torrid heat, a breezeless scorcher of a day, the apartment like an efficient oven, all glass windows, few of them operable, nearing 100 degrees. My eyes were dried out and kept crossing. I was on my third gallon of ice water. In an attempt at creating airflow, the front door was propped open with the wrought-iron fireplace screen, keeping the cats from scampering out into the street. But it was too hot for scampering — they sniffed at the doorway distractedly and then collapsed in little steaming piles of fur on the hardwood floor. Meanwhile, the same gorgeous western view that afforded me sprawling mountain and Sound sunsets was presently baking the inhabitants of 11th Ave West with an unrelenting, unfiltered disaster of ultraviolet rays.
The air-conditioned movie theatre seemed like a logical solution for the remaining two hours until sunset.
I will graciously concede that the Northeastern summers trump our mild Pacific seasoning a million times over. New England city summerheat often serves up an opaque overcast blaze of sun with a side of fat, hazy humidity. Ours is the cloudless, bluesky, no-humidity type of heat — rarely, if ever, approaching the mid-nineties. But just as Seattle grinds to a halt with a meager inch of powdery snow, this city is ill-equipped to deal with weather at the other extreme of the mercury. Nothing is air conditioned. (Most doors and windows don’t even have screens.) And three summers removed from the swamp of Boston Julys, I’ve been spoiled. I’ve simply lost my ability to tolerate temperatures outside of our normal, year-round 45° – 75° climate. I also do not have *any* warm weather clothes, which is another topic altogether.
Back east, the Somerville Theatre was my nightly refuge from the aforementioned heat and humidity. Just steps from the (air-conditioned) subway, and the movies were $4. I hit the movies almost every evening on my way home from work. It’s an independent theater so they had off-beat films, too — foreign, indie, re-runs of old old movies (Casablanca) and kind-of old movies (Edward Scissorhands). And by the time the movie drew to a close, the heat was likewise winding down.
I embraced the turmoil of the angry sky threatening early-evening thunderstorms on my way home — walking up College Ave., turning the corner on Broadway to find Bee standing on the front porch excitedly staring at the sky, the humidity raising the curls off his head like ecstatic noodles, calling to me that it smelled like rain. We’d smoke cloves and watch the storm roll in, protected from the errant electricity by the weathered wooden porch, roof sagging above us, paint peeling wildly in the wind.
My favorite summer night walk though was home from Harvard Sq. Yesterday I thought of Au Bon Pain in Harvard Sq. and my heart ached. Real, palpable pain, like a lost limb. Iced coffee under the trees, old men playing chess, music from the buskers sprinkled in the air. Walkman packed with inspiration, the narrow crooked brick streets, flowers pushing up through the sidewalk. Dreaming all the way to Porter, past the mural on the back of Star Market, along the Victorian houses in Crayola colors – magenta and sunflower and aquamarine. Irish fiddle tumbling out the open door of the Burren. And the Someday Cafe. My home away from home.
There was something sweet about the heat in Somerville. Or maybe it’s who I was then. A girl who was a little more wide-eyed, a little less cynical. Overspilling with gratitude. So alive. That’s one feeling I can’t seem to shake — that I’ve forgotten some truth I once understood. The intensity of being so alive that the lightning streaking through the summer sky felt like kin. The storms and sunshine and hot cement and steamy sweat was undeniable. Right there, at the surface, life — stinging my skin like a sunburn and singing with the gravity of Being. Alive.