Friday, June 16, 2006

The unbearable hotness of being

That week we spent in our house after Katrina. Now that was hot.

No electricity. No running water. No way to cool off. Except dipping washcloths into the melted water from the ice chests. And eventually even that became warm.

During the days, we'd sit outside on one of the porches, trying to catch any little breeze. The days weren't too bad at all.

But the nights... oh the nights were horrible. At night, when it got dark, around 8pm or so, there was not much one could do in the dark but go to sleep. Attempt to sleep, I should say.

Oh sure, we had flashlights, but we wanted to conserve the batteries as we didn't know just how long we'd be trapped by the floodwaters. So we'd turn off the radio and turn out the flashlights and sit in the dark of the house.

At night is when the stillness and the heat settled around you like a wool blanket, so smotheringly hot. And at night is when the deafening quiet of the city was broken by the lonely wails and cries of the trapped dogs and cats in the neighborhood.

When we couldn't bear to hear the cries any longer, ~K~, the Grandmother and I would try to sleep in one of the other bedrooms, away from the open doors and the drifting sounds. I'd lie there fanning us in the still heat until I would nod off and drop the fan and would awake to this cycle over and over and over again.

Sometimes, I'd nod off and wake up thinking it was early morning and the long hot night was behind me only to find that just an hour had passed and I had the rest of the hot, hot night ahead of me still.

I can recall jumping up one evening with the feeling that thousands of ants were biting my body. I grabbed the flashlight, afraid that fire ants were invading our house looking for sanctuary from the floods but it turns out I only had a horrible case of heat rash, the remnants of which were still visible on my arms and chest and back 2 months later.

And I recall actually being grateful for it all, because if I was hot and if I felt pain it meant that I was still alive and had survived the worst of the hurricane. And I promised that if we were rescued, I wouldn't complain about the heat again.

And I mention this only because this morning, at 2:00am, when I awoke in our "new" home to check the thermometer and found that it was still 84 degrees in the living room, I reminded myself of my vow that I wouldn't complain.

So here we sit, day 5 with no a/c and daytime temperatures in the house reaching over 100 degrees, not just in the attic bedrooms but in the lower shaded rooms as well. Waiting for another call from the repairman. Hoping that he is on his way with the necessary parts to repair the unit.

And the other day, after our neighbor loaned us a little window unit to put in our living room, the dog immediately jumped into the nearest chair and put her head to the "cool" breeze, I realized that as much as we were suffering, the dog with all her long hair had it much much worse.

And I thought about all the folks who, with limited incomes, cannot afford to repair, much less even run, air conditioning and suffer through the long hot days and even longer, hotter nights of summer. Year in and year out.

Some of whom may not have the even the means to escape to the mall, or the cool benches of Wallyworld, or even as my big boss offered, an empty office in which to sit and pass the time in "Air Conditioned Comfort."

So, we sit and sweat and try to limit the complaints. However, tonight, I think ~K~ plans to sleep in the bathtub as the porcelain remains wonderfully cool to the touch. I can't say I blame her. And I wouldn't be surprised in the least to find the dog joining her. I only wish I had thought of it first.


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