It takes me time to do things. The trip to the store, up the wide hot street takes longer than it normally would in this weather. This damn weather. “Can’t complain,” they say in the lineups. I look at them and think, “I CAN complain.” I can complain as much as I bloody want to complain. In fact I can stand on the street corner and curse about the heat at the top of my lungs if I so choose. I can do any of it. And I don’t make false comparisons like “oh, it could be worse. It could be winter.” I fucking complain in winter too. In fact, I “LIKE” to complain. It’s the only thing worth living for.
It burns up through the soles of my sandals as I wander along; the pavement. The sun is so bright it hurts to see even through sunglasses. Assorted people cluster in and out of view, dressed in some outrageously silly things—skirts of lace and leather, shorts that ride up and show dangling private things, tattoos that have seen better days fading and stretching on plump arms. A man compliments me on my dress but it is not a dress. He wants some change. He has figured out that flattery must work on old women. I don’t give him any change. I tell him it is not a dress and give him the once over. He is short and quite thick in the manner of a thick man with a thick neck and a thick intellect. I do not pity him. He is an accident of birth. His parents did not want him to grow up to beg for change on hot street corners near the improvised spittoon. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they did. Maybe they thought it would be better to be a thick man on hot pavement than a thick man working for low pay in a warehouse making money for some rich guy. Maybe they are proud of him. In the manner of thick men with thick intellects, he is not ashamed. He is only marking time picking marks. I was not his mark today.
About half-way there to the store is a bench. I find it with some relief but a strange arrogant woman, thin as rich in violet lace is adjusting her shoe, taking the entire bench. I ask her politely for some space and she ignores me. So I sit down anyway, a deeply uncomfortably close. She moves over saying nothing. The body movement of an invertebrate reacting to stimulus. I don’t know if she is human. I don’t care. I watch an old woman in her wheelchair puttering towards us. I think she’s going to run over the young girl there with long lashes and blond ringlets but she zips around her. The light changes and the young girl and the old woman cross the street. The old woman won. I think she smiled.
A man is walking his beagle. The dog is panting and anxious. It doesn’t investigate anything, just worried about getting there. Wherever “there” is. His owner is on his cellphone. Did it matter to the dog that the owner was even there? He did not reach down and touch the hot fur of his head. It mattered only to the dog because it was chained to him. It mattered only to the dog because maybe there would be an end to this hot pavement, this sun relentless, this traffic noise, this cacophony of scent. It mattered there would be water somewhere soon. Maybe not. How could it know? It could not.
In the store the air-conditioning smacks into me. I react immediately, as I do to the cold, breaking out into hives. I can feel the flush on my face, the red splotches on my arms. I have long since given up worrying what others think. So I’m strange. I have a strange allergy. I am here. I am human. I look at the watermelons and wonder how I might carry such a thing home in my cart. If I dropped it, would it boil like an egg on the sidewalk? I walk past the watermelons to look for berries. I can’t find a single kind made in Canada. I wonder at the foreign hands picking berries for my pleasure. The cramped backs hunched in fields. In the hot sun. Dreaming of begging for change in rich countries maybe. I don’t know. I buy the raspberries. The cucumbers are on sale. Three for the price of two or one for the price of three or five for seven dollars. I don’t care. I pick two.
There’s a woman looking at the bread. Her cart blocks everyone. She can’t decide. We begin to line up waiting for her as she fondles the raisin bread. I finally go over and move her cart to the side. She doesn’t even look up. I think I hate her. I just do. I don’t know why. A well-dressed man in a hurry gives me a look to thank me. Coward, I think. I’m feeling slightly dizzy with the cold reaction. I want to find a place to sit. There is none. So I wander the aisles looking for HP Sauce. There is none.
It’s a line-up from hell. In front of me a woman and her husband and daughter are buying seven things. They are in the wrong line-up for seven things. I want to point it out but then I think what would Socrates say? Would he wonder about anything at all in this world? He would not. This world is not for those who wonder. The daughter wants to buy a chocolate bar. Her father gives her a stern look so she puts it back.
I buy my coffee and my cucumbers and some cranberry juice and 9 other things. I buy the chocolate bar the girl wanted to buy. They are standing near the cash arguing about something so I wink at her and give her the chocolate bar secretly. It amused me to do so. She looks stunned but does not give it back. She quickly stuffs it into her pocket and pretends to ignore me. I will never see her again. None of it matters. None of these people matter. At least not beyond the small moment.
I have to cart my cart home. I hate that. The wall of heat follows me home. I have had enough today. I just want a cranberry juice. I want a fan to catch a breeze from the sky and lift me to cool light and silence. But I turn on Netflix and watch a movie about a man who did something and then the end. Sometimes the movies are about women who did something or groups of people who did something. They always end.
In the middle of the night I wake up in a panic. I wonder if the girl was a diabetic. I can’t sleep after that. At least it’s cooler. The sounds of sirens are less pervasive. I can almost hear the rustle of leaves but that is imaginary. There is no breeze. It is still stagnant with the hot night.