I’m sitting at the breakfast table in my bra and panties, sipping melted ice water through a straw, pretending it’s iced tea. Casey, sprawled beside me, looks barely alive. If only he realized that if he sat up, he could share the breeze from the fan that is powered by a mix-match of D batteries I pieced together (a no-no, I know), borrowing from lanterns that I also desperately need.
D batteries are in short supply in D.C. after a storm of near-hurricane proportions visited upon the city a dazzling light show as well as downed trees and power lines, leaving powerless nearly half a million homes, including the one Casey and I live in.
With temperatures outdoors reaching 100 hazy degrees, having neither lights nor fridge seem minor inconveniences compared to no air conditioning. Humans adapt; during the blizzard of ’96, I grew to love skiing to the grocery store and receiving no mail became a relief.
But how do you sleep when the air temperature is equal to your body temperature? At the same time the heat makes you too tired to do anything else. It’s what the Chinese call mao dun (literally, spear shield), a contradiction.
I keep checking PEPCO’s (Potomac Electric & Power) status updates on my phone, even though all I really have to do is walk around
the corner, like Casey and I did this morning. Power lines are dangling everywhere.
Last night I stayed at a friend’s house on thousand thread-count sheets in a high-ceilinged room worthy of five stars. While charging my phone, hotspot and laptop from practically 0%, I devoured cable news like it was chocolate mud cake.
Especially odd at home is the quiet. At least 9 months a year I work outdoors on my laptop. Now indoors, I hear no birds chirping. (Might they all have expired from heat exhaustion?) I would even welcome the dreaded leaf blowers to break the eerie silence.
Where will I sleep tonight? The last time I asked myself that question I was 25 and bopping around Europe, enthralled by the mystery.
A good choice for tonight is the home of my friend Caren, who has two huge shedding golden retrievers. That way the shedding Casey could accompany me.
Last night I was going to sleep at my friend Margie’s. After she told me I’d be assigned to the living room, which is open to the kitchen where her 97-year-old parents (who also lost power) would be eating breakfast by daybreak, I reconsidered.
I wonder what it would be like to sleep in my bathtub, filled with water. Sometimes I fall asleep in the tub and then wake with a start as well as a fright that I could have drowned. Could that really happen?
What did folks do in the days of yore? On hot days in the Fifties my sister, brother and I squeezed into our parents’ bedroom that had our only air conditioner; we watched “Queen for a Day” on a Magnavox the size of a PostIt. It’s become a cliché that back then kids’ calendars were not as crowded as those of CEOs.
Last night when I left Casey, the whole house—the whole street—was as black as his eyes. I couldn’t stop thinking about him sweltering in absolute darkness while I slept in air conditioning so powerful I wore a sweater and socks. Are dogs afraid of the dark the way I am?
A friend says it may rain tonight and bring the temperature down into the seventies. That’s when I realized I can sleep on my screen porch. I love sleeping outdoors, but the one time I tried, I was kept awake by my neighbor’s air conditioning, which won’t be whirring tonight. I’m excited for the adventure, which makes me think of the night of the storm.
At the peak of Friday night’s torrents, my youngest daughter Emily and I were chugging home from Philly on a train somewhat past BWI airport. Due to fallen trees on the track, the train had to back up to the airport station, where we dashed for a taxi. At 4 a.m. I arrived home. Emily remarked what an adventure it had been, driving through all the debris on the highway as we shared earphones and listened to a TED program in which a social scientist talked about female orgasms. She was loaded with curious details, like one
It’s a bad transition, but I’m worrying about my homeless writing group and wonder how they are managing. When I think about them I feel powerless to complain.
How are you dealing with the heat?
See also my Life Goes Strong posts:
*30 Cool Tips For How To Keep Cool And Avoid Hot-Weather Insomnia (such as put sheets in the freezer, if your freezer is powered)