Sometimes 105-degree heat day after day is the least of it. But for those of you not in Texas, let me tell you what a stretch of 42 days of 105-degree heat is like. Schoolkids baked cookies on an SUV's dashboard this week and it made all the local newscasts. It's been so long since we had rain and it's so unrelentingly hot, one area lake dried up, leaving flat, cracked ground littered by bare tree stumps. No one's allowed to water their lawns anymore. At our place, the west-facing back door swells up so much in the afternoon sizzle, you can't open it from the inside.
The heat also can lead to horrors like this.
On the one afternoon that I spend trying to solar-burn the top layer of facial dermis that contains the crow's feet, I discover after just a few minutes by the pool that the glue on my new Elle magazine's binding has melted, sending all 500-plus pages of fall fashions fluttering to the pavement. That's seriously hot.
So hot the squirrels have roasted nuts. So hot Starbucks is selling freon frappuccinos.
So maybe it was the heat or maybe it's because I've just had it, but nothing seemed to go right all week.
First, the computer crisis, which kickstarted a Mercury-in-retrograde series of personal mini-disasters.
I find coffee stains on the right thigh of my one flattering pair of white jeans.
I look at the schedule for the next few weeks of theater assignments and see that I have to sit through Death of a Salesman AND Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Throw in Waiting for Godot and you'd have the critic's most dreaded trifecta of long, depressing plays.)
The abyss widens.
One of my steady sources of writing income emails to inform me that all freelance fees are being cut 50 percent, but they value my work and hope I'll continue writing for them. Yeah, right.
Two more emails tell me of the deaths of two people I know. One was the TV critic in Memphis, a swell guy with a wicked wit. The other was someone I knew in college. He was most recently a prof in Tennessee. Both died in their 50s after horrible illnesses.
Desperate for escape, I medicate with food and shopping. Having skipped two weeks of Weight Watcher meetings (after 10 straight weeks of weigh-ins and the loss of one roll of hard flab around the midsection), I blow off another and go to the mall. Four skirts. Dressy Chinese Laundry sandals. Buy-three and get-two-free lacy underthings. Four headbands. Everything's a markdown, but still.
Foodwise, bacon and cheese replace leafy salads and 1-point dessert bars. Taquitos, cookies, popcorn, Triscuits. It's carb-crack big-time.
I sit through Little Miss Sunshine trying to get why it won the Sundance awards and find myself dreaming of digging my fists into a barrel of peanut M&Ms, which I usually detest. I don't buy any, but the next night I devour a mountainous plate of hideously oleaginous nachos with my pal Angela as we watch a play at the neighborhood dinner-theater.
Professor Lunch-Guy reappears after a monthlong absence. I pick him up for a lunch date (having been downgraded back to daytime assignations again after one lovely and rather smoochy dinner back in July). He doesn't seem particularly glad to see me, just sort of...bemused. He is eager to show me photos of the dead bodies that he saw on a trip to chronicle genocide sites on the other side of the globe this summer. Lots of dead bodies. Worse than you can imagine.
We're in a restaurant and he's flipping 8-x-10 glossies of corpses at me. I start to cry. He doesn't say, "Oh, is this upsetting you? Let me put these away." He seems instead to be almost sadistic in his insistence that I look at photo after photo--as if it's a test of my moral fortitude.
Lunch is ruined. Who could eat? He can, no prob. And not that I don't need to miss a meal, but golly...have a heart when a girl's going wobbly. Those photos. God in heaven.
Dropping Lunch-Guy back on campus, I feel tears puddling up again. He doesn't notice. I blurt out the news about my two friends who died this week. He's silent. For foreign populations under the rule of brutal dictators, he can express loads of compassion. For me, not so much. He gets out of the car without offering a word about seeing me again anytime soon. He's back in the rhythm of school and he's away most weekends on lecture trips and meetings of various boards and charities.
He does say, "I didn't have a social life before I met you." And I think, "This is a social life?" I have more personal interaction with the nice man who delivers my mail. I know more about the inner thoughts of Amanda and Jeff, the baristas at my favorite Starbucks. And they also seem happier to see me.
Lunch-Guy can be sweet. He has a brilliant mind and a dedication to righting the ills wrought upon humanity. He's got a pretty rockin' bod, too, which I wouldn't mind taking on as a longterm research project. But one-to-one, boy-to-girl, he doesn't grok the relationship thing. After almost a year of...whatever this is...there's little holding us together. That makes me sad but after all the salty snacks I've had this week, I'm too dehydrated to cry.
Yeah, it's 105 outside and our glue is melting.