Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Rhythm of the Heat

A gold star to anyone who can name the musical influence for this entry's title.

The real heat of the summer has engulfed us. 80-degree heat for a string of days now. The city where I work seems molten in the heat. The pavement is hot, the people sit on stoops and fire-escapes to escape their oven-like apartments. Men squat at the bases of trees in the park and play dominos at card-tables on the shady sidewalks---memories of Jamaica and the aggressive "thwack!" of the dominos as they're put into play amid laughter and yells of appreciation or mumbles of defeat. Children splash in the small sprinkler areas set up in the city parks, running from one sprinkler to the next as the timer sends the children in search of the next erupting geyser of cold fun. Laughter.

Evenings, I come home, pack the dogs in the car, and drive five minutes to the local swimming hole. Some days it's just too hot to walk the dogs all the way there up the sweltering road, even at 6pm. Instead we walk through the conservation land or even drive a few extra minutes to the trail head just above the creek near the baseball diamond where kids play dusty games, parents gathered together on folding chairs or on the grass. The smart ones take their younger children down to the creek for a dip while the older kids sweat it out on the field.

Today was no different---ran off to the creek with two beers in a small cooler, meeting Mary for an after-work dip in the cool water. Some young men from Trinidad poke around in the sand, talking and laughing. The horseflies hound us for a landing place.

Now, after a light dinner, the hammock and the laptop are the current state of being, lawnmowers growling in the distance. If I had a lawn to speak of I'd buy a goat to trim it. Or maybe a llama.

We prepare for heat-related calls at work: dehydration, asthma, summer colds, sunburns. People on AIDS meds and other treatments can be very photosensitive (susceptible to sunburn). As colleagues go on vacation, we cover for one another and our individual volume of calls can be high if a few people are absent from the office. Home visits can be challenging: apartments with no air conditioning, a puny fan, fourth floor walk-up, little circulation. A good time of year to ask patients to come see me at the office instead. Sweat equity is the order of the season. Even as some leave for distant beaches, others languish in the inner city, hoping for a cool breeze, dreaming of actually having the luxury of a trip to the beach or an air conditioner.

This is the rhythm of the heat, and I embrace it.
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