In Brooklyn, sweat. And rain. At first, just heat lightning flaring between clouds. Flashes wrinkling through the undulating branches of the tree against the window. Anette and I sit on the couch drinking red wine out of real wine glasses for once. The fan makes the sweat prickle on our skin. On the stove, eggplant simmers with cut tomatoes, garlic, onion, chorizo, basil, oregano. I am insane to have even lit the stove, to want more heat in the apartment without air conditioning. My shirt is damp and stuck to my skin, sweat mats my hair across my forehead, mascara dripping on my cheekbones. Still, I can’t help but hold my face over the steam and scoop up a bite of tomato and eggplant, soft with hints of wine, balsamic, and sugar.
This has been a long month. The stultifying heat of July reaches record highs, the heat smothers my brain. I don’t write. Instead I lie on the floor and watch Nip/Tuck, my laptop propped on my legs, drinking water to quench some insatiable thirst. My throat still dry. I make involved to do lists I can’t begin to address, call landlords, pay bills, paint my toenails. I lose myself in this heat.
I feel it here, I say, and sweep my hand across my collarbones. My stress, like a prolonged caress, an ache of inactivity, of stuff.
Let’s take a walk and buy another bottle of wine, Anette says. We hope the air is cooler outside. The sky flashes. It’s just heat lighting. It’s fine, it’s fine, my heart beats. I am so afraid of lighting. Outside the breeze is like a bigger fan, but the air is already wet. By the time we get to the edge of the building, thunder grumbles loudly, close. Just to the bodega on the corner, Anette says, but already I’m turning back, I can’t, I can’t, I reach for her hand to make her turn around with me, but I grope air. She says, It’s just to the corner, there. She’s right, I’m being ridiculous, but we walk fast. Inside the bodega, a roll of thunder smashes over us, car alarms set off by the vibrations siren along the street. The newest batch of subway riders quickly marches around the corner; they are afraid. I don’t want to be outside. We can wait it out, Anette says, but I don’t want to be in the bodega either. We have to run, I have to run. I sprint out the door, fat raindrops staining my shirt, mixing with sweat, each thunderclap and my feet fly faster. I feel light, I almost want to keep running. With the wind against my wet face, I am cool, finally. Cool, light, mobile. At the door, I duck inside. I pant. The rain has become solid. Anette was right behind me. I didn’t notice.
The apartment is still hot. I boil noodles, pour another glass of wine, slow my breathing down. It’s still storming outside, so I unplug the lights, burn candles. The muggy indoor air perfumed with onions and garlic sautéed in oil smothers the outdoor smell of electricity and rain. Eggplant is perfect – astringent flavor subdued by salt and oil into suppleness. I feel a little like eggplant myself; stubborn, awkward, incomplete, in need of both a push and a gentle hand.
Before the rain, the thunder, the running, I had thought I wanted to be alone, to think about sadness and heat, but it is nicer still to feel loved, to sit with a friend and talk quietly together about joy and trouble. Wine and rain. We set out plates, sit down to eat. I toast to thunder. She toasts to sweat.