Sunday, December 8, 2013
One the Edge
By J.P. Devine
It’s 8 a.m. and it’s 80 degrees.
She, who is officially retired, is running around the house now as she does early each morning in this heat wave, dealing with the windows. This seems to be a thing she learned from her mother early on.
She shuts those against the sun and keeps open those where there is the faintest promise of a breeze left over from the night.
The sun still pours in, but she assures me that the heat of it is trapped on the other side. How does she know this? She knows so many things, little tricks on how to keep cool, when to do the laundry and when not to. Truth is, she has many tricks that do not work, but I don’t tell her that because if she gets mad, she has tricks that hurt.
When she was teaching, she was gone on late August and early September days. She left instructions written on little pastel Post-it notes around the house: “Do this, don’t do that; close this, open that; feed Jack, uncover the bird, water the plants.”
I’ve collected those little notes over the years, and I hoped to read them aloud at her wake if she went first. But since she’s retired, she has more energy, she looks healthier, younger and cuter. She’s getting looks on the avenue that I used to get. I should get her a burka.
So each morning as I look in the mirror, it seems more and more likely that I will be first to go. I once had a dream that she would go first, and that days later I would start finding these little post-it notes again, fresh, newly written ones.
Should I send this idea to Stephen King?
It’s 11 a.m. and it’s getting hotter now. I guess the sun’s heat is trapped out there, but it still pours in.
We don’t have drapes. I never liked them. They were important in the city where apartment windows faced one another and were often barred like cages in a zoo. You and the neighbor were like tigers staring at one another. I ignored them at first, but then a model moved in across the corridor, and suddenly we had drapes.
In New York, no matter how nice a building you live in, someone else has a nicer building and you have a nice view of it. Even in Beverly Hills, most of those trillion-dollar homes are plopped down right next to one another. Did you know that Glenn Ford’s kitchen once looked right into Rita Hayworth’s?
It’s OK. They were devoted friends. True story.
Here, where we pay enormous amounts of property taxes for all of this greenery, I don’t want drapes. I want to see it all, even the weeds. I own those weeds.
It’s noon, and my L.L. Bean thermometer with the loons on it says it’s 90. That’s hot, but it’s New England hot. It’s where Franklin Delano Roosevelt came in the summer because New York had killer heat.
Emily Dickinson lived in New England in those big bulky, heavy dresses she wore. She probably had drapes though, and I’ll bet she shut the right windows.
I’ve known hot. I grew up in St. Louis and Chicago, where summers are so hot the Mississippi would dry up, and the gangsters always went to fish in Seattle. I went to school briefly in Louisiana and trained in Texas, where it’s 99 at 3 in the morning. That’s Africa hot.
Last night, after she had me open all the right windows to let in the evening breeze, I thought I should write a column about all the terrible and wonderful things that happened to me on terrible hot days. It turned out that all of the wonderful things happened in the winter — except for one.
I learned to swim at age 50 on one the hottest Hollywood days on record, by accident. I dropped two olives from a martini in my neighbor’s pool, and when I went to get them out, I fell in. True story. If you have never dog paddled in a seersucker suit, you’ve not lived.
Listen to this: I just went to the fridge to get a glass of water. There was a Post-it note on the juice. “It’s running low, can you get some today?”
J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer