I remember reading "L’Etranger" for the first time when I was in 10th grade. I remember straining to think of the heat and the glare of the sun that would be cruel enough to drive a man to kill as I sat atop the monkey bars of a nearby playground, enveloped in fog, with the Pacific ocean unfurling below the skirt of a steep hill.
"Heat like that cannot exist, and this book sucks." I must have thought that more than once.
Heat like that does exist. And the book? I’m still not sure about it.
"One hundred and two degrees Fahrenheit," declared the (possibly) very austere and scientifically calibrated little gauge sitting over at Reagan National Airport at 12:05 pm yesterday.
"One hundred and five degrees," exaggerated Smedley, the Land Rover, as Herr Meow and I made our way home from our friends’ house past three o’clock.
"One hundred and five degrees, "agreed our home weather station, even after clouds came to the rescue and shielded us from the ire of the sun sometime around three-thirty.
"One hundred and eleven degrees," grumbles the grey print on the back of the Metro section this morning, wanting to point out that the apparent temperature of yesterday was even worse than we all thought.
Any way you look at it, it was the kind of stale and solid heat that threatens our very essence and humanness; and specifically it’s the kind of unrelenting humid heat that can drive people to rage, to insanity, and to the depths of despair. It’s the kind of heat that could drive you to kill a man– and, once dead, it could drive you to put four more bullets in the lifeless body, just because.
Hmm… perhaps not, but you get my drift.
For some reason, when I read this morning’s cover story on the record-breaking heat on the Post, I started to cry.
It was a combination of the sad beauty of the hazy photograph; the accounts of the things that happened during the last record-breaking heat wave in 1930; the fear that this particular record-breaking heat could mean that The End is Near; and that yesterday had parts that not were very pleasant and it was a day where you could see the heat conspiring to make things hard and uncomfortable.
In a way, picking up the newspaper this morning and seeing that picture of a city being strangled by the atmosphere was a signal– a green light from the universe to mourn and to feel deeply. It was a confirmation that no matter how good your intentions may be, some days the deck is stacked and even if you try to pull on your most convincing poker face you will still lose, and it’s okay to feel sad and defrauded and powerless because you are.
One hundred and two degrees is another way of saying that while life is always beyond our control, some days it likes to make sure we know it from the start.