Don’t ask me why I bought a chai latte. My cheeks were slippery-wet; bangs glued to my forehead.
I regretted buying aluminum-free deodorant because the more I sweated the darker my clothes became. I felt like a salty mood ring.
Walking into the air-conditioned lobby made my clothes tingle against my skin. I was relieved to be indoors, but not yet ready to start working. I needed to collect myself so I stopped at the café downstairs for a drink.
“Is that red your natural color?”
The barista’s question confused me a little because I am a dirty blond. Was she referring to my face?
“Um… Yes?” I replied.
She looked confused at my confusion. I was still confused by her question. Then she handed over my chai latte. What the… Why had I ordered a hot drink on a sweltering day?
It was a little cardboard cup, but it felt like a small bonfire in my hand. Like a signal flare, the sensation of heat jumped to my neck and temples. I was being smothered by an invisible scarf and its matching knit cap.
If my face hadn’t been flushed before, it certainly was now.
My office was five levels up and it looked more vacant than normal. (You might not know this, but Australians with public service jobs get an insane amount of leave. That’s another story though.) Because of the heat wave, the commuter trains were malfunctioning and some obscure road in the NW corner of Sydney was melting.
“It’s 45.1° Celsius,” A woman called out from the cubicle behind me. She sounded like an excited sportscaster.
“Ooh! Now it’s 45.2°- good thing I left my cat inside.”
When I began trudging home around 3pm it had reached 45.8° near Observatory Hill, a half degree hotter than the previous record set on January 14, 1939.
People were walking the streets in their bathing suits and pouring water bottles over their kids. Cafes were closed and the truffles from my favorite chocolate shop were sweating inside their glass display case.
At home, the foyer and kitchen had a catacomb-like coolness. On the other hand, as I climbed the stairs to my room the stratum of hot air was tangible. Halfway up my head throbbed in an arid desert while my feet relaxed in a shaded forest.
One of the reasons Barret and I had picked our Glebe house was the roof. It was covered with metal and charmingly foreign (at least to us). We hadn’t wanted to live in something identical to what we left in the US and although it was a minor dissimilarity, it made a surprising difference.
Soon after we moved in we heard screeching from the eucalyptus tree in our front yard. The sounds were always followed by a downpour of small brown gum nuts pinging against the roof.
“Barret,” I whispered from my side of the bed, “what is that?”
“I don’t know, it sounds like little Airsoft BBs,” Barret murmured half-asleep.
“And the screeching?”
We both agreed it was possums, but we were wrong. It was giant bats.
Not only did the roof amplify the sound of falling gum nuts and small citrus-colored berries, it contributed to the stifling heat during the hottest day on record.
I switched on the fan but it just agitated the breathless air. I tried to relax on my couch but the cushions had a prickly warmth to them. Not even a cold shower felt refreshing for long.
Then, as sudden as this sentence, the heat wave was gone.