It’s in the mid 90s on a Friday afternoon and the bus arrives not a minute too soon. With AC it’s cool inside. Most passengers dress minimally: cutoffs, skirts, sandals, sun hats and lipstick. Others (men) wear long pants and sleeves – one has on a fleece pullover for some godforsaken reason.
The heat makes me more cantankerous. Judgmental. Impatient. Sentences become more exhausting to write. I think of short words. Pithy comments. Popsicles.
In brown lots along the road weeds are wilting in the heat, taking the day off from growing. A lone crow perches on the grass in the shade of a tree. Motionless. At the next stop, a guy in a dress pullover steps aboard with a little dog. They had to run half a block to catch the bus and the short-legged schnauzer is panting hard, his tongue rolling in and out like a paper party whistle.
Walking west on Columbia Blvd, vehicles of all sizes blast by at 50 mph – raising heat waves from the pavement that hit me flush in the face. Bright sunlight reflects off chrome and windshields making me squint.
At Woodlawn Park, a couple with two young girls in dresses unload sacks of groceries in the shade of a big tree. It’s a birthday party. They have soda, ice, hotdogs, chips, side dishes, cake and, most important, water balloons – which almost makes me stick around.
But what I really want is to get into the water fountain where kids are getting soaked. I wish to be soaked as well. Fully, blissfully drenched. But I am older now. And I have promises to keep and more stops to make.
Farther down the line, Geoffrey and I get off the bus in front of Slim’s, a bar that beckons us inside. It’s a dark cave with a few souls sipping drinks and talking softly. Nobody moves too fast. After a cold brew, we climb off our bar stools and venture back out into the blast furnace.
Down the street Geoffrey and I duck into Vinyl Resting Place. We talk with Toby, the store owner, about the weather and what people are listening to these days. I ask what music he considers “hot.” Without missing a beat he says, “Louis Armstrong.” Cool choice.