On the hottest day of the year, the skirt of my red dress flutters against my thighs in the breeze manufactured by the fan. I’ve already thrown every window open, and shoved boxes against all the doors to keep them from closing on what little air presses through the apartment. I don’t sit, because the chair holds too much heat against the back of my legs. I’m wearing that little red dress because it’s the only thing in my closet that I can put on and forget that I’m wearing, all light fabric and short skirt that doesn’t know how to cling.
I shut my eyes and I bathe in the air off the fan, and I listen to the kids playing down the street, echoed and faint under the machine hum just beneath my window. There’s a bird somewhere who likes the heavy sunlight well enough. There’s a sigh and rustle that might be a bold breeze, if I can believe that there is such a thing on a day like this.
I know that it’s hot enough, and in a moment I’m going to close all the windows and turn off the fan, but I’m not quite ready yet. I’m not going to like the hug of the hot, dense air, and it’s going to get too tight when I decide it’s time to use it. I decide, without deciding, that I’ll stay as I am for a moment longer.
One moment passes.
And I’m sighing at myself. Because it’s the hottest day of the year – the only day I can be sure that I will get this to work – and I’m wasting it.
I lean over the fan for a long minute before I turn it off. The cool air runs through my dress, touches my chest and arms and legs and pushes my hair back from my face, then disappears and the noises from outside seem loud and clear.
I hesitate at every window, then slide them shut with a thunk. I wander back through the apartment, closing every door. Steadily, I box myself in, and the air gets quieter and thicker and leans against me until I’m sweating.
I can feel this air, every inch of it forgetting to be light and soft and ignorable. It remembers that I’m a thing that needs to breathe and lets me pull it in and out of my lungs as I want, but it’s thick in the back of my throat. I shut my eyes again and stand still, because now it is too hot to move. I go still, and the air stills with me. It feels disturbed, as if it knows that I shouldn’t be noticing it, and it leans in closer to get a good look at my face.
It hugs me tight. Then too tight. And if I make a fist, I’m wrapping my fingers around something other than nothing. Something like silk that is almost hot enough to melt over my fingers. I grip it tight, and I yank, and I hear it tear.
There’s a flood of cooler air. I gasp it in, and breathe it out as a laugh. Leaning into it, I fall and twist through it before I open my eyes. I have to sidestep awkwardly to keep from falling over, and I raise my hands for balance, grinning.
Eva is staring at me with her files held in one arm, the silver and white glass building gleaming in the cool daylight behind her. The white cement under my feet reflects the sunlight, and I have to blink a little after the dimness of my apartment.
“Most people don’t cross dimensions looking like they just hopped off a roller-coaster,” she tells me.
I want to make some excuse for myself, but I don’t have one to give. Honestly, I’m giddy to be out of the heat. She’s already told me that she thinks I’m singular in all of existence: a being that hates the heat so much that it taught itself to tear through it. Still smiling like a madwoman, I shrug.
Eva blinks. “Most people throw up when they come through.”
I laugh again. “So they do look like they just got off a roller-coaster.”
She rolls her eyes at me, but she’s smiling too. Turning on her heel, she starts walking down the street, fast, and I have to hurry not to lose her. “I have a lot of things to show you,” she tells me. “And why do you always look so cute when you come through?”