As I write this, my mind stumbles and lurches, bashing its toes against bumpy thoughts.
After days of heat so intense you feel your skin sizzle as soon as you step outside, and day after day the sky looks like hammered steel, last night it finally rained.
Today we are restored. The sky this evening is china blue. Long gold stripes of sunlight alternate with deep blue-green shadows across the lawns in nostalgic evocation of the perfect long summer evening.
The huge pots of salmon and blood red impatiens have recovered from the pale cringing of heat exhaustion. They sing out scintillating color in the deepening twilight.
I’m tempted to eat supper out on the patio. Mistake. Not-horribly-hot does not mean cool or even pleasantly warm. In less than forty-five seconds I have picked up my plate from the black wrought iron table and returned to the shelter of air-conditioning.
When I was a kid, the only places that had central air conditioning were department stores and rich people’s houses. I lived in neither. We had window fans, floor fans, attic fans, circulating fans. At church, we had paper fans on sticks, printed with pious scenes in idyllic colors on one side and funeral home advertising on the other. They were effective only on the face. Sweat pooled underneath your legs. Then they stuck to the slick polished walnut pews and made rude sucking sounds if you squirmed.
The very best fans were the lazy black ceiling fans that twirled the thick Coke-syrup scented air in the drug store. The sensory impression wasn’t coolth, precisely, but something sensual and rich, substantial and deeply pleasuring.
I heard a commercial the other day for a new-fangled fan. It explained that the problem with the old-fangled fans was that they had blades, and the blades chopped the air (I am not kidding—that’s what it said!) and worst of all, chopped air made buffets. Yes, buffet, that was the word.
Frankly, I can’t imagine what air from this new contraption feels like. With nothing chopping the air into manageable pieces, I imagine it makes something like those “straight-line winds”—you know, that blow like hell for about three minutes and down hundred-year-old trees and the weather service swears is not a tornado.
Can you imagine air that just pushes at you, absolutely steady without the tiniest deviation or let up? Me, I’ve never noticed that chopping the air does it any harm, and as for buffets—I kind of like them.
I run the ceiling fan in my bedroom winter and summer. Seconds after I turn it on the air stirs steadily without the feeling of being blown upon, and yet there are the odd little pats of wind, soft clumps of atmosphere to playfully bat at you, random yet predictable. Buffets.
My dictionary says buffet (second meaning) verb: strike violently. My fan does baby buffets.
Maybe whatever is responsible for keeping my thoughts stirred today is chopping them—instead of moving them in a straight line—and producing buffets.