Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Day two hundred and eighty one ... When the dust settles.

The heat is finally on.

Yesterday was the big day when myself and my three neighbors went around and closed all the windows--removing air conditioners, fans, and cat toys--and separately but collectively said goodbye to the warm days of the year.

While there still will be many afternoons when it is pleasant enough to have the windows open, the mornings and the evenings will be such that one, more often than not, will just keep them closed on the off chance that they forget to shut them, and then there will be hell to pay, as my mom used to say.

See, heat is included in our rent due to the fact that there is one boiler for the whole house (four tenants) and to install three more furnaces is not in my landlord's budget. So, once a year, every year, he tells us that he'll come over and turn the heat on but first we have to do the window dance. He comes over periodically over the winter, and if there is an errant open window we hear about it. He has every right, and all I can ever say is that I burned some cookies and forgot to shut it after the smoke cleared.

But the day the boiler gets fired up is always a big day.

That first blast of hot air from the radiators is like the warmth from a fresh-baked apple pie; it's something that signals future pleasure. It means that I can count on sitting around in my jammies watching the snow come down in a month or so. It means that my clothes, which may get wet from the many rainy days we get here, will dry faster than they had in the few weeks prior (evaporation is a fickle process). It means my second-day socks will feel their usual used looseness, however, they will be dry and I can get one more day out of them, not because I must, but because I can. 

But it is certainly a toss-up.

In exchange for creature comforts we give up our fresh air.

We contain our dust.

We begin the long process that is the accumulation of smells and particles which once had the freedom to flit about in and out of our homes willy nilly. The breath that flows from a sigh, or the huffs and puffs following a crying jag may leave the room, but they do not exit the house ... not as fast as they used to anyway. The laughter from a mid-season sitcom sits silent, unnoticed, in front of our faces, held in place by the hot air above and the motion of our limbs and digits below.

Yet we are comfortable.

It feels good to make a roast, and then leave the oven door open when it's done. It feels good to run the shower a few extra minutes before getting in, letting the steam ambush the cold tile and plaster. It feels good to wash the dishes a little longer, ensuring an extra-clean coffee cup with another half gallon of warm--almost too hot--water to rival the temperature of the blood running through our fingers.

And all the heat takes up space in the boxes that we live in.

The dust particles get to know each other, forming bonds and creating whole color schemes of whites and grays on our belongings and structures that we won't notice until we interrupt their reverie and suddenly wish we had just let them be. For now we have to wipe out the whole colony or be constantly reminded that there are undesirables in our midst every time we observe the swath cut through the center of town.

And more often than not we forget how much of that dust comes from us, and as we blow it off of the tip of our finger it takes some new recruits to fight on the ground.

The sounds are stifled as well.

For while now I can hear the refrigerator, the drip of the sink, and the tinnitus in my head, I remember how I once could temper that with the birds or the crickets or the wind.

And looking from another perspective, the crickets and birds who once could temper their own surrounding soundscapes with my coughs and sneezes and laughter now hear clearer the rain falling or the snow dropping off in clumps from a branch quickly snapping back with cold disdain for its untoward oppressor.

And the less I hear, the more I think.

The more I think, the deeper the emotions bore.

The deeper the emotions bore, the heavier I breathe.

The heavier I breath, the more the dust floats frenzied, redundantly.

And each breath gets longer.

And each heavier, longer breath feels less like real air.

And this goes on day in and day out until the winter ends, the snow melts, the birds migrate back home, the leaves return, and the windows can be opened.

And then, with one more mighty breath from below, the pilot light gets blown out.

And we wait for the heat, once again, to come from above ... while we clamor for the air conditioners ... and close the windows ... and enjoy the creature comforts ... and breathe the dust anew.

Thanks for reading.