October 23, 2015

Heatwave scene from Do the Right Thing, 1989

The humidity is dense and impenetrable. A moist blistering force undermines this city’s spirit.

On the street, people struggle to stay conscious in this staggering fire of late August. Like a city trapped in a huge plastic bag, even breathing becomes an effort. A warm stickiness seeps into all things. The granite stones begin to sweat. Yes, even the cobblestones begin to bleed the perspiration of summer. Late 80’s, my first New York City summer.

Heat and humidity give all things weight. All things are immobilized by the oppressive hand of some invisible senseless burden. A scene of slow-motion where the actors have been dipped in molasses, I watch and wonder why time ticks so slowly, if it is ticking at all. I throw my kitchen clock against the wall, scattering all its precious pieces across the floor of my apartment. This way, I ease the frustration of watching real time being challenged by this laggard timelessness of summer.

Central Park in August, New York, New York (photo by
Central Park in August, New York, New York (photo from

All windows open, I let some merciful breeze blow through, hoping to find relief. No use. Things inside my studio, like the city outside, start to sweat. My white walls, my chairs, my piano, my toaster, as well as my imagination and my ambitions—these things sweat too.

In this afternoon scorch of summer, warm thunderstorms attack out of nowhere, as if the sky accidentally spilled a God-sized bucket of water on this town.

With heavy downpours, the rains hammer hard. Sky goes blue to white, from gray to black. 2 PM and pitch black skies. A crack of lightning, a crash of thunder, and a city that was dry only moments ago, is now immersed in Mother Nature’s tears—each tear the size of a swimming pool.

Thunderstorm, Midtown Manhattan, New York (Photo by Adrees Latif)
Thunderstorm, Midtown Manhattan, New York (photo by Adrees Latif)

Manhattan appears to sink. The inhabitants of the summer streets scurry for shelter, hiding as if this rain will burn their souls. Some courageous city dwellers stand their ground exclaiming that it is “just water.” No need for the Ark yet. These brave ones grip their drenched stances while watching a city wash away—one thin layer of stone at a time. Rain thrashes a city sore, as lightning blinds my eyes, as thunder echoes deep in the empty chasms of my mind.

No epic scene of Moses will part the waters for salvation. Are the waters a small token of apocalyptic purging? The world here is being justifiably cleansed.

Then. Silence.

Summer haze, New York, New York (photo by Kaylin Pound)
Summer haze, New York, New York (photo by Kaylin Pound)

All the Olympic rains end. In a flicker of an eyelash, the floods stop. The lighting flashes no more. And the thunder seems to have never existed, its echo reverberating no longer in my head.

It takes mere seconds for the August heat wave to dry the surfaces of New York. And all is still as before.

Whereas moments ago, people fled the thunderstorms that threatened to sweep all existence to sea, these same people now choose not the move at all. They fear the slightest physical movement will bring discomfort in this hellish humidity. As they ran desperately from the rains, they now hide like cowards from their own sweat.

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