Here it is April the tenth, 2011, and it already feels like Summer. Actually ninety degrees is a welcome relief when August comes knocking, and she will but it was ninety today for the first time this year and I proclaim it the first day of Summer therefore. The heat brings the humidity with Her, like someone who has talked you into letting them stay in your spare bedroom to get out of an abusive relationship and the next day the boyfriend moves in while you’re at work. Because there are babies, stickiness, sweat, and exhaustion, you’re just too tired to argue with it and those who think the stay will only be three months clearly have no dealings with abusive relationships or Sothern Summers. A month will pass and it will get worse. Two months will go by and you swear t will never end. The fourth of July will seem like some sort of celebration of Purgatory. August will be a guided tour of Hell. September will be a false Prophet and only October will bring real relief. One hundred and seventy three days lie between us and the end of Summer.
Mostly we have to put up with those Winged Heralds Of Summer which would be gnats. Mosquitoes are bad enough, and they are not, contrary to rumor and what most people around here might tell you, The Georgia State Bird. But gnats! They are one tenth the size of a housefly, and for reasons no one can explain, they swarm by the thousands around human faces, particularly the mouth, eyes, nose, and ears. Foreigners swat at them and the indigenous people just spit them back out. If you are stoic enough, or just too damn hot and tired to care, you can actually get used to the idea of letting them crawl around in your nose and eyes and never try to rub them out. They’ll leave on their own soon enough, in a hundred seventy days or so.
Then there are the fireants. Some people believe that when fireants are killed they come back as gnats to torment those who killed them. Were that true I would have a cloud of gnats hovering over me….wait, I do. Wow. The South can provide you with proof of the afterlife, or Hell in this one depending on how poorly you handle the heat. But fireants are demonic little bastards. They crawl upon their victim by the thousands then all sting in unison once a chemical agent is released and they just keep stinging until they are dead. In the South, more people are killed by fireants each year than venomous reptiles have killed in the last one hundred years.
What’s more each new day will be a carbon copy of the day before and if for some reason all the calendars went missing, you’d never be able to tell one day from the next. Hot. Sticky. Long. And the nights? Hot. Sticky. And not as long. The sun comes up, She stays up, the mercury rises, and stays up, and there is no sense in talking about it past the eleventh of July because at that point you’re barely half way through it all. The nights are worse because even in the longest part of the night you can feel the heat of the day that has soaked into the earth raising out of it. Pavement leeches heat back into the air. Buildings radiate it. And it seems like even the rain just came out of a hot tub. Afternoon rains, when they do come, and they do frequently, leave the air heavy with moisture that turns into a omnipresent fog in the air. The heat stays and makes it worse. There is no cooling effect unless you get soaking wet and then crawl inside of an icemaker.
The heat makes people bitchy. One month of it turns into two months of it turns into three months of it, and by the end of July people are sick to death of being hot all the damn time, and days are creeping by. The heat wears people out, weakens them, drains them when they try to work, stifles them if they try to rest, and sweat leaks out of the human body as if someone had but the ocean and it was bleeding. Gnats, mosquitoes, fire ants, heat, humidity and it never ends. Gnats, mosquitoes, fire ants, heat, humidity and it never ends. Gnats, mosquitoes, fire ants, heat, humidity and it never ends. By the end of August there seems like there might be an end to it, but the first part of September is also Summer, and there is no hope given there.
Yet Southerners venture forth, as always. Old men plants gardens, old women hang the clothes out to dry, and those of us not raised inside with an air conditioner dare the Summer to kill us. There is green beauty in all of this, the near tropical explosion of life outside in the midst of all this. Southern Summer is not for the timid or the weak. This is a condition that can kill those with little heart for searing heat and soaring temperatures. But there are crops to harvest, vegetables that demand attention, and the earth, for whatever She might issue forth to torment us with, will provide us with all we need to survive. There are those of us who will go out in the heat of the day, when it is at its very worst, and we will see what we can do, see what can be done, and we ensure for the sake of enduring, for the sake of allowing ourselves to become used to it, and we discover that as bad as it might be we can still go forth with our lives. Sweat pours from the body, gnats swarm, fireants sting, the heat enters the body and soaks deep into the mind, yet in the middle of a five mile run you know, you truly know, it cannot kill you, no….not yet.