Summer has hit the city, popping windows open, laying laundry out on lines and beds out on balconies. Buildings drip sweat from a thousand air conditioners that sputter and strain to cool their insides. In the middle hours of the day, when the high sun burns away any hope of homeostasis, they eject their occupants to the parks, where the poor things squint and jostle and trip over each other. Slowly, pupils contract and eyes open up to a scene that can only be described as a mass social dissection—all the innards and inner workings laid out in the light. The whole skin of the city runs clear as butter in a hot pan.
Sundown sees these occupants scooped up and sewn back into the boiling bowels. Sidewalks are sanitized and streets scrubbed of their detritus, cleaned and readied for tomorrow’s surgical theatrics. Yet for all these elaborate demonstrations, the fever never abates. What few does the curfew overlook, who steadily accumulate in the corners, cured by the cool night air?
Thoreau tells us that the project of living basically amounts to keeping warm. We each have an inner fire burning—a tapas to maintain—but who can tend it in this heat? The city bundles us in so many boundaries and border walls. Windows open out to more windows—even our hearths have been bricked up! Shouldn’t we clear this stale air? Does anyone remember how? Smoke clouds our eyes and the sledge slips in the sweat of our hands. Enough stupid swinging, or we’ll knock out the supports while still inside!
Good thing the chimney is always the last to fall. (But without an opening, it is no chimney at all.)
In the fenced-off wilds of the city parks, I have spied a fresh undergrowth that the spring sent up between the brush and the saplings. Now it has turned a darker green; grown firm enough to stand on its own and thick enough to hide a body lying prone. These are the first days of maturity, when the in-grown flowers burst from their buds, and creeping vines escape the shade, putting forth their leaves to steal back the sun. We still have our sovereign bodies. Who knows, but one might still live on fallen fruit, and sleep under a greener roof.
Let us draw a wa—poke a hole—make an opening. It is a ripe time to venture outside.