It’s still not clear to me whether or not the air conditioning worked. I remember a serviceman arriving in his rusted Suburban, the smell of his cigarettes, the sound of wrenches and hammers coming from the basement. But in spite of those visits, who could know if the air ever, actually worked?
The excuses were many. It’s an old house, my dad would say. My mom, wiping sweaty bangs from her face, would echo the same. But her words were less certain. Like she was reciting a line rehearsed in private. In private, from that room at the end of the hall, that larger lakefront room with so many windows, that’s where they hatched the plan. I’ll tell them the house is old, my dad would say. My mom would nod. They disagreed often, but on this they could agree. No one thought of the children. My dad thought only of the $8 he would save that month from keeping the air conditioning at bay.
I’ve owned plenty of older homes in my life. All of them had air conditioning. I paid to have it installed, because without it there could be no peace. In these older homes, some older than my parents’ home, the same man with the rusted Suburban would take his hammers and wrenches down to the basement. But when he had finished his clamoring there was some obvious sign of his success. Cool, dry, life sustaining air would pump from the registers in these old homes, bringing relief to the residents.
During that sweaty childhood there was an ongoing debate. If the outside, nighttime air temperature was 80 degrees, would it be better to shut the windows and wait for that slow, slight trickle of coolish air to pulse from the scant registers in my room, with the hope that the system would be able to cool the room to at least 79 degrees? Or was it wiser still to leave the window open, with the sounds of the fighting raccoons and the passing nighttime boats, and the slight chance that the air would cool on its own and settle, in the depth of a dark summer night, to 78? This was my arbitrage, a degree or two would make the difference, and the debate raged. Decision making skills wane during an 80 degree summer night under that blanket of intense humidity and a sheet of still, suffocating air.
Today, I’m want to turn on my air conditioning at the slightest hint of warmth. Some choose to leave their windows open during soft spring days. I say no, because I have no choice. On hot summer days when the night cools and the humidity falls, many will open their windows and rejoice in those cool summer nights. Not me. I can’t. I set my air conditioning to 70 in the spring and leave it there until it’s time to switch the cool to heat. I cannot consider another night in a sweaty bed.
It’s been noticed that the thing most of the tortured souls who have been lost adrift at sea crave is ice. Ice cubes. Not water, not food, but ice. The sound of it in their teeth, the sharp sting of cold in their throat. The numbing of their cheeks and tongue. Lost at sea once, forever in search of ice. I, too, was lost at sea, and I, too, crave the comfort of cold. It’s just that my sea was a childhood bedroom, and it was hotter, and more humid, and my chances of survival, less.
This weekend, it’s going to be hot. You should be at the lake.