It’s 44 degrees in Melbourne at the moment and we live in a seventy year old house with no air-conditioning. Sure, we have high ceilings and a wood floor, but… perhaps I wasn’t loud enough. Perhaps you didn’t hear me correctly? IT’S 44 DEGREES, people!
So what does an employmently challenged fiction writer do when it’s 44 degrees and writing is out of the question because her BRAIN IS MELTING?
She goes to the movies, of course. (I saw Revolutionary Road, by the way. It’s fabulous, although I don’t suggest you go if a) your marriage isn’t in tip-top shape, b) you were one of the many women who wanted to kill themselves in the 1950s, or c) you want to see a light-hearted rom-com.)
But what then? I mean, the movie was two hours, and I have many unbearable, eyeball-frying, brain-desiccating HOURS to go…
I went to a café. Whereupon I met Steve. I was quietly sitting there, watching little droplets of my soul drip from my elbows and plip! onto the cork floor, when a very small, wrinkly person threw open the door and flung his cap onto the table next to mine.
Steve looks like a prune, but, you know, with legs and a head and stuff. Steve is 85 years old and looked too damn happy if you ask me. I got suspicious. “Hot enough for you?” Shouted I. (Because I love coming up with original things to say.)
Steve looked at me and shook his sage and pruney head. “This? This isn’t hot, Love. Not as hot as January 13, 1939. This is easy.” Steve smiled at me and sat down. I rolled my eyes (I figured he was half blind, so he wouldn’t notice – turns out he’s not) and started an internal rant about how old people can never just god-damned empathize… they have to remember some stupid, hot day over 70 years ago, I mean, who…? And then I realised he was talking about Black Friday.
Steve told me that on Black Friday he got caught between two fires for three days. Then he smiled and said he was just happy to be here. Then Steve told me that his wife had been in a home for four years because she has alzheimer’s, but he visits her every day. “People say I’m crazy, but they don’t understand. I’m not going there for her, I’m going for me. She’s the love of my life.”
I was starting to feel just a wee bit guilty so I asked him about his children and grandchildren. He told me that they couldn’t have children. They tried to adopt in the 50s, but they never did get the papers approved. Steve and Mrs Steve bred show dogs instead. Oh. “Life’s such an adventure, isn’t it Love?” He said. “These young people moan about not having air-conditioning! Pah!”
I really wanted to moan to Steve about how I didn’t have air-conditioning so I asked him if he had air-conditioning instead. He does. I asked him where he lived and when he was vague, I pressed for details. (What? You know how these old people love to talk, he wanted to tell me.)
I’m going to gate-crash his place tomorrow. I can handle a few more stories. I did tell him that I’m a writer and may steal and make money from him without his written consent. “Best of the British to you, my dear!” was his emphatic and not at all prune-like reply. Oh, I can feel that air-conditioning now…
Author’s Note – Jan 30: I trudged home after the café only to discover that it was at least 46 degrees in my house, so I trudged back to the village and watched two more movies (The Wrestler and Valkyrie). Yes, this has what my life has become.