The Heat

“It’s not every day that you feel like actually killing someone” an overheating Jack thought to himself as he looked in vain for a way to somehow maneuver around a fat woman in a black sleeveless top and red polyester skirt featuring a prominent and evidently struggling zipper along its taut length, and her two teenage sons in jeans, metal-band t-shirts and chanclas, sporting identically gelled jet black hair that stood up in some sort of Archie comic throwback look.

They walked slowly, and occupied the entire narrow sidewalk of Merida’s calle 58, which was packed with sweltering human flesh, while alternating green and yellow buses and a swarm of white colectivos inched and honked along the street beside the seething humanity. Overhead, the sun pounded down angrily, seeming to push against Jack like a physical force. He winced, and felt the steady trickle of sweat against the small of his back. Behind him, the crowd seemed to push him forward, although he couldn’t tell if anyone was actually touching him. He didn’t want to think about.

If he had only heeded his wife’s advice not to go shopping this morning.

“It’s too hot, and there are too many people,” she had said in that irritating all-knowing way she had. Perhaps just to spite her and perhaps prove that he did not mind these inconveniences, or perhaps to just get out of the house, he had ventured out and now he was stuck in this mess.

Jack felt an elbow in his side as a mestiza complete with hipil, sabucan and small child’s forearm firmly in her grip, pushed past him and headed for the fat lady, whom she also pushed aside like a small Mayan missile, the little kid half running, half stumbling along behind her. The two Archies looked surprised but moved to the side. Jack saw his chance and followed quickly on the heels of the mestiza, but he was too slow. The family closed in again and Jack had to bite his lip so as not to yell at them in frustration. He could feel the heat of the pavement oozing through his sandals.

An OXXO appeared suddenly, it’s giant letters beckoning him inside. He swerved, almost tripping as a man behind him stepped on his heels. He glared back, but the perpetrator had already moved on. As he reached for the door, it opened from the inside and hit his hand, causing him to grimace in pain. A group of students rushed out past him and he again had to wait, somewhat impatiently, to go inside. Wafts of cold OXXO air trailed behind the students, dissipating quickly in the heat around him. Jack felt like his hair was going to spontaneously burst into flame.

The air conditioning inside the OXXO was ice cold against his wet skin and felt heavenly. Jack stopped for a moment inside the door and looked around. There was a lineup at the cash register and many students from a nearby school sitting at both of the two tables. He walked slowly to the refrigerated drinks area and stood, looking at all the options in the coolers. Finally he grabbed an iced tea – Snapple in Merida: who knew? – and headed towards the cash register. Only one was open of course, and there were about four people ahead of him.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that some of the students were getting up from the table and moving towards the door. Jack decided to take a break and sat down with his icy tea, sipping the artificial peach flavored liquid and feeling his body temperature return to a safe, comfortable level, his mood mellowing from murderous to magnanimous and he smiled at the students who were very entertained by something on one of their cell phones.

 

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