Jul 31

Heat, and a girl in a tree

It was the hottest day there had been for a while. There was nothing to do and it seemed like the world had gotten stuck on something that made it rub against itself before finally slowing to a stop. When you thought about it, maybe the world really needed a break, a way to reset itself from the tireless work it did for years and years and years. But if you didn't think about it, it was just plain hot, too hot for pondering the world or really doing anything. Just hot.

I sighed and tugged on Cornflake's leash. Why I was out here, I didn't know. I wondered if there was a way I could've been a completely different person five minutes ago when I decided to leave my air-conditioned house and go for a walk. Maybe I was tired of scrolling on my laptop, or maybe just of Cornflake's persistent whining. Maybe I was feeling adventurous, but the feeling didn't last for thirty seconds once I left the house and the humid air wrapped tightly around me.

Maybe I was overthinking my reasons. I mean, taking a fifteen-minute walk around the neighborhood is not equivalent to being adventurous. Still, Mom would probably be proud of me for getting up and out of the house. Finally.

She wouldn't say that last part, but I knew she'd be thinking it.

I walked past house after house, yards empty of all the people usually there, gardening or reading or playing or sitting on their front porches. Funny that I was the only one out, despite the fact that I'd never liked spending time outside even when it wasn't this hot. Too many opportunities for bumping into neighbors who want to make conversation, asking what my dog's name is. Whenever I'd respond Cornflake, I could just feel them thinking how cute I am. Truth is, I thought Cornflake was too cute of a name, but with two younger siblings, I was outnumbered. Not that names mean anything, because as much as Mom may have thought the name Priscilla suited me when I was a baby, it certainly didn't fit now. The name felt itchy with sparkles and lace and everything else I'm not. At least Cilla wasn't so bad.

"Your dog is so cute!"

I sighed and internally rolled my eyes, preparing myself for an older person smiling down from their porch swing. I glanced up at the house, ready to give a halfhearted wave before continuing on the long, hot walk I'd sentenced myself to. But my eyes snagged on the person perched in the branches of the tree in the house's front yard. It was her.

"Hey," I said quietly, not sure what to do. I was good at moving on from adults who tried to make conversation with me. But kids my age who I'd never talked to despite 8 years of school with them? Those were hard.

"Hi!" Allie jumped down from the tree and grinned at me. Apparently this wasn't awkward for her. Well, nothing really was, really. I pulled again at Cornflake's leash, but he was too engrossed in the tall grasses by Allie's driveway. Why was it now that he didn't seem to want to pull me faster than a human being could possibly walk? But when Cornflake wanted to sniff something, it wasn't a negotiable decision, so I crossed my arms and turned back to Allie.

"Why are you out here?"

"Huh?"

"It's really hot."

Allie shrugged. I looked at my sandals and hoped a month was long enough for her to forget this conversation before school started up. Not that there really were many people who would listen to her talk about how weird I was, but still. There were probably enough.

"Actually, probably for the same reason you are." I blinked at her. So she knew my brain now? Maybe not, but I fixed my gaze on Cornflake, who was now eating Allie's grass. How long until he found a new smell far away from here?

"You know. At some point being bored inside isn't actually better than getting sunburned outside."

"That was well put." The words just fell out of my mouth, which I guessed was a good thing because words I planned out never sounded good when they were actually spoken.

"You think so?"

"Yeah. I don't know it just...sounded...good?" Back to stuck words.

"Well, thanks." Allie smiled again. My mouth smiled back and I didn't try to force the smile off my face. "I'll see you in September, then," she said.

"Oh. Yeah." I realized she was saying goodbye to me, and eventually realized it was because Cornflake was pulling away from Allie's house. Finally.

I would usually add that last part, but at this point, maybe I wouldn't.

I waved at Allie and she waved back and as Cornflake and I continued down the dead-end road, the scorching sun didn't feel so hot anymore.