It’s A Dry Heat
I have lived in the desert long enough to be aware of its subtle changes, even knowing that eventually they won’t matter as the unrelenting sun slowly scrambles my brain. The process must already be well underway, because I remain here, along with millions of others, since shoveling snow is just a little too much work. And the cost of living in a place with sensible commutes and less than four strip malls per square mile is just a little too high. But that’s alright, because it’s a dry heat.
What they don’t tell you is what happens when the mercury rises above 100 degrees. There is a palpable difference between what 90 and 100 feels like, and between 100 and 110. The misery rises by orders of magnitude. When you get to 115 and beyond, you are literally being scorched by the Earth. It is not the sauna-like feeling of a humid climate; instead, you become a human rotisserie chicken, slow roasting in a car you bought at a mega-dealership an hour out of town to save a couple grand on taxes, waiting to pick up your kids from a school which was once a PetSmart.
At 110 everything changes. The world around you changes, and you start to change with it. The pavement melts under your feet. You think you can see water on the horizon, but it’s not really there. You think the meth addict yelling at a shopping cart by the bus stop must be an illusion too, but he is there. Your lips become dry, so dry that it feels as if you had kissed a Scottish corpse. Your nostrils are caverns of dust and mucus, blocking all airflow and forcing you to breathe through your mouth while the last vestiges of moisture are sucked from your body.
That’s when the real transformation begins. You’ll probably see a rash forming first- they’ll tell you it’s allergies, but it’s just the beginning of the process. The scales will come in, usually starting from the chest and back and then expanding outward towards your extremities. The extra eyelids will come next, and you can finally put the Visine down after all those weeks of mild irritation. You might get a tail, but not everyone does. The Hopi believe only those pure of heart are bestowed this honor, but I’ve known some good people who never had one.
Not only are you now protected from the heat, but you actually start to like it. You may find yourself on a large rock soaking up the sun, casually snacking on passing insects. You’ll probably hate the taste at first, but it grows on you. After all, the best way to keep a scorpion from stinging you is to eat it. Spending so much time outside really brings people together, and the retracting tongues don’t hurt either, if you know what I mean. Plus the world just seems so much better when you can see it in ultraviolet.
It’s almost October now. It’s still hot, but the temperature is cooling rapidly and you know that it’s time. You slither down the nearest abandoned mineshaft you can find and shed your summer skin. You leave it along with those of past years, which are preserved by the arid climate and give off an eerily beautiful glow in the darkness of the mine. You return to the surface and blink a few times, taking a moment to readjust to being human again. The Snowbirds will be arriving soon. Their presence will be felt in the slowing of traffic and the increase in complaints to the local papers that we don’t have enough good breakfast places. The season has now ended.
When you meet them, they will complain about the heat. “I didn’t think it would still be so hot here,” they will moan. “Yes, but the good thing is…” you say as the last scales fade and your lips taste saliva again, “it’s a dry heat.”