NEW DELHI—Air conditioning, for the lucky with air conditioning, is thin paper the heat frays and rips, damping its fibrous edges, wearing it translucent. Fans do less: mix the heat and lob it over in wafts of oven air. The roads feel blistery clean and sweat tarmac, rising shivery with an oozy acrid scent. Bathwater boils from the pipe. I sweat bathing.
My flat mate and I do not yet have a refrigerator, or a water filter, or an air conditioner for my room. We buy drippy liters of water at the shop across the way, and the liquid grows hot as soon as we’re back, the cold flighty as a bird that will not roost on our shoulders. Nimbu paani turns into lemon tea. Black clothes come out warm from the wardrobe. Our own hands betray us, heating our Limca through the glass. It is too hot to eat anything: The sabziye (vegetables) wilt in the kitchen; the green beans cook in the bag. The pendants on my earrings radiate heat, so I put them in a friend’s freezer, forget them there.
This is the weather for drinking beer in the evening in Paharganj, for replacing chai with cold coffee, for eating an ice pop, for tempting a cross breeze, for pressing my sweaty limbs around the sweaty limbs of people I haven’t seen since the bathwater couldn’t warm fast enough and everyone was fat with shawls. At night, the heat is a skinny cat that wraps around and around my thighs, mewing for affection, boring in its need. The heat is the third party in every love affair this summer, the dark horse candidate in all politics, the opening gambit in all dialogues, the dry-lipped stranger in the bed.
Reina A.E. Gattuso ’15 is a joint literature and studies of women, gender, and sexuality concentrator in Adams House.