The Weather

Heat Varieties

Like A.C., I live in a walk-up, though I’m on the fifth floor to her sixth, though that fifth, in my building, is also the top. And like A.C.’s, my walk-up has an especially hot microclimate all its own.

My building, nicknamed the Sir Launfal, thanks to a fad that must’ve once swept through Hollywood—other buildings on the street are the Derbyshire and the Kent—is brick, with long, straight halls running down its center, between the studio apartments, and at either end of these halls, the building’s wide open. Our hall ends in fire escapes but not doors, and so, night and day, a breeze sweeps through our building, cooling the place down.

Such a design serves a purpose in a city like Los Angeles, where the temperature never reaches the heights of either a New York or a Virginia summer, but where the lack of shade, and the immense seas of pavement, have their radiant, relentless effect—imagine a sunny day that would be fine and pleasant under the shade of trees or with the breeze of the coast, and then imagine you’re magically plunked down in the middle of the world’s largest parking lot, and the heat strikes the undersides of your shoes, and it reflects off the pavement onto your face, and you twist and turn to find cover, but in every direction, there’s only more pavement, forever and ever, with the exception of trees in a row that were planted yesterday, spindly, still wedded to those wooden posts, with those green tags wrapped around their adolescent trunks, casting their useless shadows on into infinity.

When I come home and open my door, the temperature rises at least ten degrees. This is because I don’t have an open-ended hall running down the throat of my apartment, and because my apartment faces south, and because no building or tree shades my apartment, and because, maybe also, all the other buildings before my window are not, like mine, from Hollywood’s first spurt of growth a hundred years back, but from when the neighborhood got rebuilt some time later, when the buildings began to look like motels, low-rise, with parking lots underneath them and outdoor halls, and with flat, white, heat-reflecting rooftops.

When you start to spend most of your time at home with your shirt off, and much of your time with your pants off too, your life begins to acquire a certain rogue quality. Living where I do makes me want to smoke inside. It makes me want to exchange my stockpile of Miller Lite for something with a lot more kick. It makes me want to keep far odder hours, like, late at night, when the city gets quiet but keeps on glowing, its lights all switched to a permanent on, I ought to be there to keep watch from my perch, with my shirt off, waiting for the difference between what I feel inside to reconcile with what I feel when I stick my hand out the window, so that I can go to bed without sweating, so that my repose won’t be criminal.

Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.