Summer in the midwest: hot, damp, oppressive. The heat builds and the humidity rises. The numbers are the same. It can suck the life out of a body, like being wrapped in a wet wool blanket. Then all that water in the air begins to condense in the sky. The searing of the sun is muted, but it’s still hot. Now it is also “close.” The air is thick and the sky is low. There is tension as the afternoon waits for something to give. Folks get snappish with one another. Everything anticipates the cooling, clearing rainstorm. We watch for towering thunderheads to build, waiting for that first flash, crack, rumbling boom, as the tension breaks and the sky pours down. Some days it just won’t. And we are trapped in the thickness, like ants in amber. Waiting.
You might see flashes, on the horizon, far away, so distant there is no sound: heat lightning. That’s just what it is called; someone else is getting the reprieve.
Last night was just such a night here. Throughout the evening, I expected the storm to arrive. The Norwegians had been threatening it all week. Clouds were scudding across the golden moon, but the closeness held. I went to bed in the damp, with sheets too warm, pillow smothering, and the fan doing its best but not quite enough. I woke up around 1:00 and the tension was still there. I did a prowl around the flat, half expecting to find another presence lurking. It was probably just the cats. But off to the east, over the hill, the sky was glowing: heat lightning and plenty of it. There was a real ripsnorter of a thunderstorm happening out there somewhere. Someone else was getting my thunder & lightning & drama, our reprieve from the heat & damp & antici . . . pation (Yes! But isn’t it nice? ~Frank).
5:00 and the cats had me up for 1st Breakfast (yes, I know about 2nd Breakfast, & Elevensies & Luncheon & Tea & Dinner & Supper) and it was still going on! over there and not here, not for us. But the air was beginning to move. I secured the windows and doors so none would blow shut and crush somebody. The rain began a few hours later… and finished a few minutes after that. What a let down! But the day is cooler, the sky is clearer, and the inutterable suspense has melted away.