The Air Was Hot

December 28, 2007
By Pablo Diaz, Hialeah, FL

The air was hot and every once in a while a grey cloud would hide the sun. Jane sat on a bench -- sweat beading her forehead and sliding down the small of her back. It seemed to her the summers got hotter as time went on.

She couldn't quite remember why she'd come and thought it must have been habit. Jane had spent most of her Saturday mornings at Belmont Park since she'd been a girl, first running and playing, now sitting and watching. She'd changed a lot since then and so had the park.

The grass didn't stay green during summer anymore. The trees were no longer saplings. It even seemed that the sun was not as bright.

All this was painfully apparent to Jane, who sat reminiscing about old times and watching two green sparrows hopping happily along, going here and there, and coming back.

"I wonder if they even notice me?" She smoothed her skirt a little and sighed.
"Probably not."

Maybe if she was wearing a nice summer dress. Then everyone might notice her. She sighed again.
"Where do the years go?"
But that, of course, she couldn't answer.

After the park, Jane decided to go for ice cream. She welcomed anything cold to cast off the heat of the day. On the way, she saw kids playing hide-and-go-seek. She saw a few girls playing hopscotch. Some walked hand in hand with their mothers.

When she got to the creamery Jane immediately shivered. The air conditioning made the sweat on her clothes cold and now she had to stand quite straight in order to keep it off. When this didn't bother her anymore she made the line and a few minutes later was sitting at a table with a small bowl of mint ice cream. This was the only good flavor.

Jane ate it slowly, trying to make it last as long as possible. She was careful not to scoop up too much at once and even put some back a few times. It wasn't an obsession. She just loved seeing the scoops of green in her bowl.

When she was halfway through her ice cream two little girls came into the store. They hopped happily to the line and stood by their mother, who was about to order and addressed the older sister.

"Which kind do you want?"

"Chocolate. With a little bit of macadamias."

The mother ordered.

"What about you, Chloe?"

Jane took a spoonful.

Chloe. Where had she heard it? In the park? On the way to the creamery? She thought and thought but couldn't remember. Another spoonful and it hit her.

"It's been sixty years, but how could I forget?"

For a long time Jane sat still. Her ice cream was melting but she didn’t care. There was no need for it now. To anyone else Jane must have looked like she'd seen something huge on the wall, something alarming. But she wasn't looking at the wall. Jane was looking deep into a place no one else saw.

The breeze was light, the grass was green, and she saw a younger her running between the trees. She had a smile as big as the sun and the wind tustled her air to and fro. Close behind was a smaller girl, skinner than Jane and much frailer, struggling to catch up.

"Wait for me!"
"You're gonna have to be faster than that!" Shouted Jane, but she slowed down a little.
"Looks like a tie."
"Told you I could do it!"

To other people they must have seemed like sisters that day.

Suddenly she was back at the creamery. The two little girls had left and her ice cream had almost completely melted. Streetlights were being turned on and Eva Cassidy's rendition of "Autumn Leaves" played softly in the background. Oh, how quickly time slips by.

Jane finished her ice cream and walked home. On the way she relived the blurry memories she had of her friend.

But now she'd talk to Chloe and they'd relive them together. Just like old times. For a moment the sun will shine bright. She hurried the rest of the way home.

It took quite a few calls, but Jane finally had Chloe's number. She held the paper in her hands. Her heart wanted to explode out of her chest and her fingers were ice cold.

This was it. A little piece of the past was finally within reach. she dialed the number and waited. No answer. Jane sighed and tried again. This time someone picked up.

"Uhh... H--Chloe?"
"Hello? Who is this?"

The voice on the other side of the speaker sounded cold, detached. But it was young. She'd been crying.

"This is Jane. May I speak to Chloe? I'm a friend."

No answer.

Then: "My mother's dead."

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