temperature

Sorrow steals up on you without warning.

Camping for Fourth of July weekend, surrounded by friends bundled up under many blankets in their separate tents, I came to consciousness crying viciously, because I was warm. Everyone was so cold — my husband included, wrapped tightly in the many layers of blankets we’d brought, that we’d hoped would have been enough — but I was toasty and warm in the unseasonably cool morning, thanks to the sleeping bag insured to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. My mother insisted, a decade ago at an outfitter before a two-month-long trip out West, on getting me the sleeping beg that covered colder temperatures. “But it’s the middle of summer,” I said, trying to curtail her spending. But she thrust it on me anyway, just in case. And here I was ten years later, surrounded by people shivering, and I was warm and safe and if I tried to thank her Mom would have no recollection of the sleeping bag purchase or of where, exactly, I was, or why. I sobbed into the cocoon-like hood of the sleeping bag, and hoped no one else at the campsite heard.

Now, in an AC-less house in the path of the heat dome, I’m wearing one of the many absorbent neck wraps with silly branded names, designed to keep you cool. It works. I was skeptical because I’d tried to use one before, when young. I overheated easily and my mother worried about heat stroke, so she’d bought me one and had me wear it when running around outside. But it was too long, and so it made my shirt wet and chafed, and I didn’t like it. And today, rearranging the water-absorbent crystals around inside their enclosure to go all the way around my neck, I remembered — with the sound, the crunching of the crystals — how Mom had cut open the old neck wrap, and tried to make a new, smaller one for me, but I’d been uninterested. Then the sewing machine broke and the crystals fell to the carpet to be vacuumed up, and it was all a waste. She’d tried to make me this thing to help me and I hadn’t cared, and it was a waste.

And it’s terrible. She tried to help and I was as careless with her generosity as all children are, and I can’t even say sorry now.

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