Love and heat

Lessons in air conditioning from the summer of 2007

Illustration by Rob Zammarchi

A pyramid of ice cubes balances unsteadily on a cookie sheet in the middle of the living room, where a rickety ’80s-style fan blows hot, dry air across the quickly melting tower. I kneel in front of the breeze, hoping for the slightest temperature drop in a room that had transformed into an almost unbearable sauna.

Salty perspiration trickles down my neck and along my spine to join the ever-growing puddle on my lower back. Next to me is my new love interest—a handsome, athletic, artist type—whom I had started dating a couple of months prior. His dark brown hair glistens, but I can’t tell if it’s a healthy, well-conditioned shine, or just the shimmering of accumulated sweat.

The summer of 2007 was not an unusually hot summer. In fact, it was quite normally hot. The hiccup, however, was that my love interest’s apartment housed the worst air conditioner of all time—it was thunderously loud, but exuded only mere puffs of lukewarm air. Since I was in between apartments of my own, his place offered the only privacy where two people could get to know one another. So we stocked the freezer with ice and Southern Comfort, donned tank tops and shorts, and tried to come up with creative ways to stay cool.

When the pyramid of ice failed to cool us off—it just spewed warm water droplets everywhere—we soaked a white T-shirt with water and laid it on top of the fan. The fabric was thin enough for small gusts of cool air to push through, relieving us a bit from the heat during our endless hours of conversation.

We talked about everything that summer: religion, politics, travel, life plans. We laughed even more, our faces flush from amusement and the 100-degree heat. He introduced my musically sheltered ears to Bay Area rappers such as Mac Dre and Mac Mall, read me his poetry and taught me how to lift weights. I lent him books by some of my favorite writers, showed him the proper way to eat New Mexican green chili and taught him about astronomy.

The wet T-shirt, however, dried too quickly. So we exchanged it for an entire sheet—dampened with cold water. We laid it softly over our legs and positioned the fan directly on us, our body temperatures slowly falling, but our interest climbing.

By midsummer, I knew we were ready to take the next step. I felt an aura of eagerness—something had been missing. One night, as we cuddled together on his couch, his green eyes looked into mine, he released a heavy, nervous breath and asked, “Jenn, what’s your last name?”

I kissed him and replied, “I don’t know yours, either.”

It was the moment I had anxiously awaited. We had been introduced to each other numerous times during the previous two years, but it was always in first-name-only settings: college parties, clubs and once when he delivered a pizza to my apartment. Yet during those first few months, we were both too embarrassed to admit missing the last-name exchange.

Later that summer, as triple-digit temperatures began to mellow into the mid-90s, he once again looked into my eyes, released a nervous breath and said, “I love you.”

I kissed him and replied, “I love you.”

We have air conditioning now, but we still stockpile ice in the freezer and like to keep a bottle of chilled Southern Comfort on hand—just in case the air conditioner goes out. From our experience, though, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.