Charleston – September. The mercury was a snake's tongue and hot breath sssss-ing the century mark, the humidity approaching the same. While staying with a friend in the historic part of the city, we'd wandered in the direction of the French Quarter, then the battery, hoping to chance upon a breeze.
The sun was everywhere – the wet heat a blanket we couldn't get out from beneath, even after spending the night huffing sweet, sweet air conditioning in a rehabbed, crooked house just shy of 200 years young.
Down King Street, where women in 4-inch heels and 5-inch sunglass lenses navigated the occasional cobbled curbs with cool ease, there were momentary frosty blasts, airy lures dangling out of smoothie shops, mahogany-floored boutiques, and haberdasheries (yes; still a thing).
Detouring through the city market, packed with folks as sweaty as us but way more interested in knick-knacks. There are only so many vanity license plates and tchotchkes one can look at before one feels abusive of free air conditioning, especially when most people around looked nearer to collapse than us.
We reached the waterfront and there was no breeze, just benches next to fountains that taunted with their feet of standing water in-between rail and spout. A woman sat still, looking forward, beneath a weighty tree. A UPS man hopped out of his box truck and bounded up the steps of the Port Authority, unbowed by the weather.
At Battery Park we stood over the bay and looked at the ferry routes, the path that cannon shot would've travelled, and watched as a few young couples took posed shots beneath a statue to the Confederate Defenders of Charleston. It seemed strange, the American Legion mall in Indianapolis usually being barren except for when they serve a free meal on Saturdays at lunch.
Working back northwards, the only shade we could come upon reliably were in the churches, bone-white, and their ancient graveyards, which offered cool concrete benches and water fountains, placards describing folk who'd been dead longer than the nation had earned its stripes.
From one churchyard to the next, like hopping stones across a river. At one, a woman on the sidewalk said, "You can go inside, you know." and continued on her way. We cracked the two-story-tall door and went inside, padded across deep red carpet and into the low-lit sanctuary, cooled down somewhat by a strained AC unit. Nobody was inside – everything was dark, respectful, laminated.
Down the steps to the yard, there was a cat, running like he hadn't been outside all day. Next to a shrub growing in the shade of the old building's facade, the cat turned back, then disappeared inside a hole in the building's foundation.