I am from a place where heat is aggressive. I would say it enters with vengeance but honestly, it never really leaves. It makes home on the Mississippi River and may fall dormant for Mardi Gras week in February, a foggy morning in October, or even a night in December, but it is never gone.
When my family and I evacuated for Hurricane Gustav in 2008, a mere three years after Katrina made landfall on our homeland, the air conditioner in our car was broken. We sat on the I-55 swampland between Lake Maurepas and Lake Ponchartrain dripping in sweat, the heat in the car more potent than the encroaching hurricane. The heat was aggressive and unbearable against the leather seats. My youngest brother said enduring the hurricane at home would have been better.
On our second day in Ponchatoula, the electricity went out, and we slept on the wooden floor while cicadas screeched and frogs entered through the open front door. My father kept taking the frogs outside, but they entered the house in droves, looking for the same thing we were—relief from the debilitating, wet air outside. At night, my brothers and I were eaten alive by mosquitos. We lay in pools of our own sweat, bodies swollen from all the bites. Our skin burned red even after we returned to New Orleans days later.
I tell this story because heat always wins. My brothers and I would climb a gate and break into a hotel pool for temporary relief, but our bare feet would blister on the concrete as we walk back home. My friends and I would suck on ice when we walked to school, but even that would melt into warm water before we arrived. The breeze I would feel biking home from work brought not relief, but heat.
This kind of omnipresent heat manifests itself in all of our pieces. In some, it’s the heat of political tension: Sara Fleming discusses the heat of leftist revolution and the delusion of leftist sympathizers; David Eik shares a narrative of immigrant detention haunted by the heat of San Diego and Guatemala; Emma Gorsuch interrogates the heat of the polarizing political climate of the United States.
Editing this issue has affected each of us personally; for me, however, it has affected my understanding of heat and thus my understanding of my own identity. I carry Louisiana heat inside me; it wakes with me and it sleeps with me no matter the Colorado weather. This issue taught me that all of us carry some manifestation of our own heat. Callie Zucker’s piece on meat and masculinity is a reflection of the knack she has for making connections between gender, food, and society. Sophia Skelly’s narrative about living with a woman named Debbie reveals a deeper desire to reflect on human connection and relations. Becca Stine’s interview with Cecelia Gonzales shows how the groundskeeper and chef connects the heat in her chili to her family, homeland, and identity. All of us are just trying to understand our own heat.
Heat hangs heavy on the skin. It cannot be dealt with in the same way that cold can. You can apply layers and layers of clothes in anticipation of cold—but heat? Heat gets inside of the body with no release. Peeling away layers of clothes provides no relief when the heat gets trapped beneath your skin, in your lungs, inside of you. The dance with heat never ends, but this issue helps me realize that’s okay—because heat will keep changing you and me and the world around us for a long time.
Megan (and the Cipher Staff)
Heat Issue | November 2018