(A note I re-discovered on my phone of various notes on heat. Written sometime in May, 2018, around the time I quit my first job. It must have been really hot then.)
the way the sun in this country sears into your very being …
i wanna write a story about heat. about heat and blinding sunlight. about burning – smouldering – and how it looks. about a place where there are no seasons, just the same even temperature all year round.
in the heat, everything feels inconsolable. at a certain point, when you’ve been out for too long, you become despondent. there’s a certain period of the day when this hits me the hardest—it’s usually when the sun is at its highest point, the hours around 12 to 4.
in the great gatsby, everything unravels on the hottest day of the year. all of them are lounging in their beautiful clothes in the buchanan house, and daisy is saying, incoherently, “what will we do with ourselves? what will we do today, tomorrow, the next 20 years?”
what i find interesting about this scene is how it inverts the typical image of desolation. desolation not as small, cold, empty rooms where you stand alone, but as a wide hall with all the windows thrown open, and the unavoidable heat pulsating through. a lovely woman with big eyes asking in her lovely, pathetic voice, “what will we do with ourselves?” asking over and over again to no answer as the temperature mounts. a room big enough for everyone, and yet the distance between still unbreachable. all their beauty melting away slowly with the time. he just wants to hear her say that she never loved him.
the sunlight glints off passing cars and leaves spots in your eyes. it makes you lightheaded, dizzy. luridly you think about cutting all your hair off, cutting your face off, cutting your head off. even when you close your eyes just shards of light.
a fig falls off a corrugated iron roof and bursts open in the middle of the road, revealing a nest of insects inside.
when i get a new mosquito bite, all the old ones tingle and start to itch again, even the ones that i’ve scratched into a sharp hard nub. i will never have nice legs.
i’m squinting. there’s a shard in my brain. i can’t see. i can’t see. if i can’t see anyway, then what’s the point of all this light? the heat is the factor that forces vividness over the boundary into luridness. it transforms beauty into something hateful. what’s the point of this bright blue sky if i can’t even look into it? what’s the point of this shade of red on this flower if i can only look at it with my eyes half closed?
somewhere in the city a motorist zips down an empty highway like a struck match. R-R-R-R-rrrzzzzzzzzzzzz. a city slowly melting. a whole year, decade, lifetime of summer nights out on the balcony. the rattling of invisible lizards. somewhere always a nearby construction site lit like a stadium, the low of heavy machinery. in the drains, the real biawaks—the big ones, the ones they say could eat a baby—swimming casually among the rubbish.
grease on your whole face shiny like a layer of kuih.
even just walking to the pisang goreng stall i can already feel the heat off the gigantic vats of boiling oil penetrating my skin. i just tell the man “two” and make a peace sign. he plucks them up wordlessly with his tongs and takes my money wordlessly. “thank you.” it’s too hot to bother!
i can’t breathe sometimes. sometimes i think my entire head is going to fall off. the heat “beats down”. i think i might just close my eyes and fall asleep right where i’m standing.