He spends all his time indoors. He works in an air-conditioned office, in a room well-insulated from the city outside. It’s a room that smells like carpet, Lysol, and coffee. When I take him his lunch, I lean down to kiss him, and he smells of soap and laundry detergent. He flinches from me, crinkles his nose, asks if I went jogging.
No, I took the subway and walked. Do you know how hot it is outside?
Oh, woah, it says 84 degrees. No thanks—I’ll stay inside, where it’s comfortable.
How do I tell him that summer isn’t supposed to be comfortable? Spring and autumn, those are the seasons of comfort. Summer and winter come to shake you up, wake you up, reacquaint you with your body, with what’s happening outside your window. Summer cranks the dials of life up to full intensity. It floods your senses, broils your body, humbles your mind.
He’s so well-insulated in that office, where he sees a sky, not a city. He thinks in quarters, not seasons. He hears the elevator, chatter from the hallway, and not the mailwoman singing as she pushes her cart down the street; not the dripsweat boy drumming on buckets, synthesizing the paces and pulses of passersby; not the pigeons cooing from their shaded perches above. He doesn’t smell the garbage roasting in the street, the colognes and perfumes and musky odors wafting through a crosswalk, the mouthwatering pull of the halal truck on the corner.
Sometimes, after a drink too many, he turns to me on our couch and presents me with a heart trembling with longing. It is a pale, withered, neglected thing, and I struggle not to flinch, it is so pitifully ugly. I want to tell him that it’s the price he pays for his comfort, but I know that he is aware of this already. He just wants me to tell him it’s a price worth paying.
It doesn’t matter what I say. He is so used to his contained world, and he’s surrounded by those who have forgotten how insulated they are. He is living in a different city than I am, has been conditioned to a different layer of reality, one without changing seasons. So long as he maintains his comfort, he will always justify its cost.