This afternoon in early May, with its corpse-grey sky and its implacable heat, the city creaked to a halt. The fan above her low, broad bed, stuttered once, twice, and then unraveled itself with a sigh, like a coiled ribbon unwilling to be constrained by duty any longer. There will be no rain until June, and no electricity until sunset.
Against the blinding white of the sheet, her pale skin is a shade of milky coffee in the aqueous light. Her pores prick in anticipation of a slow descent into airless hell. Reaching into the glass by her bed, she fishes out an ice cube, and drops it with care into the cup of her navel. Already its angled edges have eroded in the limpid water, and now it weeps into that hollow place.
She forgets the droplets of sweat that have formed at her hairline. Pleasantly cool at first, the ice becomes cold, and then as the heat of her skin melts it, begins to hurt. There in the centre of her, it begins to ache, to burn, and beneath her skin, a fissure of nerves she was sure disappeared after her umbilical cord was cut, reassert themselves. A lattice of bright, icy pain spreads over her ribcage, down to her hips, over the curve of her waist. As she breathes, the melt water spills over, following the tendrils of pain. Around her, and she is sure it found a way inside her too, under her skin.
When one is gone, she fishes out another cube, and this time there is no pleasant coolness like there was at the start, only another bite and slow burst of minor agony.
The fan above her doesn’t move. Perhaps it will never move again. Perhaps she will never really breathe again. Perhaps she will lie here naked and rot in the heat, waiting.
She has done this many times, in the swelter and silence of dead afternoons. It always makes her cry. Not out of hopelessness, but in the knowledge that she has learned how to wait so well on the tines of time.