Heat Exhaustion

Heat. Beating down. Relentlessly. Swarming. Suffocating. Drowning. Hazy air. Choking. Clouding. Blinding. The weight, bearing down on my back, pulling me to the ground like wet cement, and the stereo in my hand, ripping my muscles despite the shifting–how can I ignore the pain? Heat. Never ending. Burning. Aching. Thirsting. Water.

I stop for a moment, allowing my body to collapse to the sidewalk. I set the stereo next to me, and gingerly pull at the straps to my backpack, letting it slide to the ground. Pulling a twenty ounce bottle from the bag, I untwist the cap and take a long, cool drink. Relief. Refreshment. Cold. Soothing. Calming. My legs ache. My stomach feels squeezed and compressed. Sweat drips into my eyes, the salt burning.

Alone. Solitary in the city of millions. But what choice do I have? A 45-minute walk to the train station—then true relief. Oasis. But 45 minutes in good health. I have two hours to make it. I seriously wonder if I will. People hurry by. Suits and dresses, briefcases, cameras. They all have places to go. They all have an agenda. They all pass by.

A woman trips and falls, her knee slamming into the concrete. Wincing, she steadies herself. The pedestrians pause for a moment, hesitating. But the woman forces herself to her feet, before a helping hand is offered. The pedestrians continue. The woman brushes herself off, and limps onward. I feel her pain. I understand.

With another swallow of cool liquid, I force the burden onto my back again, and struggle on. Twenty steps later feels like an eternity, and my throat is parched and dry again. My legs cry out with each step. My stomach tightens. Dizzy. So dizzy. Hazy. Vision failing. Mind reeling. Trembling. Press on. Half way there. Train Station. 8:30. Air conditioning. Oasis. Heat.

Again I fall in a mass. I couldn’t force myself to walk farther. I collapsed and downed another mouthful of cool water. It didn’t help. My throat tightened. I wanted to die. Leaning back, I let my body rest on the ground. Muscles loosened. Stomach relaxed. Heart rate slowed. Trembling stopped. The skyline circled above me. The clear blue sky between the tall buildings. So beautiful. So clear. The buildings towering above seemed to sway back and forth, back and forth. I squeezed my eyes shut. Home. Sleep. Bed. Air conditioning. Mommy. I’ve never been so alone and abandoned in my entire life.

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