After several weeks of the so-called heat wave, it finally began to rain. With the rain came cooler weather, frogs, and the small puddles that one skips over when rushed, trying to avoid a wet trouser leg or a drained shoe. It is now mid-August, the sky is cloudy and the summer seems definitively over.
The heat wave was never-ending. The grass was dry, the pavement was hot, and the lakes in which one can swim were for once pleasantly relieving. We were constantly covered in sweat. They told us the rain would come, but alas, every night, we looked into the dark sky, stretching our eyes as far as we could, trying to detect any crack in the tableau, without result. In the same streak of optimism, every morning we touched the grass with our hands, to see if maybe the rain had fooled us, by arriving while we were sound asleep. It did not. The uninterrupted heat prolonged the days into late sleepless nights; twisting and turning with sweat-soaked sheets, duvet taken out and desperately thrown on the floor, in an attempt to relieve the heat. Showers became a regular exercise, cold, three, four times a day, with deodorant applied liberally throughout.
A state of restlessness developed. People everywhere, affected by their lack of sleep, the light nights, and the constant dehydration, were at once tired and hyperactive, in a constant slumber, whether on the train on their way to work; or partying at a bar, in the early morning hours. Life didn’t slow down; it remained busy as ever, but with new constant obstacles and irritations: will I sweat through my shirt? did we have breakfast, lunch? Tiredness. Will our garden suffer death by drought, or did you water it last night?
Of course, the heat wave also affected our drinking: we drank a lot. Beers around noon with lunch; wine in the early afternoon and throughout dinner, and perhaps something stronger after dinner. We drank when we went out, to gallery openings or cafés, standing on the street; in a crowd we liked to feel part of, smoking cigarettes, with dried out lips and sun-kissed cheeks. We drank because drinking helps with everything: tiredness, restlessness, a lost sense of direction.
The city looked different – in contrast to its normal monochrome shades of blue and grey, it was now orange, beginning from sunrise. The greenness of the trees was not the usual northern European green, which is lush and deep, but it became the dry green, the dusty and slightly yellowy green found in the south. The streets were dirty, and the smell of the city in the evenings, hit you when crossing the doors, on the way out of a cool supermarket. It was a perfumed mix of warm bins that had been out all day, dust and petrol. That smell, however, is one of the things I enjoyed the most. Golden hour lasted until sunset.
After the first showers, our senses returned. Quite literally, the air pressure punctured slowly, and a collective exhale was felt across the city. We had all hoped for this and now, maybe, we would be able to look back on the summer with clarity. We hadn’t realized what sleepwalking it had been, but it truly was sleepwalking. Maybe now, the daze that had been the last couple of months of our lives could make sense – maybe, we could see what had gone on around us?
Besides the wildfires that engulfed Sweden and California, the burka was banned in Denmark, following the footsteps of Austria and France. Brexit was still not sorted, and in the Tory party, anarchy reigned supreme. In eastern Germany, National Socialism is still on the rise, and on the anniversary of the massacre of Charlottesville Virginia, far-right nationalist groups are planning further black-hostile protests. Turkey is on their way to both dictatorship and bankruptcy, and in Hungary “illiberal democracy” – whatever that’s supposed to mean – is the mot du jour. South Africa is running out of water, with people lining up, diligently waiting for their daily ration, and white women explaining how to re-use dishwater by flushing it down the toilet.
The sleeplessness will fade, now that summer is over. We shall continue our lives from where we left them in early June, and move along, discussing what has happened around us. Maybe we shall act. Rain, hammering on the roof, soaking out jackets, and flooding the streets is good.