Megan Michelle

On Excessive Heat Warnings

Yesterday I went to the mechanic to get a car check-up because I knew I would be driving to Phoenix. My car is twelve years old, and I didn’t want anything happening to me on the road. There was an excessive heat warning in Arizona coming the next day, a high of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

It all overwhelmed me. The heat overwhelmed me, the appointment itself, but even more so than that, the thought of driving up to Phoenix just…it always sucks the life out of me. When I lived in Colorado, I used to love to drive–hours and hours, days and days. I had a five-speed (I still do), and climbing around the Rockies in 3rd gear never got old. But there is this space, this empty no man’s land between Tucson and Phoenix that I find eery, haunting, depressing. For ten years I’ve avoided driving it. For ten years I’ve had to for various reasons. The blankness of it makes me feel alien and strange. The cartels have more ownership of it than we Americans do. Immigrants die in that corridor every year and there’s a lot of movement of coyotes (smugglers), etc.

But I had an appointment–I had work–and it had to be done. So I drove. I got up there, safe and sound. I completed the interview, no harm done. I walked out of the Department of Economic Security back into the heatwave and thought of how lucky we have it down in Tucson (it’s a few degrees cooler). Then I got in my car, turned the ignition, blasted the A/C. But all I got was hot, hot, hot oven air.

I gave it a few minutes–life isn’t that cruel, right?

The hot, hot oven air only got hotter.

The compressor was broken.

What is it about life–when we do our very best–plan ahead, prepare as much as we can for the worst–that we end up only getting hot oven air blasting out of our car on excessive heat warning days?

I stopped at a gas station on the way back and picked up a bag of ice and held it on my lap while I drove. I thought of my Yezidis, trucking through the desert in 2014, after the invasion of ISIS, how many died of thirst from the heat. I thought of the illegal immigrants who have died along the very same route, on foot. I thought of all my work the past six years in the Middle East, how it has all seemed to amount to nothing–the terrorists shaved their beards and went back to normal life. The Yezidis are still in camps. The refugees are still as much in their communities’ cocoons as ever. And as I thought, sweat dripping down my back, I got so overwhelmingly lonely–the loneliness felt hotter to me than the heat itself. The loneliness was so excessive, so high, so intense, I thought I was going to suffocate from it.

I got home, forced myself to eat a little and drink more water, took some ibuprofen and crawled into bed.

Excessive heat warnings. There’s never enough warning, is there?

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