Secret Pop

May 22, 2005

It's hot outside. Beautiful and sunny and hot. I was walking Audrey and thinking about the heat and thinking about how a mirage is really just what happens when it's so hot that light reflected off the sand in the desert looks as if it might be a bit of water. It can happen on asphalt, too. Anything that glints a bit. It happens when I drive to Las Vegas. It happens on the streets of Los Angeles. But for anyone who grew up watching Looney Tunes, a mirage is the illusion of an actual oasis in the middle of the desert. An hallucination brought on by the heat and dehydration and the need for something to be humorous in the cartoon. In a Looney Tunes mirage, there are lush, verdant groves of un-Saharan tropical fruit trees and ladies in sarongs and waiters in fezzes and grand pools of cool water which, when the protagonist goes for a dip, become apparent to us to be just sand, and there our hero sits, splashing around in sand and looking the fool.
I don't think I actually came to understand the real meaning of the word "mirage" until I was a teenager. And habitually, I still sort of imagine the palm-fronded oasis when I hear it said. It's the place you would go if you could at that moment. The place that has everything you most want, even if it clashes with the latitude you are actually in. It's a glimpse of the heaven you would fashion for yourself, because some part of you knows you are about to succumb to the elements, and you might as well go out happy. I can already picture what my mirage would look like. I know what faces I would see there. It would be like that scene in Titanic when Rose finally snuffs it and she returns to the ship to see everyone in their undrowned finery. All the faces you love are there. All the people you've lost. The ones who have fallen away for whatever reason. Everything that is out of reach. And I suppose if I was dying because of the heat, I might also want a great swimming pool. Because I love the way it feels to be in the water. Even though I am delicate enough that I sometimes get seasick on a kickboard. I love fireplaces, too, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was one of those. And probably some kind of steak dinner. And a book of all my photographs. And a bed with thousand thread count sheets on it. And music that everyone likes. My mirage is beginning to sound a good deal like my actual apartment. Only less cluttered.
The heat troubles me. It makes it hard for me to sleep and hard for me to rouse. It makes my head heavy. I dream a lot. Or I lie still and think a lot. I watch the clock. I get restless. Something about the way the world smells when it's warm out reminds me of other summers. Only the ones I've spent here, though. It's a very specific recall. My skin. The hot street. The thirsty grass. Maybe a hint of that Cuban place down the street. I walked in this before. And returning home to the shade was always a relief.

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