A Sense of Summer Ennui

It was 4pm when the heat wave hit. Everything seemed to slow down. The air was heavy with the sticky-sweet perfume of water lifting off the plants outside. A second-hand Sanyo fan whirred in the bedroom in the far-left corner of the house. In front of it was a bed laden with a disheveled striped doona cover and a twenty-something year old
woman who was trying to urge herself to go and take a shower. The heat was sudden and strong, and it made her feel sluggish. It was as if the rising temperature had added an extra twenty kilos onto her limbs. Instead of moving, she lay wrapped in her towel and stared at the ceiling. Emma’s roommate, Xara, had left the house in a hurry for work. Just before she left, Xara had poked her head around the doorframe to Emma’s bedroom and told her she would be working the late shift and not to expect her back until midnight. That was about twenty minutes ago. Xara tended to leave the front door open on occasion, which always let the cooler air escape. Emma would not have been surprised if she had done it again. Maybe that was why the heat had appeared in full force so quickly. Emma sighed. A bug flew in through the window. She had told herself she would shower in the morning and now here she was at four in the afternoon lying down, doing literally nothing. The bug danced against the glass. The beating of its wings reminded her of the sound of lawn-mowers and how the grass outside needed to be cut before their house inspection this coming Friday. Light streamed in through the windows, cut up into patches by her blinds. It hit the side of her face and made her skin feel as if it were burning. She rolled onto her side and came face to face with a strange cat. Emma sat up and it froze. Neither herself nor Xara owned a cat. In fact, Xara was slightly allergic to the animals. Emma regarded the creature. It was a chunky thing with tightly trimmed fur. Its body was mostly white but with three brown patches splattered across its body and face, one completely surrounding its right eye. It looked like she had caught it mid-stealth but then they locked eyes. It sat on its hindquarters and rested its tail around itself. It looked almost smug “You should leave,” Emma said. “I just got here,” the cat responded. Crap, she thought. Hearing animals talk was surely a sign of heat stroke. The cat surveyed the room. It got back onto its feet and made its way towards her, brushing against the furniture on its way. Emma watched. She held her breath in anticipation that the cat would leap onto her bed, but it never did. Instead, it sat on the floor next to her. It looked up and glued its eyes onto Emma’s. It was a hypnotic performance. “You should take a shower,” the cat said. Emma looked down at herself. She was still wrapped in her towel. Her stomach rumbled. A plum sat on her bedside table. Emma had put it there last night so that she would have something to eat for lunch . A pang of hunger hit her; she had not yet eaten today. “I’ve been trying to,” she said. “I just don’t seem to have the energy…” she trailed off. “I know that sounds ridiculous but….” But she was talking to a cat so why did it even matter? “Why don’t you have energy?” Emma looked down at this talking creature. Clearly this was some weird messenger from her subconscious. “I’m having an existential crisis of sorts. Or… is it an existential crisis if it’s less about the grand purpose and more about the day to day? There’s too much to do for me to do anything. It’s paralysing.” She picked up the plum and bit into it. The flesh was warm from the heat but soft with a sweet juice. Some residual liquid ran out the sides of her lips and down her wrists, staining them a reddish
pink colour. The cat stared at her. “Xara always seems to have her life together. I don’t know why things are so hard for me.” “Showering is a good start to the day,” said the cat. “It will make you feel better. It will give you the energy you don’t have” “I don’t think that I think I deserve it.” “Who doesn’t deserve to shower?” “Me. I guess. I mean, I just… don’t know. I’m lazy. And that’s bad. So I should feel bad. But it just makes me feel worse I guess. Because it makes me not want to do anything. I do want to take care of myself. But it’s just…” The cat simply lay down in its spot, its body transformed to a singular lump. “If you were someone else what would you think about yourself?” She sighed. This talking cat was on to something. “I would think I was being… ridiculous.” So, she got up. She slid her feet into her slippers. They were snug at the toes and the thin fabric was smooth against her feet. She waggled them to get the feeling back and stood up. The sunlight from the window warmed her shoulders. She picked her way over the discarded clothes from the day before, over the cat who got up to follow her, and into the hallway. It was darker there but halfway down light diffused through the fly screen as the front door lay wide open. It creaked on its hinges as it swayed side to side. Emma walked along the carpet. She pressed down on the brass handle of the bathroom door. It opened and she stepped onto the faded tiles. The somewhat garish seventies pink aesthetic welcomed her. She smiled. The owners really were an eccentric bunch. Emma looked back at the cat who in turn looked up at her from the entryway, in all accounts of appearance like any regular cat. It didn’t say anything. Emma closed the door shut and went into the shower. She turned on the taps and the water began to cascade out. It sounded soothing, like rain, as it hit the shower floor. Emma disrobed and hung her towel to the wall. She adjusted the temperature and reached into the jet streams. The water was cool against her skin. Neither freezing nor warm but just right. Emma stepped over the divider that flaked gold paint and allowed the water to pour over her. It was no longer a stressful endeavour. Emma was now in it. In the shower, cooling down and cleaning off the day’s sweat. She had escaped the heat. By the time she had toweled herself dry and opened the bathroom door again, the cat had already left. Emma went to mow the lawn.