An Air Conditioner
September 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It was the crisp time between summer and fall whose moments belong to the wind, whose rhythm compels the return of blankets and jackets, and requires another pot of water to be boiled for tea. He was hard at work at the bedroom window, attempting to remove the air conditioner from the sill and pack it away into storage with the beach towels and sun burnt flakes of skin. As he worked at turning the screws he glanced at her and met her gaze: she was seated on the bed, watching him, satisfied with her smirk in the orange afternoon light.
“You do good work,” she said.
“So I’ve heard. I do what I’m told.”
She smiled again as he turned his attention back to the screws and sill.
“The leaves don’t look very nice in the city,” she said.
“They’ve been falling all week.”
“I know.” She chewed on the thought and said, “But they’re not doing it right.”
“I suppose if you had your way they’d never fall, or else they’d all peel off the trees at once?”
“It’s the color, not in the timing of it. When September breathes its first chilled breath, the leaves begin to change, but here they seem to rot slowly from green to brown and to dust. So little orange or yellow in between.”
He tossed the screws over to her and she secured them and shook them in the cavity of her palms.
“I’ve almost got it,” he said, as he secured the A/C unit with one hand, and lifted the window with the other. The spirit of autumn entered the room with a breath of parchment and pine, jasmine and honey and dew. They inhaled with the afternoon, and the wind filled them from diaphragm to collar bone.
Then, with the air conditioner free from its encasement, balanced on the sill and steadied by his hand, he tilted it back out into the alley and pulled it forward again with a jerk.
“Don’t! Be careful,” she said, and the sunlight had gone from her eyes.
“This is a sick thought,” he said and chuckled, “What if I let go of this and it fell? Instant garbage. We wouldn’t have to put it in storage.”
She laughed, slight like a chime, but when he stared her down, she said, “Then I’d have to buy a new one next year. What’s your point?”
“I’m not suggesting that we do it, am I? I’m saying, what if it fell, accidentally, and I hit someone.”
“Yeah, square on the head. Hit him dead.”
“You are sick,” she said, and tossed a pillow at his legs. “What if!”
He lifted the air conditioner from the sill and hefted it into its cardboard box and began to seal it closed. The light in the room had burned down from orange to amber to red. The sun was disappearing behind the buildings, sapping the warmth of the day from the room, enfolding it down past the horizon.
“It’s chilly,” she said. She stood and closed the window, tight, and locked it.
“So what happens?”
The brittle scent of leaves still in the air, she returned in her mind to thoughts of fall. “The leaves should turn unevenly, methodically, carefully. There’s melody when they do it right. Crimson among the gold, fading lime among brilliant yellow, blood red so deep it’s nearly indigo. They shimmer on the trees like the scales of fish, and they go with the wind. Its breath takes them in lines of verse, welcome and accepted invitations, not prompt executions. They tumble in the wind like a half-dreamt thought working through the kinks. All through the season the colors should remind us of the light and laughter of summer and the autumns past that brought self-similar ends to each and every summer.”
He didn’t respond, only tossed the pillow back at her. “I meant with the dead guy. What would we do if the A/C fell and we killed someone? We could call the cops, or say nothing until someone found him, or…”
The leaves scattered in her mind and she saw his earnest expression imploring her attention, and she said, “I’d blame you and your shaky hands before I get myself sent to jail.”
He didn’t press their speculative and accidental murder any further, and they picked up the heavy box and carried it to the hall near the front door to be forgotten until March, when they’d install it again to prepare for the coming summer. They exhaled into the night their guilty guiltlessness, fevered from the passage of time.