PASSPORT TO AUTUMN

Itís early in July, and already the heat is unbearable. My God, what am I going to do? I canít take it! Itís like being in the god-damned Amazon Jungle, without the parrots. No beautiful trees, just burning asphalt like mirrors of our indifference to the planet, and a dirty sky thatís looking the other way while the sun gets away with murder. Theyíre not supposed to have this kind of sun except at the equator, where everybody lies under fruit trees next to broken machines. Theyíre too hot to fix them, or maybe theyíre misbehaving and we wonít send them any more spare parts. God help me, itís getting to my head, to my soul, whatís all around me is winning! This isnít me, but itís hot. Itís what the heat does to you.

Itís hot! Hot, god damn it! Hot! If I dared, Iíd open up the fire hydrant and start dancing in the water like the kids, but thatís not possible for a man to do, not even on a day like this, so Iím here in a shirt drenched with the clear bloodstains of sweat, trapped in clothes that are like a coffin; my body is squirming, trying to get out of them, but thereís people all around. Itís so hot that a cotton shirt and pants are like a suit of armor. I canít think straight, my generosity is fried, my concern for the problems of the world or the fairness of my own thoughts has evaporated, I just want some place cool! If your clothes are on fire, youíre allowed to rip them off, no one would bust you for being naked! Damn restrictions we place on ourselves, we flagellate ourselves with inelastic codes of morality till weíre ready to riot. I want out! I want out of hell! How could I ever stand another two months of this?

My shirtís unbuttoned now, flapping behind me like a cape around my T-shirt, I feel as much relief as someone whoís being cooked, who manages to get one toe out of the oven. It is like a f**king hammer! A hammer of heat smashing down on my head, making everything blinding and white, though everything seems so far away, coming from another world, voices, people that are like phantoms flitting by. Tingling skin, Iím going to turn red soon; eyes stabbed by knives of sweat dripping down from the sky. Where does my forehead begin? I canít go through two whole months of this! Iíll never get through this savage summer!

Youíve got to get out! I tell myself.

A friend agrees. "Theyíre selling tickets to the autumn. Get a flight. Fly there. Is your passport up to date?"

I am sure it is.

I go to the airline office, they look my papers over; after a long while, a serious man in a uniform looks up, his face as tense as a finger on a trigger is suddenly relaxed, like a soldier who has set his gun down. He takes out two stamps, and presses them down on the pages of my passport, leaving a beautiful red circle with the date, and a blue square with the name of my country and the word "Approved."

"Boarding begins in twenty minutes. Gate 27," he says.

I am joyous, I go to sit down in the waiting room with my suitcase filled with hope, I am going to escape the infernal summer and fly straight to autumn, with its crisp, refreshing winds that are like God giving CPR, its mature and ready fields, its payment of golden leaves to the soul of man. I am going to come back to life, to leave this mortal insult to comfort behind.

The gate opens, a beautiful flight attendant receives my boarding pass and welcomes me with a smile. I climb into the cabin and find my seat. So crowded here in the plane, so many of us trying to get away, united by our loyalty to cool air. So many of us! Such a hot cabin! Such a sweaty, jam-packed plane! But at least it will all be over soon! We will be flying to the autumn!

The doors to the plane lock shut, we taxi out onto the runway, and at last are rising up into the air. We are on our way! On our way to the autumn! To the civility of coolness, to the kindness of arms that are cold!

But here, on the plane, it is still so hot. So unwelcome, this residue of the sweat we wish to leave behind! These last drops of misery streaming down our faces.

As I see the stewardess walking by, I reach out to touch her arm, to stop her. "Excuse me, Miss," I ask her, "but how long will it be till we reach our destination?"

She says, "Two months."

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