It’s five am. Not long till K gets up. There is just a hint of cool in the air – enough to make pulling the single sheet over myself less ridiculous. I allow myself this little luxury; it reminds me of my native climate. Any earlier and it would have clung to my wet skin.
It isn’t particularly quiet; all around town the late clubs are closing and their customers are weaving (wobbling) their way back to their hotels and apartments through narrow little streets in the casco whose stone walls amplify their exchanges. It turns out that people on their annual holiday aren’t that big on considerateness. There are no attempts to keep voices down. The antique little town is awash with addled conversation, argument, laughter and singing; giggling, squealing men and sandpaper-voiced, roaring women.
Spanish, Italian, German, Scandinavian – in August they’re all here, and they all pass beneath our window at around 5am. I can’t say that they wake me up – I am rarely asleep anyway in the stiflingly humid heat. When they finally quieten down though – towards six – and there is that little bit of freshness to the morning, I get some shut eye.
Until K’s alarm goes off. She is up and at it and by the time she clicks the door shut behind her, so am I. I have to run early or it would be too punishing, too dehydrating. I get some water into me and go. By the time I get back around an hour later the day has warmed up nicely, and an hour after that it is just plain hot.
Apart from a pair of shorts – just in case anyone comes to the door – I have given up on clothes. What’s the point? I work for as many hours as my sense of self-discipline can muster, but by three or so in the afternoon the temptation is to lie down, hot body throbbing and heavy eyelids dropping – breathing in air that heats my lungs from the inside.
Tarifa is quieter between three and five in the afternoon than it is between three and five in the morning; the wonky grid of its cobbled streets unpopulated. Everybody it seems is thinking along the same lines; go somewhere dark and lie down. The cruel light shimmers silently outside and we all hide from it.
At five I’ll need to start cooking something for the returning K. We have a windowless kitchen with four gas burners and a table-top oven. It’s not a good place to be in August when the burners are on, or the oven, or both. It’s like basting a turkey, only I’m the turkey. I have to cook the whatever, then have yet another shower, then eat the whatever. Presumably the sauna-like conditions are doing my skin some good.
As evening light fades, heat doesn’t. We sprawl on the the sofa half dressed and breathing as slowly as possible. I swear I can feel the heat coming from my laptop. And K. We haven’t been particularly keen on physical contact with each other since late June. Don’t get me wrong – I still like her. I just don’t want her to touch me till the second half of September, and I believe she feels the same way.
On Saturdays and Sundays, standing nipple high in the soft cool sea, we get to hug.
K will leaf lazily through magazines while I watch a movie, wet-chested and hair dripping. There are hands and feet everywhere; something about heat makes you want to get your hands and feet as far away as possible.
Bed time is bizarre. I go there these days with absolutely no expectation of sleep; it’s merely a question of transferring from the sofa to the bed while attempting to maintain the distance between my hands, my feet, K and myself. I lie there and sweat and itch. The pillow is wet beneath me, as is the sheet.
A pin prick on my leg will alert me to the presence of a mosquito; not a real one – one of the imaginary ones that torment me at night; we sleep under a net. The mosquitoes aren’t there but I can feel them bite. I itch where they have bitten me. I slap myself where I can feel them. I scratch. I toss. I turn.
K sleeps like a baby. I can’t tell you how infuriating that is. At least I don’t have to lie there – wide awake in my mosquito psychosis – in silence. Until two or sometimes three there is the sound of merrymaking and charmless, supposedly “chilled out” music from the bar downstairs. “Chill out” – don’t think for a moment that the irony escapes me.
When that dies down there is only the shortest of interludes before the late clubs start to empty out and we get the nightly procession beneath our window. In any other context I’d complain but here I’ve grown to look forward to it. It heralds the precious fresh air of the very early morning – my window for sleep. I allow myself the luxury of pulling the single sheet over myself.
It reminds me of my native climate…
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