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She loved the heat of the summer, mostly. That's what it was. The baking heat. In the winter she would take showers that could have lasted for hours if her mother wouldn't come knocking furiously on the door, telling her to get out-- just for the heat, the scalding hotness and the steam and the red softness of her skin afterward. Never blistering. Just hot. Something about it was acidic, like bleach, like peroxide-- she had thought about becoming a blonde but never followed through-- and it ate through everything. The layers and layers of excessive everything. Because it was all excess to her. And she would feel it sloughing off like dead skin, like pulling birch bark. And the summer was like that. Baking. Baking and frying and sometimes unlike all those winter showers, her skin really would blister, bubble and rise from her body, and come off in strips. All that was underneath was more skin-- more skin that just turned dry and brown and faded, eventually, leaving little specks behind as a reminder. Always a reminder. You wanted to be rid of me. Never forget that.

She hated the screen porch. Her mother loved the shade and the easy breeze that would travel through every once in a while, shaking the chimes hanging from the nail on the rafter in the corner. But she hated it-- the cool plastic chaise refusing to let her shift and move, grasping her bare skin with it's insistent invisible grip-- the boxy whirring fan breathing on her like some congested stranger on a cross town bus-- the persistent creakcreakcreakslam of the door, loose on its hinges for seven years but never repaired because why because who would do it because who caredbecause no one had even noticed really because who pays attention to the creakcreakcreakslam when the transister is cranked up and the static is raging but you've got your rock block, you've got your hottest hits, you've got your smash records, funnelled into your little ears as you sit and wait for the breeze with your lemonade.

But she loved the heat. Nothing else about it mattered. Not even the tan, though she was always the envy of the girls in town, even all the way to September when school started again and she would slink into homeroom with three new notebooks and another crumbled class schedule. They would turn from their cliquish apogees, break the balance of their universes for a moment, just bask in the glory of her brownness, and then go back to hating her for just not caring. School was Hell, Dante's version-- before slacks and sweaters could be pulled out again and the roasting outside temperatures still demanded the donning of sundresses and shorts. She would suffer hourly as the backs of her thighs fused coldly with the hard freezing fakewood desk seats, the missed hairs around her knees pricking as the air conditioner roared into action on a twenty minute cycle.

During those summer months and even in the spring, late spring, when she was lucky-- she would put herself out in the heat, sit in it. Directly. Every cuff rolled up, pushed back as far as tight as possible, not a hair draping down her neck, eyes closed but bare. Every hot surface was a thrill, was like satin to her, and she would press herself into the metal picnic chairs out stranded in the yard in the blazing heat, dead grass, no trees-- relishing the feel of scorching metal on her bare fresh skin. Stretching into the sunlight, she would lay there. Every inch that she could muster, exposed. And it was all her own. She was an offering in a ceremony where she officiated, she was the congregation-- and the whole world left her there, tucked neatly inside, egging their fans to blow harder, coaxing their freon to flow like a fountain of frigid, everlasting youth.

As she stretched out in the heat, trod barefoot across the blacktop, bathed herself in steam in the winter and light in the summer-- just to feel. Just to know.

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