The waves rising from the melting tar were deceiving on that cruel July afternoon. Unable to muster the strength to shuffle along the footpath at a human speed, the tourists grew increasingly displeased with our helplessess. They had the arrogance of experience on their side, our little heatwave was but an average day on their shores. With stares that penetrated the dead heat, I wondered if they could see each new freckle planting its flag on my face.
“Go around!” we told them, the task of shimmying out of their way was far too painstaking to even consider. We had already accepted defeat in the face of the rising mercury. Now it was every man for himself.
Almost there, I told myself.
Almost there, Mike told himself.
He didn’t say it aloud, but I heard it nonetheless. You can hear a man’s thoughts when sheer determination is encapsulated on his face.
Up ahead in the distance we saw a shimmering light. Somewhere, I’m sure, The Eagles played a tune just for us as we laid our eyes on the holy grail, our raison d’etre, the very purpose of our hike through Hades; the 3-foot HB ice-cream. In that moment, no plight was so strenuous that it was not immediately justified by the promise of a 99. Every decision we had made in our lives had led us to this, and it was all worth it. Adrenaline rushed through our veins and emanated through the cracks in our sunburn.
Almost there, we told ourselves.
The only thing standing in our way was the busy street. Luckily, the heat has a way of bringing all traffic to a staggering halt. We fickly thanked the gods for this.
No need to part the Red Sea today, I told Mike.
Mike told me nothing.
We made our way through the three-laned street, feeling unduly superior to those trapped in their steel prisons. A man in a Mercedes was steam-ironing his suit through no fault of his own, the black leather interior doing no favours for him. The taunt of an open window proved fruitless in such a dire situation. I Hailed what I could remember of Mary for him.
The corner shop had never looked so inviting. Inside was dank and shady, but deliciously cool. A wandering fly met its end in the fluorescent light above the magazine stand, making nary a difference to the myriad of flies that remained.
There were two people ahead of us in the queue. The first bought a Euromillions Quick Pick. The second, coffee and The Independent.
Priorities, I thought to myself, for no real reason. My impatience thrived in the heat.
Two 99s please. Yes, with flakes. No syrup. None of that fancy stuff. Yes. Perfect.
Mike paid for mine. The dole hadn’t come in yet.