It was one of those vile, humid city days when the heat was oppressive and inescapable. Despite the early hour, the temperature was already ridiculously high. The heat wave had been going on for a week and even the overnight temperatures were in the high twenties.
He stood at the bus stop, waiting for the morning bus to arrive. It was late. He was already sweating. He could feel damp patches forming under his arms and sweat trickling down his back and face. The city streets were busy, the traffic roaring and honking through rush hour.
Across the street came the noise of drills, saws and hammering from a construction site. The city’s noise disturbed and distracted him. There was a kid next to him, wearing headphones. The kid must have had the volume turned right up, because he could hear the music over the sound of the city… the thump, thump, thump of a drumbeat, with some indistinct vocals screaming out.
His head started to ache, pain pulsing in time to the music. His feet, encased in cheap leather shoes, absorbed the heat from the sidewalk. He felt angry, on edge. ‘Stupid kid, stupid music.’
The temperature increased, his head felt as if it was about to split open, his feet burned. He could feel his fingers balling into fists. He was aware he was about to hit the kid, knock him down and smash his iPhone to stop the noise. He took a huge, deep breath of warm, fetid air and willed himself to stop.
It wasn’t the kid, it was the heat. This damned heat.
He removed his shoes and pulled off his socks. He stepped off the sidewalk onto a small grassy area next to the bus stop. It was part of the entrance to an office building. He stood on the freshly watered grass, feeling the cool blades between his toes and the moist soil against his soles.
His headache suddenly diminished, the pain dissipating in an instant. He felt cooler, he could feel himself calming down. He looked up to see the kid grinning at him. He smiled back. He knew he looked foolish, but he didn’t care. Being laughed at was better than hurting a kid half his age.
The bus arrived and he climbed aboard barefoot, clutching his shoes and socks. He whistled as he paid his fare. The air-conditioned interior was a blessing, but it was only the icing on the cake. His day was looking up.