The air in the bedroom was so hot that Phil couldn’t seem to get a full breath of air into his lungs. And God did he want a full breath of air – to feel his ribs expand, and then his belly – like the yoga instructor had taught him, back when sweating profusely two feet away from the next person’s mat was an activity generally considered both acceptable and healthy. Simpler times. He also wanted to dive into the bathtub and lay under the faucet as it gushed breathtakingly cold water over his sweltering body. But he knew that if he dove into anything it should be the half finished manuscript waiting on his computer and not a bathtub. That friggen’ manuscript. Even in the heat, the thought of his half-finished novel made him shiver.
Even though he was sprawled on top of the bedspread, sweat trickled down Phil’s forehead and into the hollows of his cheeks, and he wished for a breeze to filter in through the window, to make the mango-coloured curtains rustle and dance with the glorious movement of air. He’d never thought of the movement of air as being glorious before, but here he was. Glorious. Wait . . . glorious. He should add something to the manuscript about the glory of small, under appreciated things. Yes, Phil liked that. And it had been several weeks since he’d liked any of his own ideas. He rummaged in his nightstand in search of a pen, but had to settle for a maroon sharpie.
G L O R Y. He scrawled the word on the soft, almost translucent skin of his belly using all caps. Perhaps the shame he felt every time he looked down and saw the words and remembered he hadn’t written anything since April, hadn’t picked up the phone when his agent called, hadn’t even bothered to listen to the voicemails, hadn’t been able to muster the strength to even open her emails, would propel him into action. Perhaps. But probably not. Because at this rate, with the once flat curve spiking, he never would have to see Charice in person, would never need to look into her actual face (a person’s face on Zoom hardly counted as their real face, not when he could simply flip over to a new tab and play sudoku or jump over to Amazon to order crackers and socks and a copy of Into The Wild all while “conferencing”).
And now – the heat wave – his own personal hell for procrastinating and languishing in his own filth, binging Netflix and crafting clever Tiger King memes and opening his Skip app several times a day to order in. The manuscript had been sitting right there on the laptop, but never opened – continues to be right there on the laptop, but still is not open. Dread – his own “Skunk Hour.” This burden was heavy and Phil wished nothing more than to send Charice back the advance and forget his proposal for the project had ever been accepted. Except the advance was gone, and the 35 degree weather was now a hate-filled purgatory in which the combination of heat and guilt was suffocating. And he deserved every minute of the torture.