On a recent weekend visit to Brisbane, I lay on the carpet in my friend’s room watching the fan head push hot midday air towards me, wondering why I had thought it an acceptable prospect to be hung over in the heat that has lately enveloped Brisbane.
My friend was lying on another section of the carpet, melting into it, and another friend was fighting sleep on the bed. We didn’t even have it in us to crawl to the kitchen where there was water and cold tiles which, I knew from experience, offered sweet, energy-efficient relief.
We had spent the previous evening dancing in West End’s The Joynt to the indie roots sounds of the Bearded Gypsy Band. I was naïve about the heat that would come; I had left the sanctuary of my family’s coastal, shaded Byron Bay home just that afternoon, and West End at night was cool and felt through the glaze of good company and cold cider. We danced our way towards one am before letting the sweat dry on our skin and going our separate ways to find beds that we would wake in drenched in scorching sunlight, incapacitated by the thick weight of another summer day in the suburbs of Brisbane.
It may seem inane to complain about the heat of a Brisbane summer – Brisbanites are all aware of how cloyingly hot it is in the soupy bowl we call home. And besides that, for Australians we’ve got it good; our southern cousins swelter in the high forties as I write. We live at least on the edge of a country famed for its vast emptiness’s that are riddled with shimmering heat waves.
But as a lover of grey skies and cool temperatures, the heat I felt in Brisbane – a gorgeous city that I will soon call home again – has become all I can think about. My body ran sluggish and my mind became a miasmic fugue of half-formed ideas. I dreamt of giving up poor student life to become an entry-level career woman, just for the air-conditioned working spaces.
This dream, though, is not so hard to facilitate (take note, fellow heat-sufferers). Sure, without the career woman status I won’t make money there, but supermarkets, department stores and book shops are all havens in the summer for people like me: 20-somethings with a lack of funds and a bounty of time to squander on wandering aisles to escape the humidity outside. And when uni starts back I’ll be in icy heaven; lecture theatres and tutorial rooms and libraries perfectly chilled to facilitate young minds being forced to work again after months of alcohol and heat-induced hibernation.
But escape is intermittent. We can only spend our days hopping from cool zone to cool zone, waiting for the relief of a cooler day and then a cooler season, and then the next summer sweeps in, brighter and more ferocious than the last. The summer of 2012-2013 was Australia’s hottest yet, and the Bureau of Meteorology has told us that 2013 gave us our hottest spring on record – and now January is a furnace. Climate change deniers need only walk outside at lunchtime and the truth will drip down their brows and turn their skin pink.
Driving became my sanctuary; I would blast the air and the radio, temporarily ensconced while listening to news items about the dangers associated with rising heat all over the country. In Melbourne, tennis players dropped out of a sizzling Australian Open, one which has melted players’ shoes and caused a Canadian to faint from heat exhaustion. I remember my time in Melbourne summers ago when the only hope of getting sleep was by draping one’s supine body in a wet sarong – and it’s only gotten hotter.
Unlike Melbourne, Brisbane is enlivened and cooled by the fading of day into night. And so are many of us without access to a backyard pool or a temperature controlled work place. Drunk on syrupy heat in the steamy summer days, a cooler evening brought a delicious reprieve in which I innocently made plans for the next day, thinking perhaps tomorrow would grant us kinder temperatures. Recalling my previous night spent dining, drinking and dancing in West End, I declared a warm night accompanied by cold beverages and a few good Brisbanites the best coping strategy during a Brisbane summer. I would wear the consequences of another fun evening yet again through the following day’s heat, safe in the knowledge that every hot day in Brisbane folds into the loveliness that is a comparatively cooler night.