The high sun's heat hit the pavement then floated slowly upward, stagnating in the still air, not even the slightest hint of a breeze.
Garret and Joseph walked across Girard Avenue.
"Joe," Garret said, shocked, "how are you not sweating? I'm drenched."
Joseph, thoughts adrift, hadn't realized it. He looked at Garret and saw drops dripping down his friend's face, a soaked shirt, hair glistening where it met his hat. He felt his own armpits and forehead, dry as a bone.
"You're right, maybe I'm dehydrated. Nothing to sweat out." His mind returned to its previous, typical fodder: potential weekend plans, the week's upcoming televised sports, whether he'd see Annabeth later that evening.
Garret shook his head, puzzled.
Three days passed with an average daily temperature of one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Joseph drank more water than usual. He walked to work like always. Dry. He jogged from York and Frankford to Third and Fairmount. Dry. He played pick up three on three basketball at midday for two straight hours and the other players said he must be an alien, born on Mercury or Venus so Earth could only be cool. Joseph's attitude toward his lack of sweat morphed from curious to concerned to paranoid. He longed to taste a salty drop as it fell across his lips, wanted so badly to remove wet socks, feel his feet sigh with relief. He went home after the basketball game and didn't need to shower, just crawled into bed, afraid.
He was half asleep when the evening news came on.
'Good news for Philadelphians as the weather should finally break tomorrow, temperatures will drop from the record breaking levels we've all suffered through for the last week….'
Joseph wondered what doctors might think of his sudden inability to sweat, pictured himself as a carnival side show character in a booth with a portable sauna. 'Step right up and adjust the dial to a hundred and ten, one twenty, one thirty and look! No sweat.'
He changed channels to a special on global warming, imagined himself a scientist instead of a bartender. Listening to experts on climate change, he considered their ongoing argument with doubters who dismissed their ideas and reports, usually because of religious faith or, Joseph thought, a profound feeling of smallness.
He fell into a fitful sleep. He dreamt of riding a camel, alone in the desert, surrounded by open space and cacti bright under a giant yellow sun. He didn't sweat but he didn't care. The camel joined him in laughter when he jumped off its hump and made snow angels in the sand. He'd accomplished something unknown.
He awoke in the middle of the night wondering what he'd done, what made him happy in his sleep. A new yearning replaced his passivity, a feeling of incompleteness he knew he'd have to resolve in life. A few minutes passed before he realized he lay in a sodden bed, his hair damp and his brow beaded with sweat, even as the cool night air blew in through an open window.