I grew up on Washington Street, four blocks over from where the ocean boiled up to the sand. One summer the temperature climbed so high my uncle filled the back of his truck with a ton of ice, then dumped it into my grandmother’s swimming pool. Within an hour the ice melted into tiny chunks that slipped between our fingers. Later we dove off Queer Pier into saltwater that never got cool, not even when you swam way down deep where the bright green eel lived.
Yankee tourists came in droves each January, pale skinned and gasping like fish flung into a boat. In a day the sun seared them bright red, tiny blisters popping out on hands and feet, other places they forgot to sunscreen. We laughed at them, sipping our milk with ice cubes in the glass, but secretly marveled at the clothes they wore when they stepped off the plane, fabrics we didn’t own like wool and cashmere.
It was hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. All the time. In the summer we baked cookies on the dashboard of a car with the windows rolled up. Hot enough that people joked in Africa they complained it was Key West hot. All that heat, the sun beating down all the time, and the humidity climbing up from the dusty ground made up our life.
If we were bad, our parents warned, we’d learn different. Then we’d suffer, we’d be cold as hell. The blue devil tied sinners against walls of ice. He froze them until their skin matched his. They shivered and froze for eternity with no hope of a warm breeze. In that cold dark place they wished for the sun and longed for warm air.
Now I live in a place where people think hell is hot and the world outside is often icy. People say things burn like hell. When I write I include those foreign views. I step outside my memories and picture their hell and the life that has to come with it. Good writing looks for more than one point of view, it tests the boundaries of the familiar. Very few people live on a commune of completely like-minded souls. Your characters certainly shouldn’t. When you create a world, remember to populate it with people who believe the opposite of what you do, even if it’s something as simple as whether hell is hot or cold.
December 28, 2010 @ 6:47 PM
Your description of hot reminds me of being in the heat of Phoenix AZ. I learned just what it would be like inside an oven. How life can exist there is a mystery to me, but does make for an interesting point of view as an outsider.
December 29, 2010 @ 3:09 PM
Thanks for the interesting post Rachel. It’s always fun hearing people’s different experiences growing up and seeing what shaped them into who they are today. Or in your case, the wonderful person you are today. 🙂
Rob: Yup, living in Phoenix is definitely the equivalent of living in a convection oven. But, we go from our air conditioned house, to our air conditioned workplaces & stores, to our pools. We don’t have tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards, hurricanes, humidity, or clouds of mosquitoes.
December 29, 2010 @ 3:48 PM
Wow, that’s interesting. Even in the Phoenix area, we’re more likely to joke that we’d go to Hell for a nice vacation from the heat, but never about Hell being freezing cold. 🙂