stepping outside at 6:30 a.m., the humidity hits me like something material - like a wet sheet on a line. i am surprised by it, and grimace as i make my way down the front steps and onto the street. the sun not even above the horizon, and the city already blanketed in what feels like the beginning of suffocation.
i walk towards independence avenue. labor day come and gone, and the stench of a decaying summer on every corner. all is overripe, groaning under the weight of three months' flowering and fecundity. the pungency of the front yards' vegetation - overreaching in its verdant bloom even by june - now borders on noxious, and i dodge the drooping branches, scattered and hung low, along the sidewalk. my feet move over their discarded bounty - berries burst at the seams, purple stains leaking into the concrete creases.
i reach the edge of the national mall, and pass the security guards, already glistening faintly in their thick cotton uniforms and heavy boots, as they scan the underside of an idling van with mirrors. the dog from the K-9 unit, ensconced in the air conditioning of his squad car, eyes me as i slide past. from somewhere, the smell of old, cooked breakfast hangs in the air - solidifying bacon fat, congealing grease.
the cicadas are singing.
by the time i reach 14th street and turn around, nearly two miles in, my hair is soaked through. i push ahead, back the way i came, trying to propel myself forward through the stagnant air, trying forget that in truth i am only going in circles. the capitol building looms into view, the rising sun a dull, brutal orange as it crests the side of the dome. like a postcard, but seen through a foggy window - the city, the seat of the nation, through the dirty glass of old oven door.
i am slick with september sweat, and everywhere, the bloom is off the rose.