They warned me about it. They told me I wouldn’t want to stick around. Rumors about New York summers abound, but one thing cannot be denied, the weather coming in through my window right now f’ing sucks. As I look upon the future of my life with this city, the next few months will be fraught with dehydration, irritation, and, if I’m lucky, possibly nocturnal heat stroke.
Now, I’m not unfamiliar with New York summer heat. I’ve been here before. But my previous experiences always had an expiration date – a magical number on a calendar that meant I could get the hell out of dodge before I passed out or killed someone.
I arrived for my first semester of NYU on the last week of August, just at the tail end of the summer heat. My dorm, while on the notoriously luxurious 5th Avenue in Greenwich Village, had maintained its century-long stance on no air conditioning. If Mark Twain could do it – a reported resident of the former hotel – then the children of academia sure as hell could.
While the building itself offered more charm than its sterile, blue-linoleumed counterparts, it did lack the creature comforts generally provided for by buildings of a newer era. Take, for instance, multiple windows and cross-ventilation, something I had, up until this point, taken largely for granted.
When I arrived to my assigned room on the fifth floor, I opened the door onto the green-carpeted palace I would call home for the next nine months and my eyes went immediately to the lone and narrow window looking out onto the “courtyard.” Do not be fooled; a New York courtyard does not bear any similarity to a courtyard by any other name. There are neither lush palm trees, nor Mexican pavers. No out of work actor lazes about pretending to read scripts. Oh, no. My “courtyard” was simply the gray space in between multiple buildings jutting up against one another. The lack of visually stimulating landscape outside of my window forced me to later create a handmade sign titled “A Room With (out) a View.” Personally, I found it to be quite clever.
On that first day, quick as a whip I snapped up the bed closest to that precious sliver of glass offering views to the inside of the outside world. Like a temperamental flower, I longed to crane my neck towards an ever-evasive sun that never seemed to want to hang around for more than two minutes before slipping away to shed light on the rooftop gardens of Greenwich millionaires. I’m sure Sarah Jessica Parker and Mathew Broderick got their fair share of sunshine.
As I mentioned before, my dorm room lacked any real method for circulating fresh oxygen. With no exit strategy, air would simply look at my open window and debate combing inside. It sat there, stagnant and pensive, waiting to be sucked through by an open door, an open window, something, anything. But not until the second semester did a savior for my precious fresh air come, when my neighbors across the hall decided to coordinate by leaving both of our doors open, allowing air to rush in from 10th Street and grace me with its presence.
Those first two weeks of school were a test of my California mettle. At night I lay away, sleeping on top of my cobalt blue sheets, listening to the not-so-subtle sound of someone else’s air conditioning turbines turn on. At first, not realizing what an air conditioning turbine was, I was terrified. However, once I discovered what the raucous waking me up every hour on the hour was, I simply resigned to overt jealousy. Bastards and their 72-degree bedrooms. One day I’ll show you! One day when I’m a successful something-or-other with one hundred thousand dollars worth of student loans to repay. Then I’ll have my own apartment, with my own air conditioning! And then you’ll be sorry! I mean, maybe you’ll be sorry! [Insert dehydration-induced delirious laugh here]
Summer eventually gave way to fall, that painfully short-lived month and a half between “hot as hell” and “cold as shit.” Winter chapped my lips and made my nose run, making me forget about the humidity and the sweating immediately after exiting a cold shower. Compared to winter, summer’s a breeze, I thought. Ha!
Tonight, as I sit in my bedroom, watching my feeble white fan from Kmart move around hot air, I contemplate breaking down and getting one of those hideous window unit air conditioners. For two months I will vow to put aside my aesthetic neuroses, quiet that bothersome “Can Do” attitude that makes me think I can survive a New York summer without AC, and just accept the fact that the form of my bedroom must be temporarily compromised for the function of me not drowning in my own sweat by July. And then I look out my gigantic window and realize…it’s too f’ing big to fit one of those ugly things anyway.
Here’s to inhaling my neighbor’s cigarette smoke hot night after hot night after hot night.