It’s going to be a hundred degrees today. Everyone has planned for it and they are either deep inside their air-conditioned homes or sitting in a long line of cars trying to get into a beach parking lot. What is normally a bustling down town has gone silent. I know because we can’t afford an air conditioner and instead our windows are opened as far as they will go, desperately trying to coax a non-existent breeze into our apartment. My boyfriend is gone for the hottest hours of the day, working in a cool basement lab somewhere. I will hate him later when he comes home crisp and clean while I am limp in our bed, which has turned into a giant sponge for my sweat. But for now it’s just me, suffering through the midday heat. Well, me and Ramone.
Ramone showed up yesterday morning. We’d had a fruit fly infestation earlier in the summer, but those little guys are gone now, drowned in a vinegar solution my boyfriend bought at the drug store. Ramone is fifty times their size. His tiny translucent wings make a noise like a food processor or a lawn mower. They miraculously hold up his fat black body. Yesterday he was desperate to be inside my ear.
“Ramone, fuck off,” I yelled after his third attempt to dive bomb into my ear canal. “I’m not sure what you think is in there, but if you succeed in your mission I will lose my hearing.”
Ramone didn’t move from his perch on the bedside table.
“It’s just not that special. It’s filled with wax and I’m always sticking Q-tips in there farther than I should. You’d get poked all the time.”
That deterred him. He left the nightstand and after the buzzing faded away I lost track of him. It wasn’t until my regular 3 a.m. bathroom break that I encountered him again. He was sitting on the lip of the sink, staring at the toilet.
“I have to be honest with you, Ramone. I’m not really comfortable with you watching me pee. I don’t know you that well.”
Ramone jumped and angled himself away from where I was standing in front of the toilet.
“I don’t know, Ramone, I think you can still see me. I’m not sure what kind of sick satisfaction you might get from watching a human pee, but it disturbs me that you are making such an effort.”
Offended by the slander of his character, Ramone loudly left the room.
Today it is too hot to be clothed, so I tell Ramone I don’t mind him seeing me naked.
“Just no flying in the crotch area, okay Ramone? And I’d rather not be napping and have you land on my tit. Just saying.”
He has recovered from our fight last night and now he is flying about the room in circles. When I get up to go to the kitchen for some ice cream, Ramone follows.
“I don’t know what you eat, Ramone. You’re not like the fruit flies. I hope you survive on dead skin or dust or something, because then you’ll never go hungry in this house.”
Ramone paces back and forth on our counter, waiting for me to scoop the hard ice cream with a teaspoon. Eventually he gets impatient and starts buzzing around my head.
“You know, Ramone, just because you don’t like ice cream doesn’t mean other people can’t have it.”
He buzzes around the pint container and lands on the spoon.
“Ramone, if you would like to craft me a magical free ice cream scoop, be my guest. Otherwise you’ll just have to deal. This is important. It’s fucking hot.”
Ramone does not appreciate this. He does not feel the heat the way we do. All he knows is the bedroom has more interesting places to land and he likes my breasts better when I am lying on my back in bed and gravity is flattening them out.
“Do you like the Beatles, Ramone?” I ask after I’m done with my ice cream. “I thought everyone liked the Beatles. But then I met a whole bunch of people who don’t. It doesn’t matter. They weren’t nice people anyway.”
Ramone isn’t listening. He’s already flying around the room again, trying to fly in synch with the music I put on. It’s not working very well. His rhythm is all off.
The afternoon is wearing on and the relentless heat makes me immobile. I lie with all my limbs as far apart as possible, forming a star shape with my body. Ramone rests on the windowsill.
“I’m tired,” I say. Silence from Ramone. “Bored too.”
I look at him and he is gazing out the window at the empty park next door. The fountain is running but no one is playing in it. On a day like today the fountain is not enough water. I start to miss the children’s screams and the less frequent but equally high-pitched parent’s screams. I feel like I am the only person left in town.
“I’m lonely,” I say.
“Me too,” says Ramone.
The next day he is gone. At first I don’t worry because there are lots of hiding places and I wouldn’t blame him for being sick of me. But then the thought occurs that my boyfriend might have killed Ramone in the night out of jealousy or annoyance and I spend the rest of the day in a panic.
When my boyfriend gets home I jump on him.
“Did you kill a fly?”
“Did you kill a fly? A big fly? In this apartment?”
“No, of course not. He was keeping me awake. I lifted the screen window and let him go. He was happy to get out.”
“Oh,” I say.
At first I’m sad. How could Ramone just leave without saying goodbye? I worry I imagined the special nature of our connection. But at the end of the week the heat lets up and everyone comes back to town. It’s finally a good temperature to move about and leave the house. I step outside and immediately a passing woman pushing a stroller says, “Hello.” Her child manages to throw ice cream on my shins as he rolls by. Then I understand Ramone. I am happy to get out too.
Victoria Jakes is slowly but surely finishing her degree in film, writing, and women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is an assistant editor for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian where she also writes for the Editorial/Opinion page. In her free time, Victoria is a bus driver.