Nonfiction by Elizabeth Enochs
The heat index is 113 when I take my lunch break and even on full blast my car’s AC is no match, and it’s not like I’m unaccustomed to heat — southeast Missouri rarely does “mild;” summers swelter and winters bite — but I’m thinking of those who don’t have AC, have never needed AC, maybe can’t afford to pay for AC, maybe can’t even find an AC unit to pay for, and I’m hoping they stay hydrated at least; and I’m thinking of the people I see leaning against traffic lights with signs and water bottles — people my state legislators are eager to punish for their misfortune, people who never seem to be wearing hats or sunglasses or sunscreen — and I’m thinking of companion animals and farmed animals and street animals and I’m hoping they have plenty of water and shade, and I’m thinking of anyone working outdoors and I’m hoping the same for them.
The heat index is 113 when I exit my car to pick up groceries before returning to work, and on my way into the store I pass a Black elder loading groceries into her van, and when she looks up at me I say “whew, it’s hot,” because I enjoy being friendly — and even if I didn’t, it’s a cultural imperative down here — but it’s also because my mom remembers when this town was segregated, remembers when schools first integrated here, and thinking of that reminds me of a recent work project: we framed photos of The Wheatley School, an all-Black school my hometown hosted before integration — and thinking of that reminds me of an anti-racism seminar a former employer of mine hosted over Zoom after a White man was fired for saying racist things, (or maybe he resigned?) and the thing I remember most from that seminar is when our educator explained sundown towns — I remember wondering what it must be like not to learn of sundown towns until you’re an adult, because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about them, and I once thought all Americans knew about them.
The heat index is 113 when I return from my lunch break and my skin is pink and paining, and as I’m clocking in I’m thinking of skin cancer and hoping I don’t test positive for it someday like my grandpa and cousin did — my grandpa who spent his childhood picking cotton for his sharecropper father, my cousin who survived two tours of duty in desert heat; and that reminds me of a video I watched this week explaining how the Sahara was once lush and wet and full of life and it’s possible it could be that way again, and I wonder if anyone will be around to see it.
Elizabeth “Liz” Enochs is a queer writer from southeast Missouri. She’s also the author of the nonfiction prose chapbook, Leaving the House Unlocked. More often than not, you’ll find Liz in the woods. You can read more of her writing at Elizabeth “Liz” Enochs | Writer.