Beads of sweat trickled from my scalp to
My chest the moment my toes touched
The floor outside my bathroom. The
Morning news program announced that
Yesterday was the hottest day of the year.
I put on my uniform and before I could
Finish tying my shoelaces I was already
Drenched with salt water. I hurried to
My car and drove off the garage in seconds
But the air conditioner was busted.
I opened the windows and the humid
Air rushed inside carrying with it
The smell of fresh asphalt. I stopped at
An intersection and got sandwiched by
Two old and rusty multicabs playing
Equally terrible political jingles
From two bitter political rivals.
I got to the office and my colleagues
Were swimming in sweat. The air
Conditioner over-heated, they said.
I forgot to put on my deodorant.
I hid in my cubicle at the corner
Of the room and drank a liter of tepid
Water. Then, I saw her, my year-long
Crush, across the floor. She’s
Talking to our new boss. He’s
Japanese, and I’m three minutes late.
He spotted me and walked towards
Me. I smiled, my nose sweating. He
Shook his head and greeted me with
A grunt while pointing at his Swiss
Watch. Someone finally opened the
Windows, bless his soul! The boss
Walked away without a word. Outside
The building, a group of Korean girls
Ate ice cream. Across the street, a
Middle-aged man was jogging. Then
She approached me. Not an inch of
My long-sleeved polo shirt was dry.
She smiled, and handed me a long
Brown envelope. Those are the copies
Of the work orders and invoices
You requested, sir, do you need
Anything else? she asked. I wiped
The sweat off my glasses. The cleared
Lens revealed her to me in all her
Ethereal sharpness. Her hair was
Shoulder-length and her face was
Bright. Her eyes were dark and
Her lips were vivid red. A gentle
Breeze blew from who knows where
And immediately I inhaled the scent
Of a garden of lilacs and violets,
With a hint of pepper and amber.
She was perfectly composed and her
Expression was light and expectant.
How did she manage to remain so fresh?
I asked myself. Sir, she repeated,
Do you need anything else? Yes, I
Stuttered, yes. Are you, um, free
Tomorrow night? Fresh waves of sweat
Cascaded down my temples and neck.
Surprised, she replied, no, sir. And
I won’t be free the night after that
And the innumerable nights that will
Follow. She examined me from crown
To toe and muttered, I need a man
Who doesn’t smell. And she walked away.