On the Gulf, it is a drier ocean heat, still stifling, but with more escape. Thirty miles inland, there is no way out. The air sits on you heavily, too overwhelmed to move about. It is walking through invisible fire.
It radiates up from the ground, steaming you like so many dumplings. It is tangible, visible in the distance as wavy, psychedelic tricks of the eye.
The saving grace of air conditioning and electric outdoor fans makes one wonder how anyone survived in this heat before electricity. You can understand women having the vapors when they are in this heat, wearing crinolines and petticoats and having only iced tea and rocking chairs to cool them. You wonder how anyone could survive without the crisp, bracing rush that happens when you step inside to a climate controlled room from the outside, where you can control nothing: the bugs, the dirt, the never-ending heat.
But there is something unnervingly sassy about this heat. Something strong, something that speaks of women farming their own food and caring for enormous households while insisting on grace and intelligence. It is impossible to be a wallflower in this heat; it demands you stand up and be noticed. It is not making the best of a situation, or merely existing; it is enveloping everything around it and taking it in, claiming it, squeezing it close.
It is its own entity, a personification that embodies a southern woman. The kind I wish I could be.
It is thick, liquid, sensuous. Heavy. Saucy.