Arab Strap’s Philophobia, a musical compulsion of mine when I’m feeling sweaty on a summer evening, is a slow march of dreamy humid angst. Tonight I’m not quite lonely, more alone, and through the open windows an inefficient breeze sometimes cools me. Think I’ll strip down to avoid using the air conditioning. A/C is for the weak and wasteful. And this heat is nothing compared to what will come in August.

I roamed the streets of my suburban neighborhood this evening and watched the neighbors sweep the parking spaces in front of and beside their houses. Even the road is clean, barely a speck. One family jauntily displays a concrete slab on the side of their foundation with the whole family’s hand impressions, baby, children, and parents. It strikes me as radical and stands out among the sameness of the fake siding on all the houses.

Certain plants of mine are making it in the heat, but my blue such and such (low, tufted, with tiny light blue flowers, anyone out there a gardener?) has turned brown-yellow and must be plucked for aesthetic reasons. My neighbors’ gardens are fantasies of flower and foliage. One house has a full English garden arch festooned with ivy and beside it, baroque tufts of perennial color. Another yard is a minimalist’s dream of rocks and silvery leaves and tight purple swards of flowers. I am not a gardener, but I can see the order, the mismatched effort here as I pass house after suburban house. One house has a front porch, like some dream of Alabama, but the porch is unloved and sterile. It is a mockery of a porch, a porch that serves no purpose.

Down the hill in a much less affluent neighborhood is my favorite house, the rotting wreck of a once-beautiful traditional Japanese house. Its wood alone, its organic life, makes me feel my blood as I walk by. It’s abandoned and dying and so lovely I want to caress it. I am so safe in my neighborhood and my house is clean and tidy. I can’t quite hate it, but I don’t love it either. I never feel my heart skip with emotion up on the hill with the bourgeoisie. Next time, next time, we always say, we’ll pick a more edgy neighborhood, a neighborhood where we’ll be more involved in life, but in the end, we move into yet another safe and clean place and unpack the cocktail glasses. The eight Vietnamese monks with gold leaf faces and hands in our lacquer painting from Hanoi look down and pray for me.

A friend tells me long-distance to be less careful, let myself flow, and I wonder where to put my energies. This morning every kanji I carefully copied out—words like succeed, fail, attend, return—seemed to disappear moments after I made the shapes. My mind could not hold them. Kanji are beautiful love songs from Japan that slip past my memory and make kissing noises beside my cheeks. I try not to feel the futility of my efforts.

Today I packed a care package for my man. This involved wandering around a Japanese supermaket for dried miso soup mixes and tubes of wasabi and Japanese mustard and things to sprinkle over rice, and Men’s Pocky (the dark chocolate version). Anything to make the ship food more palatable. Then I went to base and raided the Navy Exchange and the Commissary: exfoliating face mask (the air on ship is full of fuel and general ship skank), new toothbrushes (seriously, go out today and replace your toothbrush, soft bristles, bacteria-free, you’ll see), and other signs of peaceful civilization.

I switch to Hayward Williams. He sings “Hold, hold me down, baby you’re only being cautious…” I will let myself sweat and not try to avoid the heat. I want to face the flowers that don’t grow under my care. Everything has been so careful that I like to feel a little perspiration soak my bra. I want to feel the summer grow in my skin.

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