New Jersey freezes or clings to you. Rare are the cool autumn days or the spring mornings when the leaf is new and the air a softness on the cheek comforting as a mother’s untroubled hug. Most common, cursed and recalled are the deadening August heats when the first glorious release from winter’s chilly wet has been long forgotten. Citizens are salamanders, at home in the BBQ pit, or they are locked in their ice boxes coddling shakers topped with triple martinis and clusters of olives swirling their frozen, envious eyes. Nights are twisted away in sweaty sheets crushing as canvas tarps, and dawn crawls through the window red-eyed with her hot cottony tongue flooding your mouth too insistently to resist. You spend long hazy days in a vaporous crucible and are poured back into bed by exhaustion.
Winter wears on you no better. Dump trucks of blizzard-snow back up to the drive the midnight before a harried commute; the highways are black with road rage and grit by noon, only to freeze into unnavigable slush by quitting time–which occurs, as had the morning commute, in slanderous darkness. When the creep and ache of winter finally set in your bones like knitting needles, you know you are in for six more months of God’s laughter.
Such ugly weathers have been the metronome of my existence. Yours too, if you are one of the Garden State’s millions of inmates. As the most crowded state in the union, we look out the window squinting for nature only to find the battered face of a neighbor staring blearily back. And when we can’t see each other, we hear each other. Or, even more morosely, smell each other, cooking odors drifting through the chemical miasma of polluted Elizabeth. Some medallioned goon revs his polished off-road monstrosity past your drive, a monster truck that will never see an unpaved mile of road before its warranty is out; just beyond the mailbox, a toddler squeals merrily at the God-awful screech of his plastic Big Wheel ripping down the sidewalk while his playmates rehearse an unending Wagnerian death scene.