Ah, autumn. In my mainland life, it was my favorite time of year. I love walking among the crunchy, vibrant leaves, and finally wearing my favorite cardigan and cute pair of boots that have been tucked away all summer. I enjoy a day spent apple picking, capped off with Sunday Night Football and an ice cold pumpkin beer. I even appreciate the shortening days; the sense of coziness that comes from putting an extra quilt on the bed and rejoicing in that extra hour of sleep on the magical night the clocks “fall back”. Autumn back home is, essentially, about sweaters, hearty stews, and haunted houses.
Autumn in the islands is, apparently, primarily about avoiding heatstroke. Up until a few weeks ago, the weather forecast has been virtually the same every single day since I moved here: 82 degrees Fahrenheit, mildly breezy, 30% chance of rain showers. Winter melded into spring; spring morphed into summer. The seasons changed and I barely noticed at all – until September arrived in a blaze of heat, humidity, and stagnant air, reducing me to a sweaty, despondent mess who spends as much time as possible laying prostrate (rather dramatically) in front of our newly-purchased fan.
The sudden rise in temperature has been made all the more jarring by the fact that many retail stores continue the faςade that we experience four distinct seasons here in the islands. When walking into a large chain store like K-mart, for example, you’re greeted by the women’s clothing section, which is currently dominated by pants and long-sleeved tops in the typical autumn rainbow of mustard yellow, burnt orange, and forest green. The “back to school” items have recently been cleared away to make room for Halloween costumes, and a corner toward the back of the store is already (distressingly) displaying an array of fake Christmas trees. Inside the store, it is literally indistinguishable from a K-mart in, say, Buffalo, or Hartford. (Aside from the impressive display of Cruzan rum, of course.)
But outdoors, away from the comfort of ceiling fans and air conditioners, we’ve entered the seventh circle of hell. I am trying to think of how to describe how intensely hot it has been, but words are failing me. “Boiling”, “sweltering”, “baking”, “scorching”, and “sauna” aren’t even scratching the surface of my clammy misery. I wake up each morning in a feverish puddle of perspiration. Rather than feeling disgusted, I think to myself, “At least the dampness cools the sheets a bit…” I’ve adopted nudist tendencies, wearing as few items of clothing as possible until approximately five seconds before I need to sprint to my blessedly air-conditioned vehicle to make a brief venture into a public space. As I crawl into bed at night, my normally affectionate husband mutters in the darkness, “I love you so much…but please – don’t touch me.”
Gone are the days when we’d agonize over whether or not turning on the A/C was worth the utterly horrifying increase in our electric bill. The new conundrum goes more like this: Do I want to do this errand as badly as I want to not put on clothes today? We used to guard our water supply religiously, soaking dishes rather than running the dishwasher and shutting off the shower while shaving legs to conserve those precious drops of water. Now, I find myself regularly taking two showers a day, maybe with a dip in the ocean in between, trying in vain to cool off. I wasn’t exactly a slave to fashion before this autumn heat wave hit, but what little makeup I used to apply has gone by the wayside and my new daily hairstyle of choice is a damp messy bun (from the aforementioned frequent showers/swims).
As we got into our car the other day, we cleared the windshield of a few palm tree fronds, downed from an overnight thunderstorm that offered a brief respite from the crippling temperature. “Look,” my husband said, half-heartedly, “Island foliage!” Social media is not helping our sweaty state of despair. To skim my Facebook mini-feed, you’d think everyone back home was on one big hayride together, frolicking through a pumpkin patch drinking Oktoberfest and crisp apple cider. If I see one more Instagram of a pumpkin spice latte, perfectly positioned in the dappled autumn sunlight, I may off myself. Forget Pinterest – suddenly, it seems the only desirable recipes in the world are those whose main ingredients are a combination of apple, pumpkin, and/or cinnamon.
Before long, I realize my mini-feed will fill with photos of snow piled high and laments of frigid mornings spent shoveling. I’ll be basking in the island sun, cocktail in hand, while my friends back home hike to work in leaky snow boots. The rational part of my brain understands all this, and knows that the entire world is not attending one giant harvest festival while I slowly melt away in the Caribbean. My sweet, tropical revenge will come soon enough.
Though in the meantime, I’ll be huddled under an air conditioner operating at full blast, weeping quietly over a pumpkin-scented candle, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the “Christmas winds”. After all, you’re not truly an island girl until you find yourself complaining about the “chilly” 80 degree winter weather.