I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s incredibly hot out. It might be a global pandemic and a revolution, but everybody’s still happy to also talk about how it’s hot out. In Baltimore this past weekend should have been Artscape, the biggest free arts festival in the country, but it was cancelled, of course. Artscape is always on the hottest weekend of the year, and this year was no exception. (PS This week in July is statistically the hottest every year, so it’s not just Artscape that makes it so hot, but clearly it’s mostly Artscape.)
The real heat dome wasn’t going to settle until Sunday, so I took Saturday afternoon to ride my bike around one last time before it got actually dangerous to exercise out there. Thing is, even though it wasn’t officially the heat dome, it was still really, really hot. Once I settle into the heat, though, I’m usually good. You just have to give yourself over to the sweat and the stickiness, and on a bike, hope the downhills give enough breeze for a break from it all.
I headed down the hill without a plan, but quickly decided to head to Federal Hill. I used to bike to that neighborhood with some regularity, mostly to see my friend A. We used to meet at Koba Café on the corner at Fort and Webster to sit upstairs and write but mostly gossip and complain together. Or I’d meet her at her house to sit in their central A/C and eat snacks served on dishes that are especially made for whatever snack was being served. A. is an amazing host, and I’m an amazing guest. We’d meet for a glass of wine, lazy afternoon lunches, or that one time when she pretended she was looking for an apartment for her mom at the fancy new development so we could get a tour. She was so good I was almost convinced her mom was actually considering a move to Baltimore. (She wasn’t.)
When she had her kiddo, I used to ride over to hold that fresh baby so A. could take a shower. Every year we’d meet at Riverside Park to celebrate another birthday, and that baby kitten is heading into first grade right now. It’s wild.
A. and her family moved away last year, so she’s not Federal Hill anymore. I missed her so much on this ride, past our cafe, past the preschool her kid went to, past the turn I’d make to her house, the park where we took her kiddo to be entertained so we could complain about work or partners or politics or whatever. Some of our spots are still there, others gone too, but oh, I miss my friend. But I loved remembering how we used to live here together on this ride.
And then I was pedaling up the hill of the bridge and over and down to Fort McHenry. I hadn’t been there in forever either, and it brought back other memories–of being alone, on my bike. It’s still my favorite place to be, the place I feel most like myself. I did a turn around the park, dinging my bell to alert the many others walking and biking on the path. I stopped at a bench–in the sun, because the shady ones were taken–and snapped this picture. My goodness it was blue out on Saturday. I remembered biking out here with my boo, sitting in shade, absolutely ridiculously in love.
I am still ridiculously in love with that girl, and I still love my friend, though I can’t ride my bike over to her house anymore. I can still send her a random complaining text message that is so petty she’s one of the few I can trust with it. Friendship turns and takes different shapes, but she’ll always be my family.
I sat in the sun for just a few more minutes before I had to get out of there. I guzzled down some more water and started the ride home. My boo texted me just a bit after I got on my bike, asking if I was ok–it’s hot out, she was just checking in. I didn’t see it for a half hour, at which point I was almost home. Am I ok? Oh, yes, I’m great. I’m so lucky, so lucky to have such love in my life, to have so much friendship and care, and could you please turn on the window unit? It’s hot out here. Another mile or two up the hill and I was home, and now I’ll wait for the heat wave (also known as “July”) to give me a bit of a break.