Hear Me Out

Polar Opposites

November 11, 1998


Winter is encroaching on us here in the Bay Area and you know what that means. The War of the Thermostats has begun.

When people ask how Leslie and I met I always tell them the same thing. Some friends thought we'd be great together but Leslie and I hated each other at first. I thought she was a geek and she thought I was loud and obnoxious. Nothing has changed much, except we don't hate each other anymore.

People like us are often referred to as polar opposites. I don't think that really describes the absolute oppositeness of the situation. After all, the poles don't look all that dissimilar. Flat, loads of ice and some bearded guys in big parkas doing environmental science experiments and a couple of flags spinkled about. I think Leslie and I are more like seasonal opposites. It may not sound as catchy but it fits a lot better.

Somewhere around the middle of October I start to produce an inordinate amount of heat. I don't sweat or turn red, but I throw a sort of solar heat out about six inches from my body, like the sun's corona. Leslie refers to this phenomenon as the "God-damn-it-why-aren't-you-cold" state.

It irritates her to no end that while she is bundled up in socks, wool slippers, sweat pants, turtle neck and a pullover sweater, I'm walking around in a T-shirt, light pants and bare feet. I claim it's because I'm actually a mammal and can regulate my heat unlike her reptilian kind. This usually gets me a good smack in the back of the head but I figure it might just get her blood pumping.

I also get what can only be describes as, "healin' hands." My hands heat up even more than my body and radiate almost all of the time. Again, I don't have sweaty, clammy hands - just nice, toasty ones. I'm sure that if I had any sort of faith I'd be able to heal people, but since I don't I'm only able to annoy.

The worst part, aside from the almost constant grumbling from little Miss Frostbite, is the compromising. Since we drive into the city together we have to agree on an ambient temperature for the car. Leslie gets in and immediately cranks the heater up to full-blown-butane-torch-level and pipes it towards our feet. Since her lips are usually blue and there is some shivering detectable from beneath all those layers of clothing, I let it go. I want to be the supportive one who gets those good karma points that I can drag out the next time she complains about my not putting the dishes in the washer.

After a while, I can't stand it. My eyes are so dry it feel like I have sandpaper lids scrapping against them and my feet are about to burst into flames. So much for the supportive partner points. I push all the buttons down - just to make it stop. We compromise. I drive half-naked and sweaty while she shivers a bit but her lips aren't blue.

Once we get home, it starts all over again. She turns up the thermostat and hot air starts billowing into the house. "It's not that cold." I look at the little dial and it's registering about 58 degrees. I realize that there are meat lockers that are warmer than our house. I give in when I see our dog trying to break through the thin layer of ice that's formed over her water bowl.

Finally, we've eaten, watched TV and are ready for bed. Luckily we wised up years ago and bought an electric blanket with separate controls for each side. We pile in and the first thing she does is press her ice-cube feet against my shins. It hurts, like ice water being poured down your pants, but I love her. When the skin she's in contact with starts to cool down, she moves up to warmer territory. I cringe but I'm happy to share my natural resources.

Then she moves those damn icicles again. Enough's enough! I am not a nuclear reactor with unlimited heat potential. What about my needs? She's finally warm and I've cooled down considerably. In fact, I'm freezing. My nose is running a bit and my lips hurt from the cold. My fingers ache as I feel the cold reaching into my bones.

Leslie turns over, her back to me and opens a book with a contented sigh. I notice her foot peeking out from under the covers as I hunker down and pull the comforter tighter in order to conserve my heat. I snuggle up to her, hoping to reclaim some of my warmth. She has the nerve to push the blankets down a little to let some air in.

"How are you? Still cold?" I ask, knowing the awful truth but unwilling to admit it.

"Actually, I'm a little warm. Could you open the window a little?"

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Copyright 1998 by Laura Jiménez.


Updated 11/23/98
D&S Associates