this is my 200th post

There's something about this heat, this sitting inside sweating, knowing it's cooler outside than in, that reminds me of my granny's house. My granny's house was green and small with very few doors in and out of rooms. There were doorways but no doors. She had a miniature poodle named Lucy who ran in circles throughout the house chasing after her frog toy even if my brother and I only pretended to throw it. Granny had an air-conditioning window unit installed in the main room only after one of Mobile's heat waves almost put in her in the hospital. Still that one window unit did little for the rest of the house, especially when Granny cooked, which was almost all the time. She was happy in that house, though and there was something in the simplicity of a house without locking doors, a house whose interior was open, available, a house without secret rooms, that intrigued me. I spent summers sweating inside and outside of that house on Diaz Street, walking to the grocery store with the neighbor girls whose braided hair I envied. My pale blonde hair was plain, ordinary in comparison to the girl's intricate and colorful braiding. She said it took hours to fix that way and she turned her head back and forth to hear the noise the beads made against her cheek.

Her name was Alannah and she knew all kinds of things about the neighborhood because she listened to her Aunt on the phone. She'd tell me stories as we walked across the street to get food for dinner. Sometimes Mr. Collins gave us Cokes for free and pretended to yell at the butcher as we placed orders for beef, chicken and ham, depending on what the recipes called for. We'd laugh at the way Mr. Collins waddled back and forth down the aisles but then stop because we felt guilty. His face was warm and kind. He had the kind of eyes that made you feel instantly at ease, safe. His wife had died years ago and his son had died in Vietnam. Granny said Mr. Collins had been old as long as she'd known him and that she felt for the man and Alannah and I decided we did, too. We made cards and drawings for him, which he displayed in the manager's station up at the front of the store. We felt special, prominent.

At his funeral, his nephew, Gregory spoke eloquently on Mr. Collins' kindness. He read a poem by Alice Walker, something about being gone, leaving marks. Mr. Collins had almost lived to 100. I was in college near the town where I'd spent so many sweltering summers, much of the day focusing on ways to stay cool. I sat in the crowded church, stood in the even more crowded cemetery and scanned the crowd for familiar faces. Gregory found me later at the fellowship hall and handed me a stack of drawings and cards his uncle saved. Every single one of them. At the time I could not understand that for Mr. Collins, I had been a kind and warm girl with bright blue eyes that seemed to offer whatever the day called for when you looked into them. He had cherished me, cherished the drawings in a way I still do not understand. He'd left everything to Gregory including the task of returning the items, the ones Mr. Collins had so carefully preserved over the years back to me and to Alannah. But Gregory discovered only recently that Alannah had been killed one night as she closed up the beauty shop where she worked in Tallahassee. She'd been robbed at knife point, refusing to give up her belongings, the nightly deposit, her Aunt's diamond ring. As I held the cards, I mourned them both, sweat and tears mixing together in the hot summer afternoon.

I remembered then how we lay next to one another in the grass halfway between her Aunt's yard and my Granny's. We talked about growing up, what jobs we'd have, the colors we would paint all the rooms in our houses. Alannah wanted two houses, one in Florida near her mother and one in Mobile with her father. She also wanted to own a beauty parlor one day or maybe be a lawyer. I wanted to be a writer and have a house overlooking the ocean; I didn't care which one. I remembered how the grass would itch if you laid too long, how sticky my t-shirt would be against my back and I remember how big the world seemed. And in those moments, in the hot dark of the Alabama night, we dreamed and knew we could have it all.

Anything was possible. Everything was.