The heat covered us like a lead blanket, relentless and pondering. Sweat trickled down the small of our backs, leaving amoebas of moisture on our T-shirts and underarms.
"You're right," I said, "I admit it. A Virginia summer is way worse than an Arizona summer. Hands down."
He smiled, his eyes crinkling like a fan, "That kills you to say, doesn't it?"
"Well, yeah." I peeled my shirt away from my skin, a temporary release. "I mean, I know heat. But this humidity? Game over, man. You win."
"If you call that winning." He swung the bucket of blackberries in his left hand.
I had insisted on berry-picking at a local farm. In July. When he grimaced and said, "Have you been outside?" I reminded him that it was twenty degrees warmer in Arizona. After all, toughness ran through my lizard veins, and my leathery, desert-rat skin would protect me from the supposed "elements."
"We'll go," he said. "It'll be miserable, but we'll go." He sighed, squeezed my hand, and added, "You're lucky I love you."
The berries were lush and bursting with juice, but in between the horseflies and the soupy air, we lasted all of ten minutes. We staggered up the rutted dirt road towards the parking lot. The Maple trees, heavy and verdant, provided temporary respite from the sun. I reached for his hand, and he shrugged it off. "Too hot," he grumbled.
I pouted. "Are you mad at me?" It was early in our relationship. I hadn't yet learned that heat and hunger suck the happy out of him, as deftly as a syringe.
"Why do you always ask that?"
Because I've been hurt. Because I'm afraid. "I don't know."
We walked, the silence as heavy as the air between us.
"Hold on," he said, heading towards the middle of the road.
"What are you doing?" I called.
"C'mere." He perched on the balls of his feet. His hands were cupped, folded over something small and precious.
I peered in, as he opened his fingers like a ribbon. Inside, sat a small box turtle. "I always pick them up and move them to the side of the road."
"Really? Why?" I stared at the creature as it blinked in its somnolent haze.
He rubbed its shell gently, "It's just something I do. My dad taught me. They're slow and helpless, and I don't want them to get run over by cars."
I hugged him. "Too hot," he grumbled, but he returned my embrace. I held this man, the one that looks out for the turtles.
And every time we stop by the side of a road to rescue a turtle, as we have done countless times in our marriage, I whisper, "I do."
The Red Dress Club, in its quest for world domination, has begun a weekly memoir challenge, which posts each Tuesday. I'm giving it a go. The prompt is:
This week, we want you to imagine that after you have died and your daughter/son will be given the gift of seeing a single five-minute period of your life through your eyes, feeling and experiencing those moments as you did when they occurred. What five minutes would you have him/her see? Tell us about them in the finest detail.
I'm not sure why my five minutes ended up being this, but I let the writing flow the way it wanted to go.
Constructive criticism is welcome. I'm posting early, so this may evolve over the next few days.