It was a hot and humid summer day. The air stood sour under the thick branches of the dead tree that stood stiff like a statue. Even the breeze wouldn’t touch the long-dead bark. It only moved above, shifting the clouds about, ignoring the surface, as if afraid to catch whatever killed the big tree so long ago. The ground was covered with layers of rotten leaves so dense they produced a damp squishing sigh whenever anyone dared step on top of them. Few people did at this time of year. Most preferred walking in open expanses where the air could flow and dry their sweat, rather than these areas, where the dense vegetation trapped the air and prevented its escape to the rest of the atmosphere.  

There were only two living beings that dared exist in the almost unlivable space. One of them was me. I walked slowly, letting my feet bounce off the moldy blanket of the floor, and crumpled to lean against the bark. My date sat next to me quickly and shoved himself backwards, pushing leaves out of the way, exposing the earth to the choking heat. A small worm squirmed and dug itself further under the surface, escaping in a hurry. We were fourteen, trying to find refuge from the adults in our summer camp to test our own heat, which was rising the farther we strayed off the path. The small woodsy area was our only escape, and the prospect of adventure was almost enough to make us forget about the heat. Almost enough. He was excited, and I was curious, and after a few moments of organizing our relative postures and verifying we were alone, we let the big dead tree witness our first kiss.

It wasn’t very hot after all.