4:15 pm, on a Friday. I'm headed home. Where did you go today?

I walked out of a sterile building and into the heat. Concrete, asphalt, steely skeletons, offset by green, green grass and a crow. Sterility chills me to the bone -- stepping back into the world warms me, by inches. The sun bounces on my skin, and I can relax to the familiar sensation of coming in from the cold. Invisible sunshine rubs my shoulders and neck. I happily keep on walking.

Hard to look around when everything's so bright. Glittering white concrete and the reflections of a thousand little tiny car mirrors. I cover my eyes and squint some more. Cars pass, noxious fumes. My scalp starts to itch and burn. I try to guess the temperature -- 104, 107? Seems about right. I trudge on.

Dry, very dry. The grass represents riches and waste, the cars are sealed up and anonymous to me. The relentless heat draws the energy right out of me. My body already wants water, and I've only gone a quarter mile. I keep walking; there isn't much shade where I'm headed.

Passing through the maze of white lines, every inch of me is hot and dry. I feel dusty, even though I'm not. I find my truck easily in the vast, deserted parking lot, far off in the distance. I get out my keys and unlock the door, being careful not to touch the metal. I quickly pop open the door, before the metal handle can burn my fingers. Chuck my junk in the front seat, kick door, walk around, keys, unlock, crank window, adjust blanket, sit carefully. As a test, I lay my hand slowly on the dash. Nothing for a split second, then a rapidly escalating heat. Even as my arm trembles, I struggle to master my reflexes -- pain is something, too, and I can re-shape it. In a peculiar act of concentration and distraction, I change the burning into a pleasant tingle. The heat slowly fades, drawn up into somewhere. I can take my hand off now.

Keys, ignition. Only I can't actually turn the key, I have to use the keyring instead. Awkward, but it works. Vinyl is one thing...metal is another. I've had my share of blisters, anyway, that's for sure. The engine coughs and wheezes, and wakes up. So did I, this morning. Parking brake, clutch, gear. Look around...let's get going.

Turn, drive around bus. Lane change, turn. Clutch, clutch. Glancing at the slow-moving freeway, I opt for 8th street instead. Get in line. Look around. No one else is out there; all I can see is cars. Look at my open window, people, and know I suffer. I mop the sweat from my brow, and debate whether to turn off the fan. Having 100-degree air blown on you almost helps, but not quite.

The light turns green, and I'm startled by the guitars suddenly coming in. I shift gears deftly, using only the heel of my hand. The wind rushes by the window, and the band-aids on my other hand flutter, melted partly off by the heat and the perspiration. I shift uncomfortably, knowing the back of my nice shirt is soaked. Why didn't I take it off before I started? The tires of the truck in front of my look flat.

on a distant shoreline...she waves her arms to me...

Shoreline? What's that? Shore...sea...fish. A huge pool of cold water. Cold all the time, despite the sun. I saw it once, it was neat. Water, everywhere. Strange smells. Red light, glide to a stop. I look around me, and it seems like a barren wasteland. The grassy lawns in front of the office buildings look so fake -- the backdrop is dirt, stones, and thorny plants, and distant brown mountains, and in the foreground are over two million people who want to pretend otherwise. It never rains.

the steam of my misfortunes...has given me the power to be afraid

Fear? It's a dangerous way of life. You could slip or crash. Someone else could crash you. Someone at a computer could make a mistake. You could misinterpret something, for all time. So-and-so acts, and I respond. Life is a lot like jumping into a cool swimming pool, provided sharks have been added. Run, jump, splash. Keep your head above water but keep your feet on the ground. Try not to close your eyes too long. Get out when you're too cold.

my secret thoughts come alive...

Who's to say what's right? My imaginings get me everywhere and nowhere (sometimes opposites are complements). A sumptuous life in my head, and an austere one in this barren world. But what's really barren? My mental reconstructions, or the face of the earth? So many traps of thought and assumption. See through the eyes of others.

it's what you take that makes it right... The present is accountable. Too many contributions to keep looking back, or worse, looking down other paths. Who wants to wane nostalgic when life flashes before your (mental) eyes?

and in my mind I'm everyone...

Pull up to the curb, stop, brake, keys, door, lock. Grab my bag of nonsense from the passenger seat and lock the door. I ache for a drink of water. I sort of flick-twist the doorknob and kick the door open softly -- that doorknob will burn you almost instantly. The house is dark, dark, dark, and the TV is already on.