It’s been hot lately. A few times I saw real feel above 41c which is like 107f. I stubbornly try not to use my AC. Electricity is expensive. And I’m also trying to train my body to handle the heat better. But then the power went out. Been using a small USB fan with my laptop. Battery was under 50%. I keep my front door slightly open for a breeze. Someone knocked on the door. I went. It was a neighbour I’d seen but never met.

She asked if I had “light.” Learned that instead of asking someone if they had “power” or “electricity,” here they say “luz.” I said no. She said oh maybe it’s the block and she may call. I noticed her voice sounded a bit different. She told me her dad uses a respirator at times to help him with breathing in the heat and she was concerned about the power. I thought, my sweating didn’t seem so bad comparatively. I asked her if she needed any help with her dad. She said no thank you but if I ever needed anything I should come by and ask. I told her that she should do the same. I ask her for her name. She doesn’t hear me well. Points to her hearing aid. Her name is Carmen.

Then I went to my friend’s cafe nearby. Figured I could juice up my computer battery and still use the fan tonight if the power was going to be out for awhile. I arrive and they’re closed. Summer hours. But I notice everyone is in the kitchen and they wave me in. She’s there with her boyfriend, her parents, her staff, and the staff of another cafe nearby. They’re cooking and drinking and listening to music. It’s about 16:20. At one point her parents dance to an old song. I play some 60s and 70s gypsy Spanish funk and they’re like “You like this?” One of the guys from the other cafe made meloso, a rice stew with prawns. Delicious. And of course we have dessert. There’s about 9 of us in total.

As we leave they give me a bag of pastries to take home. August is a slow month here. It’s so hot that most people take the whole month off to go on holiday to a cooler region. My friend’s boyfriend suggests that maybe I give it to a neighbour. I think about Carmen. So I take the bag.

I can’t remember where she lives exactly. There are 2 doors for the building next to mine. But I’m sure it’s the bigger door. So I ring the bell. And an old man comes to the door. I figure it’s Carmen’s dad. I ask if she’s there. He says she’s not. I tell him that I’m a neighbour and I have some treats I wanted to give them. He asks if Carmen ordered them. I said no but that they are a gift and ask him if he wants them. He says of course. And smiles and puts his hand out to shake my hand. His name is Emilio.

I come back to my place. Power is back. But I realise almost all the lights are on because I was playing with them before I left for the cafe. I’m feeling good. And then my doorbell rings. It’s a woman I’ve never seen. Immediately I think that I went to the wrong house. She asks if I gave a bag of pastries to her dad and I’m like I was looking for Carmen.

My Spanish is much better but I still struggle, especially when pressed. She says oh, come with me. I know I’m not in trouble. But I feel like it. She calls for Carmen. I notice the woman calling for Carmen, who turns out to be her sister, also has a hearing aid. Carmen comes out. Sees me. Looks relieved.

They explain that their dad is old and sick and sometimes he gets confused. So when they saw that he had a bag of baked goods and they asked him where he got it from and all he could say was some guy gave it to him, they got worried. But now they felt fine. Then we talked some more. Mostly her. Outside their place on the sidewalk. And I keep hoping that my door doesn’t slam shut from the wind that’s now blowing because I didn’t bring a key.

Then someone else came out and I thought Carmen was saying that the woman could speak Chinese and so I told the woman that I was Korean but then Carmen said something else that sounded like “chino” but I think it was maybe “vecino” but her words aren’t clear because she’s partially deaf. So I’ve been looking up words that might sound like chino but maybe means mute because I think that woman can’t talk.

In the end, we do the double kiss thing and tells me again to come by if I ever need anything, says thank you and that they’ll enjoy the pastries. It feels good to be neighbourly. By coming here I relearned what that felt like.

Writer/Editor: Vibe, MTV, Tidal. Marketing/Advertising: Nike, Samsung, The Madbury Club. Former #1 Google image search for bald Asian. Seoul->Ithaca->NYC->VLC