Most changes are not so swift as the fallen house, and I notice how much weight the boy in his glassed-in sunporch has lost only when I realize from the sound of his footsteps that he's no longer walking on his treadmill but running, and I look at him closely for the first time in a long time, my dear flabby friend whom I took for granted, and see a transformation so astonishing it's as if a maiden had turned into a birch tree or a stream. During these few months this overweight child has turned into a slender man with pectoral rosebuds on his chest, sweating, smiling at himself in the glass, and I yelp aloud because of the swiftness of youth, these gorgeous changes that insist that not everything is decaying faster than we can love it. I walk on and as the boy's trotting noises fade I keep hearing a disquieting constant sound that I can't place. It is a sticky night: I shed my jacket last week, and it is only gradually that I understand that the noise is coming from the first air-conditioner turned on for the year. Soon they'll all be on, crouched like trolls under the windows, their collective tuneless hum drowning out the night birds and frogs, and time will leap forward and the night will grow more and more reluctant to descend and, in the cool linger of twilight, people longing for real air after the sickly fake cold all day will come out and I will no longer have my dangerous dark streets to myself. There's a pleasant smell like campfires in the air, and I think that the old turpentine-pine forests that ring the city must be on fire, which happens once a year or so, and I wonder about all those poor birds seared out of their sleep and into the disorienting darkness. I discover the next morning that it was worse, a controlled burn over the acres where dozens of the homeless had been living in a tent city, and I walk down to look, but it's all great oaks, lonely and blackened from the waist down in a plain of steaming charcoal. When I return and see the six-foot fences around Bo Diddley Plaza which had gone up that same night for construction, or so the signs say, it is clear that it is part of a larger plan, balletically executed. I stand squinting in the daylight wanting to yell, looking to find a displaced person. Please, I think, please let my couple come by, let me see their faces at last, let me take their arms. I want to make them sandwiches and give them blankets and tell them that it's O.K., that they can live under my house. I'm glad I can't find anyone later, when I remember that it is not a kind thing to tell human beings that they can live under your house. The week of heat proves temporary, a false start to the season. The weather again turns so clammy and cold that nobody else comes out and I shiver as I walk until I escape my chill by going into the drugstore for Epsom salts to soak my walking away. It is astonishing to enter the dazzling color, the ferocious heat after the chilly gray scale; to travel hundreds of miles over the cracked sidewalk and sparse palmetto and black path-crossing cats I dart away from, into this abundance with its aisles of gaudy trash and useless wrapping and plastic pull tabs that will one day end up in the throat of the earth's last sea turtle. I find myself limping and the limp morphs into a kind of pained bopping because the music dredges up elementary school, when my parents were, astonishingly, younger than I am now, and that one long summer they listened on repeat to Paul Simon singing over springy African drums about a trip with a son, the human trampoline, the window in the heart; and it is both too much and too little and I leave without the salts because I am not ready for such easy absolution as this. I can't.