The sweat of a thousand strangers hovers in the air, your own stink mixed in. Sweat pools under your belt, under your arms and under your hair. Your shoes feel tight as the watermelon-swelling of your feet continues unabated. Your shins hurt, your buttocks chafe, every single vein in your body carries molten lava, tingling fingers and toes. The more water you take on, the more you sweat. The air is foul and thick with moisture; the walls drip, expanding and pulsing with the density of summer. All you can think about is when your patrol finishes - even worse, when your tour of duty finishes and you can rotate back to the world. You try to make yourself invisible in the confusion, try to make yourself fade away just enough that people might just be able to walk through you. In some area the air is visible, the yellow-piss mist that hovers around the toilets, the shit-stink breaking ranks and escaping into the corridors. And then the sound you have become painfully familiar with over the course of your time here:
"'Ere, mate, it's a bit hot in here isn't it," a braying idiot says, as if mentioning the heat will cause a freak, but pleasant, snowdrift.
"Really? I haven't noticed." The only answer that makes them leave. Don't talk to them, don't enter into a conversation. Every word uttered makes another degree of heat noticeable.
The air-conditioning vibrates noisily, sometimes stuttering with showers of lukewarm water and the promise of Legionnaire's Disease. This happens often, the heat so strong that the water evaporates before anybody has the chance to wipe it up. The evidence of a leak is suspicious white residue left behind on floors and walls, white power in little patches around the terminal, little threats of poison.
All the airport staff suffer in silence, only the occasional complaint. But now the war memorial outside the terminal is full of people. Baggage handlers lying on the grass, shirts off and huge, white, buttery bellies exposed to the sky, office workers sticking to the benches, shyly unbuttoning the top button of their shirts and slackening their ties.
This is the horror of summer at the airport, and it is only June. Soon more people will come with their complaints, and their body heat and their sweat and piss and shit. The air will become heavier. The walls will expand more, as will the feet of all concerned. International travel has been reduced to a stinking sauna in the sort of gym men use to cruise for sex - the salt sting in the air is that of locker-room lust.
And still the war-cry of the imbecile:
"It's hot in here, isn't it?"