"The summer makes me too hot," she thought to herself, breathing in sharply. The humid air left her lungs feeling like roughly wrung wash-cloths, damp and twisted, something like the aftermath of drowning when she exhaled again.
She held three names in her mind, maybe four; names that when translated from their foreign tongues all read as trouble. But she was only good with her own tongue, only good at rolling it around words like marbles skip across the sidewalk. Only good at talking herself into these bad-idea-names, these bad-influence-names, these names that were never looked back on fondly. Her eyes felt the sigh welling in her chest whenever she looked at the faces that lived just past the names, and the stories that lived just past the faces.
Looking in the mirror, she wore cheap around the corners of her eyes. Cheap thickened her eyelashes, dangled from her earlobes, rested on her chest. She brushed lint off the front of her shirt and caught her own eyes accusing her of another bad idea.
"It's just too hot here in August."
But the look said that there was no excuse for collecting names as bracelets that fit more like handcuffs. There was no getting rid of the three or four that weren't necessarily mistakes, just not necessarily what they seemed to be. The humid air drew everything in closer, and she could feel the way they had all looked at her, the look she should have memorized and built brick and mortar walls against by now. It was simple to read, a billboard about a mile off or so, but plain as day.
She brushed at the place where the lint had been, wanting another distraction. The face in the mirror said, "Heat isn't so bad when you don't think about it."
And she answered back, "Then the air is too heavy."
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Three or four pairs of eyes, long gone but still lingering, collected over the slow fade of years and summers passed. She could lay the images all on top of one another like acetate and they matched up. The picture was the same each time. Something broken. Something that could easily be better. Something that was so clearly trouble when translated properly.
She never remembered the right language until after the fact, and until she did, they kept looking on, waiting for another set of eyes to keep her cheap and easily fooled. She couldn't take the pressing of the air, the pressing of any of it.