“I never know if this helps,” she says. She is fanning herself with Great Expectations. “It feels nice, but I’m using energy, aren’t I?”
I nod faintly, making the smallest possible movement in acknowledgment. Yes. Yes you are using energy. I don’t speak the words, though; her fanning cools me too, and I like the feel of the breeze.
“The same with electric fans. I can’t sleep at night without one, but all it’s doing is moving air around, right? And burning energy. Sucking it out of the walls. Turning electricity into heat. Why does it feel so cool, when it’s actually making everything hotter?”
I let the side of my mouth twitch, hoping she finds it a sufficient response. She can go on like this for ages and I am tired.
“I mean, I’m okay with air conditioners. They make things cooler in one place but hotter in another. That I can understand. As long as I’m in the cool place, I’m happy. But fans...they just don’t make sense.”
She lapses into silence, like a capacitor pausing to charge before its next explosive release. In her quiet, she glances at me. The book continues to flutter in her hand.
I could explain about sweat and evaporation, about how the movement of air increases convective heat loss. Wind chill. Thermodynamics. About the amount of energy required to power a fan, about the caloric requirement to power the waving of an arm. I could save myself seconds or minutes or hours of her aimless musings. I could tell her things that, I believe, she would genuinely find interesting.
I could do all these things. But I don’t. It is a hot summer and I already know that our two thermal bodies won’t be sharing the same heat reservoir for long. We are already cooling, and at such a rate that I know it’s not efficient to spend any more energy trying to keep the flame alive.
As her hand stills and a bead of perspiration meanders down the side of her face, I wonder if maybe we would have lasted longer if the summer hadn’t been so hot, or if I didn’t know so much about entropy.