The push of hot air through the vents was audible, a false promise of deliverance from the chill air. Somewhere high above, hot air swirled, coating the ceiling with soothing passes of phantom hands. But down here, down near the hard ground beneath my bare feet, it was cold and dark. Dark like the pause before sunset; too light, still, to turn on lights, but dim enough that my eyes ached and squinted. My cold toes curled into the industrial carpet. Not for the first time, I wondered why the vents in the basement were near the ceiling.
The television was a beacon, bright but not hot, its illumination another deception. There would be no relief for my eyes or my rippling skin in the flashing images, the strident sounds. A dark head was visible over the back of the woven couch. My brother, unmoving and seemingly transfixed, though I knew it for another illusion. Somewhere beyond sight, his hands were a flurry of action as he manipulated the video game controller If I squinted through the half light of the coming night, I could see the repeated bunching in his right shoulder. And the resulting jerks and leaps of the small cartoon figure on the television. He never let me play with him, but kept asking. It was cold, but I was used to it.