A 100-degree blast of air smothered me as I strolled out of the airport building and hailed a cab. Where Paris had been languidly cool, Boston blared its heat and humidity at me, the stifling temperature coaxing my drowsiness on.
It was five o'clock, and the day showed no sign of letting me down gently. As I gazed out the cab window, the heat-warped haze seemed to slow the rush-hour bustle to an indolent crawl. My mind wandered. Cars became crouched frogs creeping along a lick of black; the tunnel a bejeweled cavern.
But soon even these imaginings couldn't keep my attention. It was almost midnight in France. Time to sleep.
Back home, I unravelled my vacation paraphernalia, and the clock slowly ticked round to 8 p.m. It was still too hot and too light to doze off.
Giving up the fight, I wandered into the park next to the house to indulge in the cool breeze. And there was the answer. Under a far tree sat an enticing three-seater couch, its orangy-brown leaf pattern a natural fit. I considered it momentarily and then headed toward my apparition. The couch remained solid, blending quietly with the grass carpet and leafy canopy as though this was the most suitable place for it to be.
I circled this giant invitation to relax several times, looked under it, lifted its seating, sniffed it. Nothing raised suspicion. So, with sleepy abandon, I sank into its cushions. How marvellous to recline in a lush park, lulled by a sultry breeze as the sun slithered out of sight.
How long I dozed, I'm not sure. But I was jolted awake by a deep, throaty voice that asked, ''Do you mind if we take it away?'' As I looked up heavy-lidded, two men were grasping the arm rests of the couch, impatient to remove it from under me. I hesitated for a second, wondering why I was lying on a couch under a tree in a park in the dark. And who were these men, anyway?
''Is it yours?'' I asked.
''No,'' was the reply. ''But we saw it here yesterday and thought we would take it before someone else did.''
I couldn't fault the logic. But I was beginning to feel like Alice in Wonderland. If they had been giant talking rabbits holding the couch, I don't think I would have been entirely surprised.
There was no further discussion of why the couch was under a tree in a public park. It simply was, they wanted it, and I was lying on it.
No sooner had I eased myself upright than the couch trotted off with the two men attached.
I stood there momentarily, watching them recede into the dark. And then, thinking of the Cheshire Cat, I simply smiled and wondered if I, too, should slowly disappear.