1 : an illusion sometimes seen at sea, in the desert, or over hot pavement that looks like a pool of water or a mirror in which distant objects are seen inverted
2 : something illusory and unattainable like a mirage
I'm remembering the sticky, hot 90 degree summer days of my childhood, walking along the four-lane Route 34, destination: grocery store—the closest place with air conditioning and cold drinks. The forty minute walk was a straight shot west on this route, a diverse stretch of road traversing residential patches, the reservoir, the highway overpass, the commuter parking lot, a storage facility for tractors (at least I think I'm remembering this correctly), a hearty stretch of open-field farmland, and finally—commerce.
These walks often seemed a lot longer than 40 minutes, maybe because everything seems to take longer when you are young, but mostly because it was the same...stretch...of road...every...time. Because of the intersection with the highway, there were no other scenic routes to get to the shopping plaza that housed Klarides Supermarket (now Adams, with a forgettable stint of Stop & Shop [or was it Shop Rite?] in between), Carvel Ice Cream, and a Hallmark card store. And there was LITERALLY no where closer to go. Residential neighborhoods stretched for miles in every direction. Roads like Route 34 (aka Derby Avenue) were too busy to allow for bike riding, so walking that hideously long and drudging stretch was the only option to reach something other than a house.
I remember, after crossing over the highway bridge and passing the commuter lot, the trees would clear a bit opening up to more farmland, and I could see the road further into the distance. On particularly hot days, it was easy to spot the humidity rising up from the scolding pavement, rippling the images in the distance. At the age of 13 or 14, when I took most of these walks, I didn't yet understand the concept of heat creating a MIRAGE in the distance. I often told myself the optical illusion was the frontier of some sort of alternate reality—that if I walked fast enough, I might be able to reach this wavy edge of the universe and subsequently pass into another world.
I was most likely really dehydrated at the time. Those summers were hot.