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This is the quote from a Choose of Games game I'm currently playing.

Four days out of Puerta Ballena -- four humid, still days, with air so close you could cut it with your cutlass if Tinima weren't freshening the winds -- there's a break in the heat. The cool natural breeze is at first a relief.

"Barometer keeps dropping," Caesar says.

Tinima closes her eyes and breathes deeply. You can feel the tingle of her power stretching out beyond you. "There's a storm being born to our west."

What does "air so close" that I figuratively can cut it with cutlass? Is it so humid? So dense (what is so dense even mean)? So cold? So misty? So windy? So still?

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"close" when applied to weather means "Hot, humid, windless and muggy". It is the sort of weather that makes you feel tired.

You feel tired, so it is hard to move, almost as if the air was actually thick or dense, like jelly. The idiom is to say that "you could cut it with a knife". This is a metaphor, and an exaggeration

  • Both answers above explain basically the same thing, but the word "makes you feel tired" is the one that made me understand the core meaning of the sentence. Yeah, I understand what is the kind of weather that makes people feel tired. Coupled that with the definition of thick and dense air, I can picture the weather in my mind. Thanks! – Chen Li Yong Jun 11 at 6:15
  • Might i also suggest the word 'Muggy' – Smock Jun 11 at 12:48
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Four days out of Puerta Ballena -- four humid, still days, with air so close you could cut it with your cutlass...

It has been hot and humid for four days, without any wind. The air feels thick like it has substance you could touch. There is a Tension as well, a feeling of expectation of a change. A somewhat common phrase in English, is "you could cut the tension with a knife". This expectation and the humidity are both sometimes refereed to by implying the air is "thick". Its entirely idiomatic.

...if Tinima weren't freshening the winds

I believe this would be said "as if Tinima weren't freshening the winds". I think Tinima is a river in Cuba, but they are anthropomorphizing the wind (pretending the wind is a person) and calling it Tinima. It just means that there is no wind.

-- there's a break in the heat. The cool natural breeze is at first a relief.

Then the wind moves. It feels nice, for a minute.

"Barometer keeps dropping," Caesar says.

A Barometer is a tool to measure air pressure. Weathermen use them. When air pressure drops quickly, there is likely to be a storm.

Tinima closes her eyes and breathes deeply. You can feel the tingle of her power stretching out beyond you. "There's a storm being born to our west."

The wind increases very much, and feels large and powerful. The people know that a storm is coming.

  • I don't read the passage as there being any tension in the air – Smock Jun 11 at 12:48
  • @Smock, your reading of poetic subtext may vary. – Frank Thomas Jun 11 at 14:00

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