It’s the way the back of your neck looked when we stood in the garden. The gust of air. Garden weeds billowing. Cup slipping from my hands moments earlier.
I wanted to tell you then how much it meant that you let me watch you.
You could have been watching a murder scene. A ritual unveiling. You could have been watching somebody climb a tree.
It didn’t matter.
You didn’t turn around. Or try to stand side by side. You let me stand behind you.
You felt safe.
I thought, this must be what most men feel when they stand behind most women.
A terrible allowance.
Of course you felt safe.
That’s what often divides us.
And yet I found infinite safety in your permission.
When you slipped out I turned off the air conditioner, feeling the brick wall begin to warm from 90 degree heat. Baking brick by brick as I fell asleep.
When you came back the room was hot. You’d just been outside in the heat, getting iced coffee.
I was happy in a hole. Temperature low in my body, post petit morte. I was happy like the dead.
The dead must be happy. Or maybe they don’t feel a thing. That can’t be happiness. How could it be? A temporary palace.
The iced coffee cup had condensed from your one minute walk in the heat back to your apartment.
I wanted to put the entire cup on my body. Body temperature. Cool meets cool. Cool begets cool.
I wanted the condensation around the cup to melt into the nightstand. Into my belly. Into my eyes. So I would never have to leave.
You turned the air conditioning on. “It’s 90 degrees out!” you yelped.
It was really sweet how you had no idea.
The comfort of being so close to the dead and to feel so alive.
I was so alive.
Editor’s Note: These are excerpts from Kali’s forthcoming chapbook.
Taleen Kali is a writer, musician, and artist native to Los Angeles. After coming up in the DIY scene as front woman of riot grrrl band TÜLIPS (2011-2016), Taleen debuted her solo act at Echo Park Rising and tours nationally with her band. She's founder of DUM DUM Zine, an experimental publication and literary arts collective named a "cult favorite" by the L.A. Times.