Kashi Bakshani

Love Like Damocles

The coffee pot lilted a low gurgle as I hooked my keys by the door. Imara was washing up the past night’s dishes; the sleeve ends of her beige sweater stained darker by the sink water. As I removed my off-white sneakers by the entrance, I noticed a smudge of crimson trailing up the front of my left shoe. I feared it was my landlord’s blood, a remnant from the lobby.

“Good morning, love,” she said.

“Hi there,” I smiled. “Morning.”

I placed the mail from downstairs in a kitchen drawer.

“There were cops in the lobby,” I said.


“Yeah, it was fucking insane. Our landlord fell down the stairs, they said he died. Accidental death.”

Earlier, three police officers had been chatting in my building’s tight lobby. The hardwood flooring was cleaned of its usual layer of dust. The gleam of its bright clarity felt more invasive than the police, disturbing my meticulous familiarity. An officer informed me of Miller’s recent death; the elderly landlord had fallen down the first floor staircase. Bled out post-mortem by our main doorway.

“I heard. Saw him too.” She shut off the sink, drying her hands with a kitchen towel.

“Fuck, you saw the body?” I pictured Miller’s strewn out corpse, his loose marionette limbs posed like a sick, sleeping dog beside a bed of rich red. There was a quick pang of instinctive sympathy, followed by a conscious retraction. Miller had referred to me almost solely as “cunt” with the occasional slur sprinkled in. My apathy was karmic, a cyclical redistribution of his apathy towards our black mold, prior bed bug infestation, and failing A.C.

“I saw him die.” Imara chose two mugs out of the cupboard: sage green stoneware and a white ceramic with blue paisleys.

“You saw him—” I said.

“I pushed him,” Imara said, nonchalant, but not without eye contact. Her words placed magnets on opposite ends of my esophagus, airflow slowing quickly.

Imara laughed, “Jamie, Jamie, I’m fucking with you. God, your face!”

“You’re a piece of shit,” I breathed out. My face flushed again, for a different reason.

“Sorry, sorry,” she said, biting the inside of her cheek to stop a grin. The switch light on the coffee pot went off. “Never mind that, I wouldn’t have pushed him down the stairs. Dumb way to kill someone.”

“Oh, and how would you have done it?” I went to sit at our kitchen table. I had found it at an estate sale a few years prior, a small square of mahogany littered with natural scratches of well use.

“Nails in the floorboards. I would add a few extra nails, high and loose and unexpected, so he’d trip. His fucked old-person balance and our shit staircase would handle the rest.” Imara poured the coffee as she continued, “Can’t imprison a nail. No cameras in that hall either. It would be his fault too, we told him those stairs were dangerous months ago. He had the money to fix them, but not the empathy.” She placed the pot back on the counter.

“That is horrifyingly detailed,” I said.

Imara often wrote of well-executed, ingenious crimes. Her literary work was contained to the genre of psychological thrillers, crime, and horror, brewing a pensive psyche laced with abnegation. Her success was unsurprising to me; I’d always felt that Imara was born for a singular purpose: to write. Her writing was stitched into the double helix of her DNA, threads of her work pooling to every waking aspect: her dialogue, bedroom, appearance, mannerisms, and so on.

“He’s been torturing us for months, you can’t blame me for thinking about it. Although the coincidence is a bit insane. You never know, maybe God was listening in, loosened a nail Himself as divine intervention.” She grabbed milk out of the fridge, adding a splash to her coffee. I took mine black.

“Are you calling yourself God?” I asked as she returned the milk.

“Fuck you,” she scoffed. She sat across from me, placing the hot mugs between us. Her hands tightened around the handle, brows furrowing above fogged eyeglasses. She took a sip, and relaxed.

“Accusing me of murder before breakfast?” she joked. The fog on her glasses receded.

“No.” I smiled. The coffee burnt my tongue slightly. The drink’s simple bitterness framed the conversation with the comfort of routine. “Maybe.”

She frowned. I’ve had my curiosities, as her writing required her to empathize with humanity’s most evil. I read an article last month, about a writer who committed a murder depicted in his debut novel. I pictured the author as Imara, out of sick interest. I went through each motion of the crime within this thought experiment, detailing her expressions, duplicitous actions, and reckonings with guilt. I wanted to see if my love would persist after such a thorough betrayal.

“Would you sleep beside me, if I killed him?” Imara said. She took a sip, leaning back. “Would you feel safe? With the consistent threat of new evidence, or worse, of the constant doubt?” Her fingers drummed against the ceramic. “Signing your life away to indeterminable years of uncertainty. Say ten years pass, and your friends ask you in the end, how could you not have known?”

She grinned, slow. “You’d stay? Is it possible that you’d still love me?”

The coffee between my palms was warm. “Yes.”

Kashi Bakshani is a queer, South Asian poet from New York City. She is an undergraduate university student pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in spatial experience design at FIT. Her work explores multidisciplinary intersections of the arts and sciences. Her writing has been published to Columbia University’s State of the Planet and W27 Newspaper.