“Everyone shimmers; a Small Business gets air-conditioning” by Ankoor Patel

Issue 24 / Winter 2021 / Special Issue: Pleasure

after Willie Perdomo 

 

burning so hot & for forever
& everyone’s shimmering. I’m saying,
when the world warms
so much it melts the seams.

Even in post-ice; when
summer is matter of fact.
the small shops back
home shall remain the coolest,

I’m saying. Even when sweltering is cliché.
When syncopation is outlawed at every
house party for fear of heatstroke. My family
& I work on our feet. 1000 degrees.

& once, my friend Chi and I cruise
the neighborhood for a haircut.
At night, when everything’s drenched in sweat & light
& everywhere’s closed.

The barbershop on Tennessee St.
closed too. But they let us come
in anyways. Decades of buzz cuts
in backyards and public bathrooms

made me keep away
from barbershops and belonging,
in my hometown. But legs can never outrun
family. They welcome us, and Chi the newcomer gets their haircut.

In deep consideration, everyone
talks over the buzz, incriminated in Chi’s
good looks. Need for careful hands mean
their side shave is deferred to the boss barber,

a third generation Hillcrest Vallejo man.
Wrinkled hands, a shout of a smile.
As daytime bleeds slowly blue, I sit
back, fashion my phone to a mask.

Fade, slowly, like I thought
I was supposed to, when,
to mourn the day,
a barber becomes DJ. Plays
every Spanish-rapped posse cut.

Offers up cold beer. I nod my head
To the playlist; I submit to the party.
I lose other names handcuffed to me
on the blacktop. They don’t know

my parents. Yes, barbers forever guess my race
wrong. But this family isn’t made of Look nor
Language nor Love. Together, we huddle
around Chi’s haircut. We cut our eyes on their hairline.

A product of kindred hustles,
I take the barbers with me.
My family now. Another summer and
my parents open up another shop.

This time in the dogpatch. 100-hour weeks.
This time with air-conditioning. This time,
even further away from our kin on Tennessee Street.
I miss the small businesses of my neighborhood.

I know one day we might be together again.
One day, when the world has ended.
When sunscreen lingers in the air.
When fresh diesel is delicacy.

There will be no way to defame me or my home.
We: brown black and belong. Burning forever—
so hot—everyone is shimmering now.
Where late in the week, I will roll up.

On the hottest day in the world.
To the shops on Tennessee Street,
after work and after afterlife,
my family and I finally chill.

 

 

Ankoor Patel is a Gujarati-American writer, educator, and graduate of Vassar College where they earned a BA. Born in Vallejo, CA, Ankoor is a child of im/migrants.

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