There Is No Place Holier Than This

By Audrey Kim

We are sitting beneath blankets hung from chairs we stole from the dining table. Tangerine peels lie between us; you lift your fingers and suck off the leftover syrup.

Remember when we met during church retreat? It was a hot, sticky summer. We began each morning with worship songs, singing until our throats got hoarse and sweat stained our ugly orange shirts. I made an offhand comment comparing our group to self destructing citruses and deemed God the orange tree of creation. You were the only one who laughed: clementine flush on your cheeks, dizzyingly sweet smile so dangerous. I was suddenly struck by a lust so great, I almost fell to the ground. I had never felt temptation like this before — the agonizing pull of forbidden fruit is what we would later call it — and back then I cursed the Devil for making me an offer I could neither accept nor refuse. Now look at us: two closeted lesbians holding hands under a blanket fort, ready to read some poetry.

The magazine is a sleek, shiny thing, with tilted block letters spelling “ISSUE 6” in lime green. It somewhat resembles a candy bar wrapper — graphic, colorful, commercialized. And yet the weight of all its words, held together by a tight spine and glossy paper, compels me to open it carefully rather than tear into it like a kid in a candy shop. The poem is called Sunday. It is my first poem to be published in print, but it’s not the first poem I’ve written about you.

Ten months ago, we sat on opposite ends of the congregation. Now I pause to steal a glance at you, catching sight of the fairy lights flickering in your eyes. I know that if I stare too long I’ll get distracted, so I bite the bullet and begin to read aloud from “ISSUE 6”, holding the glossy paper with surprisingly steady hands. You nod empathetically as I describe how I feel like a stain of sin amidst the serene smiles of the congregation, and emit a pleased hum at the first mention of the girl who blossomed in the summer heat while the rest of us collapsed into puddles. With every passing stanza, the air of virgin holiness and hesitation pulls back to make way for this girl, whose lips taste of blood orange when bitten; this girl, who inspired lines like “I did this to myself, I took the forbidden fruit” and “promise me you’re in this for the long run/ that you believe in two things, and I’m one of them.” When I get to the part where I compare the hitch of your breath to the blooming of moon flowers, you allow a small chuckle to leave your lips. Say something about how moonflowers get you high, then double over in laughter when I tell you that I know.

Magic, pure magic, how a turn of your smile sends me back to that summer. For a moment I bask in the heat of euphoria, the warmth of the fort amplifying the sweet scent of tangerine. But by the end of the poem, my voice has trailed off into a whisper for fear of my parents overhearing the blasphemy spilling out of my mouth. You notice, as you always do. I shrug, as if it justifies my actions. Then you, dipping your chin as you smile, tilt your head to look at me sideways.

You dim the fairy lights as my hand fumbles for yours. You whisper, soft as sunset, that everything will be okay. Somehow the fairy lights come undone and fall into our laps like splinters of stars; it’s fitting because, I swear, my body glitters when you touch me. When you touch me, the fear clutched in my fist falls away; when you touch me, colors and kaleidoscopes spin above my eyes until I can’t see straight. If loving you is a fast track to hell, let us be the end of the beginning. We can appeal to the angels on Judgement Day. As my lips grace your skin, and the smell of citrus thickens, I whisper that there is no place holier than this.

This isn’t a pillow fort anymore. It’s not the lopsided structure caved in on one side anymore. We resonate as the darkness implodes, well aware that light exists beneath it. Tomorrow we’ll be in church again, exchanging idle chatter with people that would kill us if they knew. But despite all that is against us, I believe in the two of us; I believe with everything I have. I believe that, someday, the heavens will open up to reveal two girls holding hands under a blanket fort.

Audrey Kim (she/her) is a seventeen year old writer from Torrance, California. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Award, the Korean Education Center in LA, and the LA County Library system. In her spare time, she writes for Neutral Citizen Journalism and the Jupiter Review. This summer, she will be attending the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop. Her queer anthem is “Talia” by King Princess.