By Hawa Y. Mire
when he travelled back to somalia, he changed hotels with every fall of shadow, afraid that the cousins he played with would gun him down in the street. every coffee shop he sat inside, reading newspapers in familiar languages, he never visited more than once. twice was too many times to tempt the fate of bombs. he missed death too many times to count, but its face appeared in his barber's mirror, the friend who pressed upon him the extra food, the ruffling of dust in an empty street.
he tells me that all the guards he had ever met were mercenaries, killing those they could for money or pride and sometimes shame. he tells me that he cannot imagine anything more different than the place he fled from with children on his back. he looks up from his shai, wipes the dripping beads from his speckled beard and wonders out loud if somalia is no longer home, and this place the in-between, what is left for me? he is three days before fifty, a lifetime of shallow plateaus, rickety seas and meticulously frayed two piece fabrics.
when i ask him where home is, he whistles through his teeth, high enough for its melody to hit the roof of my tongue as well as his before rippling through the little bit of cupped shai he isn’t able to finish. he smiles then, it lives inside my heart,, i walk around with a gaping black hole the size of an atom, catching the things no one else seems to want to carry. home doesn’t have a place anymore, and if it ever did, my heartache is stronger than gravity’s pull... so you see i wouldn’t want it now. it is filled with trigger holes, broken necks and promises, graves deep enough that souls have begun to seep into the water people drink from the wells. graves filled with the shark teeth i used to fashion into necklaces, and the chafed legs of my own ayeeyo who was desperate enough to drink the water so she wouldn’t have to lose her only son.
so you miss it, i ask. he leans towards me and whispers into my face, loudly and with the faint mist of milky breath, do you?