Odense

I went back to Odense/Denmark this summer to remind myself how much I've grown. It is a quiet city to most people. To many in my family who have left and moved on it is a place where you are forgotten. An aunt whispered, “What brings you back to this little hole?” My mother stood by the house she birthed my little sister in and nearly cried. It has been too many years for her. She stands still long enough for me to take the picture. The same boys sit on the steps and spit by my feet. There have always been two worlds in Odense for me. There is the reality that is the neighborhood I have grown up in and then there is the town centre. The last time I walked through the town I had never felt so watched. My cousin says, “They've never seen so much black.” There is still so much beauty in Odense. I thank it for giving my mother refuge after war. She came with no good winter shoes and met pavements covered with the snow that the girls back home talked about. She waited, in the apartment that we stared up at this summer, for my father to return from his job. Perhaps the winter got too cold. Perhaps the whispers and taunts finally dug in too deep before they boarded the plane and moved us to London. We walked as much as we could this summer. We were trying to take up space in a city that didn't want us very much. We stood by the newspaper as it warned that Somali migrants were beginning to pour in. I am always leaving. I am always praying that it gets easier and that the people I leave behind are the same when I come back. I'm hoping that they keep recognizing me, no matter how hard and unfamiliar I become. 

by Amaal Said