Let me present you my residence. It’s the subterranean water physique of my mom. I drift in her voice and amniotic fluid. When she steps into the sunshine, I’m within the gentle. When her solar units, my solar units. As she strikes, I transfer. I somersault, dive, kick, poke, remind her I’m inside her, turning into. By way of our placenta, I style her blood, mingled with Aleppo pepper and mint.
Let me present you my residence. It’s a metropolis on the Indian Ocean. The fishermen drag their dhows onto white sand at daybreak to unload the evening’s tilapia, squid, and snapper. At nightfall, they disappear again into the blue.
Below the shade of a thatched umbrella, I slurp from a straw in a coconut whereas my father performs soccer with the boys who promote them. Now we have been right here all day, blackening. Tomorrow monsoon season may begin, later than in years previous. However tonight, dwell music at Oyster Bay. Ladies and palm bushes will sway and rustle. For me, mishkaki—skewered hen and goat with chili and lime. For my father, nyama choma and beer. On the drive residence, we’ll experience at the back of a pickup. We’ll move the Aga Khan mosque and the Lutheran church. The odor of bougainvillea and jacaranda bushes will come dashing at us on the wind.
Let me present you my residence. It’s my father’s embrace. Robust biceps press into my rib cage, agency palms on my again. My ft are lifted off the ground. I fly, with out concern, over my father’s head. I do know he’ll maintain me up till I land in sheets. “See you within the morning,” he says, and I’ve no cause, but, to not imagine him.
Let me present you my residence. It’s a nation cottage with a purple door. Within the spring, bluebells carpet the earth beneath the encircling forest of oak bushes. Even on sunny Sundays, simply in case, Auntie Harriet makes us put on our Wellington boots and yellow anoraks. We choose wild blackberries alongside the Cuckoo Path and cease to odor the daffodils. Generally, a shepherd and his sheep are crossing. He whistles and the sheep baaa their strategy to be auctioned on the market.
This was a rope-making city, a provider to yachters, sailors, and hangmen in all of Britain and her colonies. There’s nonetheless a rope manufacturing facility, however there are not any hangmen. There’s a library the place we go after college to learn Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl.
Let me present you my residence. It’s constructed on seven hills. It’s everlasting: ruins however not ruined, aged however vivacious.
Go searching whenever you stroll. In all places there may be writing on the wall. SPQR is carved into stone (Senatus Populusque Romanus, or “The Senate and Folks of Rome”). Subsequent to it’s another sequence of phrases to make up the acronym, seemingly spray-painted by a visiting Milanese or Napolitano: Sono Porci Questi Romani (“They’re pigs, these Romans”).
My classmates experience skateboards into the metro to tag their names within the tunnels. I want to experience my bicycle alongside Through Appia. Among the many tombs, I hop off. Grass grows between historic flagstones. Above: pine bushes. Beneath: catacombs. Let’s increase a Pellegrino toast to the lifeless, and to the nonetheless rising.
Let me present you my residence. “Would you want hen or beef?” ask the attendants. We’re all wrapped in matching grey blankets. Our ft nest in matching grey socks. The air recirculates. Outdoors the cool glass, clouds develop heavy. There will probably be turbulence whereas we sleep. Once we wake, croissants and jam and contemporary begins. However tonight my house is a jet-propelled cabin within the sky. My house is shifting away and shifting towards. On the display screen, a dotted line charts our course.
Let me present you my residence. Are you able to odor the eucalyptus? Are you able to odor the roasting espresso? We make among the greatest on the earth. The ladies grind it with their pestles and roast it, ensuring to waft the candy earth of it into your nostrils.
Throughout the Epiphany, we go to Lalibela to observe pilgrims reenact the baptism of Christ. Clergymen parade in robes of wealthy velvet. They wave incense. Drums and bells fill the air and lead us to the Fasilides Baths.
Within the shantytowns, there isn’t any working water. At our home within the UN compound, we boil cholera out of all the pieces. However as we speak, wealthy and poor, younger and outdated, trustworthy Christians and faithless vacationers, will leap in with whoops and squawks, and be renewed. Anabel and I maintain our breath, maintain palms till the splash.
Let me present you my residence. It’s a household that was 5 and is now 4. We’re constructed of affection and damage and rage and silences. Now we have not but discovered the fitting materials with which to patch the roof, to cease the absence from trickling in.
Let me present you my residence. Most of the streets haven’t any names or a number of names, however to not fear. You’ll study to inform your bike taxi driver to make a left on the mango tree or proper on the rolex stand. A rolex is just not a watch. It’s chapati with eggs, onion, and tomatoes. You gained’t have a lot use for watches anyway. Time strikes in a different way right here. We meet in Kabalagala for waragi and wolokosso (unfastened discuss). Be a part of us. Because the proverb goes, the place they eat flies, eat them.
Let me present you my residence. It’s my grandmother’s porch. We sit right here all day and other people cease by to say hey and to observe Nana argue with the home lady.
“Are you thirsty?” Nana asks. “I’m thirsty however Afua, ineffective lady, retains forgetting to deliver my drink.”
“Would you want some water, Ma?” asks Auntie Freda.
“Did I urinate in your mattress? Why am I being punished?” Nana bristles.
“She needs a beer,” I clarify. “When she says she’s thirsty, it means she needs a beer. I’ll get it. I might use one too.”
“Lastly,” says Nana, “an actual Jantuah.”
Jantuah is her maiden identify. It’s also her highest praise. She has by no means referred to as me a Jantuah earlier than: “American,” “type of Arab,” her “treasured half-caste granddaughter,” however by no means a Jantuah. Everybody laughs at what was, to them, simply typical Nana. However I can barely comprise my glee.
Within the kitchen, I assist myself to a handful of kelewele. Then, two chilly beers in hand, I am going to say my seat on the porch.
Let me present you my residence. The glass and metal develop up and out: towers, sprawl. This metropolis is ever-changing. We should preserve shifting to maintain up. Because of this we don’t sleep.
You’ll find me on the bar with a e-book. The bartender is aware of my identify. He is aware of my drink. He has learn the e-book I’m studying. He’s a poet.
For years, my bed room had no home windows. The cracks in my rest room grew slimy mushrooms that smelled like chlorine. It was what I might afford. In that condo, I dreamed of skylights and potted crops. Now my window seems down on a courtyard I don’t have entry to. It’s stuffed with the rubbish that may’t be placed on the road to be picked up until Thursday.
Any day now, I’ll make a dwelling. Till then, I pay what I can on the Metropolitan Museum and look ahead, all week, to bottomless mimosas at brunch.
Let me present you my residence. It’s a border. It’s the outer fringe of either side. It’s the place they drew the road. They drew the road proper by way of me. I want to file a territorial dispute.
Let me present you my residence. It’s a dwell fault. The fault is in my physique.
Let me present you my residence. It’s a blue chair. I sought asylum right here. I marked my utility momentary. For myself, I’m writing reconstruction, not elegy.
Look into my eyes. See my glowing pores and skin. My pores are open. I’m fabricated from the earth, flesh, ocean, blood, and bone of all of the locations I attempted to belong to and all of the individuals I lengthy for. I’m items. I’m entire. I’m residence.
Nadia Owusu is a Brooklyn-based author and concrete planner. She is the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award. Her lyric essay So Devilish a Fireplace gained the Atlas Evaluation chapbook contest. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming within the New York Instances, the Washington Submit’s The Lily, The Literary Evaluation, Electrical Literature, Epiphany, Catapult, and others. Owusu grew up in Rome, Addis Ababa, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Kumasi, and London. She is an affiliate director at Dwelling Cities, an financial racial justice group, and teaches inventive nonfiction on the Mountainview M.F.A. program. Aftershocks is her first e-book.
From Aftershocks: A Memoir, by Nadia Owusu. Copyright © 2021 by Nadia Owusu. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.