Neither Here Nor There: Perspectives on Identity by the Young Eritrean and Ethiopian Diaspora in America

September 11, 2009

Another Sample (short story)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 10:02 pm

     holland-winter6   My father had been living there in The Netherlands for six months and planned to return during the seventh when he received a call from his young wife back home in Ethiopia.

     “They have my name.” She whispered into the receiver like a scared child. “They said they will kill the children if I don’t cooperate.”

     Within three days my mother, sister, and I secretly boarded an airplane and escaped only because my mother worked at the airport and had the assistance of her friends. And so they saved our lives. My family left behind the house my father had designed and my mother had laid bricks for with my sister strapped to her back. The money we left to trusted cousins disappeared as did they until more than a decade later. It took twice as long for my mother to forgive them, but she did.

     At the mercy of the Dutch government, our passports were confiscated and we received refugee status. Once a week our family would take what my mother told me was an adventure. Mounting bicycles with scarves wrapped around our mouths we squinted against merciless wind that formed invisible pin-needles to our faces. The warm air from our breath would stay trapped in the fabric of each scarf for just a moment before it began to freeze, so I would take short, quick breaths to maintain a perpetual source of heat for my lips. I marveled at the snow gliding down in drapes of white like the home-made gabbi my mother wrapped around me at night. Arriving at the immigration office, we would check-in with our case-worker and prove that we were still in The Netherlands and not causing its citizens any grief; momentary refuge we all looked forward to before it was time to mount our saddles and ride back home. I sat on the back of my father’s bicycle in a blue, plastic chair fastened securely to the metal bars above his back wheel, bouncing up and down to the rhythm of the cracks in the roads and occasionally over cobble-stone paths that made my voice sound like the rapid beating of a drum. At that age all of these little things fascinated me.  The plastic light-reflector on my mother’s bicycle wheel whizzed around as she pedaled down unforgiving roads, creating a blurry, dancing red circle. The countryside even looked like a deserted, haunted mansion draped in white sheets. The thin, snake-like tracks we let trail behind us arbitrarily criss-crossed like ribbons caught in wind. I don’t remember feeling cold, even though my mother would brush away the frozen tears sitting crystalized on my cheeks as fresh ones escaped her eyes.

By Liya


1 Comment »

  1. As i read this my heart aches because i know these are more than just words on a screen. This was our life…These were our tears, frozen on our faces. This was our day to day existence. The things that make me feel isolated from everyone. All i want is for someone to understand. For someone to say, yes, this happened to me too.

    Until then – this is just a story on a page, a screen, a fiction, that will not be understood. As if my past never happened. As if my now smiling face is all that ever was.

    I say no – before this smile there were many tears, fear, angst, despair. We are just one of the lucky few that survived. Mind you, not unscathed – we survived.


    Comment by Habesha Diaspora — September 12, 2009 @ 4:20 am | Reply

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