12.2 / FALL/WINTER 2017


Meghan O’Donnell, our Refugee Resettlement Coordinator, helps us find the small square on the map where we came from; say “I came from Mauritania” and “I was born in Mali”; sort through the mail that we keep unopened in a plastic bag under the sink; shake our mattresses for scorpions, though she tells us there are no scorpions in South Philadelphia; make rice pudding, which tastes like the bouille we ate back home enough to remind us we are homesick, but not enough to make us feel at home; say “no thank you” to solicitors who knock on our door like the men back in Mali who came to mine our gypsum; pick up the old newspapers and plastic bottles from our front stoop; figure out which pills to take when (for parasites in the morning, for syphilis in the afternoon, for hepatitis in the evening); enroll in school; walk to school, which is farther than the walk from one end of the Mbera refugee camp to the other; understand the difference between mail that’s addressed to us that we can throw away and mail that’s addressed to us that we must open; reduce our salt intake; make mango lemonade which doesn’t taste as much like boababs as we’d hoped; visit the magic gardens in Philly, where a man has turned trash into mosaics, and we marvel at a country where even the trash is something to behold; find jobs in meatpacking for Mam and Pap and my sister Inna; walk through snow so heavy it reminds us of the Haze back home – except here, the sky rains water, and back home the Haze rains sand so dry it cracks the trunks of trees; pay rent, which involves my father writing the date on a small piece of paper, then the number of dollars, then spelling the number of dollars, then signing his name, and then somehow we have paid our landlord; shop in fluorescent supermarkets – food is plentiful here, even in the dry season; cook American meals like hotdogs and potato salad. When we teach Meghan how to cook jollof rice, she tells us it’s delicious, but her face shows only pity for the land that we came from and the little we had there.



Shoshana Akabas
teaches in the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia University where she is working toward her MFA in fiction writing and literary translation. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s The Believer, HOOT, The Grief Diaries, and American Short Fiction.

12.2 / FALL/WINTER 2017