The dragon

My mind has always been chaotic. But I guess growing up in chaos will do that to a person. I could write countless chapters about the relationship with mother, but it still wouldn’t even cover half of it. I guess I’ll have to start at the beginning. Growing up I was always quite protective of my mother. My early childhood memories mostly consisted of her crying, yelling or sleeping for days on end. I guess now that I’m older it would be quite easy to understand that she was depressed, but as a kid I didn’t really have much understanding of her behavior. However, I knew she was sad. Really sad. There was nothing really worse than seeing her cry. So I always did my best to comfort her. The first time I saw her cry as I previously mentioned was after Grandma had died. Our whole lives shifted after that. 

The first time my mother laid hands on me was the first time my heart broke. I was heartbroken because my mother was the love of my life. I had placed her on a pedestal that was higher than life itself. My sisters had eachother and friends to do activities with, but not me. I had my mum. I would much rather go to the grocery store with her than to play with anyone really. I loved holding her hand when crossing the street, listening to her gossip with her friends on the phone. My mum often jokes about that. How I used to copy her language on the phone, and how I learned most of my somalian from listening to those chats. I used to learn her favorite somalian songs so we could sing them together. Not because I actually liked the songs or in any way understood what they were singing about, but because I loved the sense of pride she would feel when I sang them. Her somalian daughter, born and raised in norway, but embracing her somalian culture. I suppose that’s why she enjoyed my impulsive performances. I used to always say that I was going to be a lawyer when I grew up. I don’t think I actually ever wanted to be a lawyer, I just loved how my mom would tell all her friends and brag about how she was gonna have a daughter who would be a lawyer. I used to say that I was gonna get rich and buy her a house one day, and she would always smile when she heard it. Once, the mother of the girl next door, who I sometimes played with, gave us each money to go buy snacks at the mall since it was valentines day. I remember I came back home with a necklace for my mother, and how excited she was when I gave it to her. She still reminds me of this sometimes, how I bought her a gift instead of candy. You have to understand that I was a maniac for candy, so this was a really big confession of love. I made her cards constantly, reminding her that she was “the best mom ever”. I’d give her these cards even on the days when she would swing a chair at me. It was like this ongoing battle. Maybe if I showed her how much I loved her, she wouldn’t get mad at me, or sad, or too tired to come to my parent teacher meetings. My sisters, who were much older than me, would often fight back or run away to their friends, being gone for days or weeks sometimes. As soon as they would leave my mother’s anger would just dissolve and she would crumble to the floor with a kind of sadness that still leaves me weak. She would scream and cuss at them to leave her house, but fall apart as soon as they did. I couldn’t understand why she would make them leave if she wanted them to stay. It was like solving a puzzle that had pieces missing. The only person that could provide me the answers I was looking for was the one person I was too scared to ask. So I would just lay with her on the floor. My tiny arms wrapped around her, reassuring her that she had me. But she would just finish crying, get up and go to bed. Staying there for days, sometimes weeks.

 My first years of primary school I would make my own lunch for school and breakfast for my mom at the same time. I’d bring it to her room with a cup of tea. Sometimes she would eat, but usually I would find it untouched when returning from school. I don’t even know what part I felt was worse. When she was angry at us, or when she would disappear. I used to refer to the mean side of my mom as the dragon. I made this story in my head where it wasn’t my mom who hurt us, it was the dragon inside of her. Forcing her to do mean things. Cause when my mom was happy, oh she would light up the whole room. She has such a great laugh and the most beautiful smile. Making my mom laugh was like winning the lottery to me. She would just be so happy and take us shopping and talk about trips we were gonna take. I remember once, I came home from school and she said we were gonna go to Paris and live in disneyland. Disneyland was my biggest dream so I was over the moon. My sisters were staying with one of their friends, so it was just me and her. I started packing immediately and kept telling my mum how excited I was to take all of the rides. I asked her when we were gonna go and she said we were gonna go the next week. I talked about Disneyland everyday that week. But for each day that passed my mom was less and less responsive to my excitement. I had told everyone at school that me and my mum were gonna go to Disneyland, and they were all super jealous. But as my mom became less and less excited I started talking about it less and less at school. Several weeks went by, and I remember I unpacked my bag and never mentioned Disneyland to her again.  Till this day I don’t even know if she ever even got the tickets. 

Looking back at this I have so much sympathy for my mom. She was a single mom, in a foreign country trying to raise three daughters. Not to mention that she had not long before fled from her hometown being bombed, watching what used to be her neighbors and friends crushed under the ruins. Put being alienated by your own family on top of that and you have a recipe for disaster. I think my mother’s behavior was quite understandable for her circumstances. And the part that is probably hard for anyone but our little family to understand is that throughout all that madness my mother had a way of making you feel loved. I felt loved by her when she would buy a dress in my favorite color. I felt loved by her when she would force my older sisters to share their snacks with me because she knew I was crazy for candy. I felt loved by her when she would buy special groceries that were just mine, cause she knew I was quite particular about my school lunch. I don’t think I remember her ever saying “I love you”, but she didn’t have to, I already knew. They way she would brag about every little silly thing I could do to other people. “Amali does her homework everyday after school, she makes her own lunch, and goes to her own parent teacher meetings”. That was my way of knowing she was proud. She would always sneak a peek at me while she bragged about me to others, and that little look was all the confirmation I needed. 

But the older I got, the less it meant. Cause the dragon in her was no longer only violent but also vocal. And the things she would say when angry roamed around in my head longer than the nice things she would say about me to others. I began to feel less pity when she would cry, as she would watch me cry and hurt me more. Her attacks didn’t feel as random anymore, they felt personal. Aimed directly at me. Once I was doing the dishes and afterwards I was washing the counter with a washing cloth, which apparently was the wrong one. I don’t even remember hearing her come into the kitchen. But before I knew it my hair was being dragged and I was on the ground. Her hands pressed around my neck again. Last thing I remember seeing was her angry face, as if I was her greatest enemy. I woke up, alone, on the kitchen floor. By the time I got up, my sisters had left. I assumed they fought as well. The door to her room was closed and for the first time ever, I didn’t bother going in to comfort her. I just went to the balcony, and cried for hours. 

The summer before I began 8th grade, my mother took me shopping. We bought so many clothes, different outfits for me to wear at my new school. I had some difficulties making friends at primary school, so the outfits were a desperate way for me to make a good impression. As the kids from my primary school would also be attending this school. They would probably say all kinds of things about me, but with these new clothes I would be a new Amali. The advice my mother gave me before my first day was to not be so sensitive. To not care what anyone says really, and act cool. Which is good advice really as all kids at that age want is a reaction and drama. But I was never really good at acting cool so my eagerness and desperation to make friends was quite easy to spot. I made two friends my first week. One girl that had moved from another city, and one that went to a different primary school then me. It didn’t take long before they knew I had problems at home, as they became the people I ran to and stayed with when the dragon was awakened. It started with me staying at theirs a night every now and then, to me staying with them several days at a time. My mom never really called to check where I was after she had thrown me out. This bothered me more than her initial attack, as it made me feel as though she really didn’t care if I lived or died. Before I made any proper friends I didn’t really have any families to compare to my own. But each night I spent away from home, the more I realized how bad it was at home. It almost became harder to tolerate. 

It had almost become a routine, even though it was chaotic. The usual. Once the dragon in my mother had burned at least one of us she went back to her cave of pillows and comforters, and stayed there for days. And I guess as her children we all responded differently to that. But the one thing we all had in common is that we never spoke about it afterwards. It’s as if we had this unspoken rule, where after a fight, no one spoke for days. Our conversations would start with something random, like “what time is it?” I guess we learned that from our mom. After each incident she would go silent, then out of nowhere say “you should wear the green shirt to school tomorrow”. Or sometimes she would just make dinner and say that dinner was ready. We would all take our portions then sit in opposite places of our apartment, and eat by ourselves. I remember being taken back by the idea that my friends families had dinner together, every, fucking day. The idea of having dinner together even once was mind boggling to me. And the craziest part is they would talk. Yeah, actually talk. Catch up on eachothers day or whatever. For me, eating at my friends places felt more like an interrogation than a conversation. They would ask me all these questions about me and my family that I just didn’t know how to answer. Although they were aware that we had problems I never found the courage to speak about it to anyone. It felt like betraying my family somehow. Sometimes they would drive me home, after calling my mom to say that they were dropping me off. As if she cared. I think this is when I first noticed my mother’s people pleaser tendencies. Because she would come to the door, fully dressed, with a smile on her face. Then she would smalltalk with them and smile at me as if we were cool, even though she had beaten the shit out of me the previous day. I felt like I was in a movie, with these brand new roles being played by people I knew.

Brown skinned girl

Browned skinned girl, 

Disguised with all the hatred of the world. 

Butter pecan skin, 

Indicating that there is hatred within. 

A sunkissed glow, 

That makes you think I deserve to burn down below. 

A color that decides, 

My personality and different sides. 

Brown skinned girl.

Who never gets to be a girl,

Cause all you see is her brown skin.

Childhood fears

I reach out my hand for your weight to balance me, 

It is quite a shock when that weight forces me down. 

I tiptoe so lightly around our wooden floors,

I am frightened when I hear you tramp on them. 

I am hearing a story of a kid at school that badly burnt their hand, 

I am hoping that they won’t notice the mark on mine. 

Our apartment has so many rooms, 

Tonight, I am hoping you won’t sneak into mine


The devil wears fake Prada

Part three

My mom had allowed me to visit the internet cafe so I could talk to my friends. She had given me enough money for exactly one hour. “Use it wisely,” she said to me before sending me off. I didn’t like walking around without my mother, I guess that was mostly because I was terrified of being attacked by a group of men again. The internet cafe was inside something that looked like a deserted small mall. I think it was a ruin from the war. You had to walk inside then down a floor to get to the cafe. Just when I was about to walk in, I saw a monkey. Monkeys run free in Hargeisa so it wasn’t that unusual, however, you are not supposed to get close to them as they can be dangerous. So I didn’t dare to walk in. all of a sudden there were three monkeys and a woman came out and threw a banana that all three monkeys ran after. I saw my window and ran inside while they chased the banana. The first person I contacted after logging into Facebook was my closest friend in Oslo. Her mom had helped me the first time I wanted to run away from my home. So I didn’t need to explain much before she started helping. She contacted the police and I contacted child protective services. Telling them my mum had hidden my passport and refused to let me leave, and that I had to get out cause I was scared. They told me they couldn’t do anything. I contacted the people from my group home and they said the same. Literally, no one could help me. I felt like I had been given a death sentence. 

My one hour had run out, and I was out of ideas. On my way home I began thinking about how much easier my life would be if I was an adult. I could just book a ticket, find my passport, and get out. After some days, I decided that I was an adult and the next day I went to the internet cafe, bringing my mother’s credit card this time. I bought a ticket from Hargeisa to Dubai, then from Dubai to Wien, then from there to Oslo. The flight was scheduled to leave the very next day. Thankfully, my great grandma’s house didn’t leave my mum many options but to hide our passports in her room. The place was always crowded, and my mom has far too many trust issues to hide it anywhere else. So after spending all my free time searching in her room I finally found it and booked the tickets the same day. The next morning I told my mom I was going to the cafe, but found a ride to the airport instead. No one asked any questions as to why I was there alone. I just boarded the plane and actually got a seat this time. 

When I arrived in Dubai, I noticed an error I had made. The tickets I booked to Wien were the next day, meaning I would have to stay in Dubai one night. I panicked, and after an hour I borrowed a phone and called my mom. She was in a panic when she picked up, as she had noticed I didn’t return from the cafe. After she was done yelling she told me to take a cab to an address she had given me. And a Somalian woman took out cash at an atm for me that my mother had transferred. I spent the night at a luxurious house with a family I had never met before. They fed me dinner, and I watched some Arabic soap operas before going to bed. The next day they drove me to the airport and I made my way back to Oslo. I landed at Gardermoen airport with a smile on my face and my mother’s fake Prada bag which I had stolen on my arm. 

The devil wears fake Prada

Part Two

I took all of our sheets and sent them to the washing room before my mother noticed. As I  usually did. Except for this time, it wasn’t only for me. By the time I was back at the room, my friend was gone. I got dressed and ran out to her hut and was met by her uncle. Before I knew it I was screaming at him, making a scene. Several men walking by stopped to join in. before I knew it, I was surrounded. They only managed to pull my hair and push me towards the ground before my mom came out. She dragged me with her until we were inside. I expected comfort but got what I suppose those men were intending for me. A beating. The only difference is a fake Prada purse instead of a belt.  I was no longer allowed to play with my friends. And the next day, I was sent to Quran school. 

Quran school did the exact opposite of what it was intended to do. It made me terrified of religion. Anything that makes someone think that they have a right to hurt me terrifies me. Quran school was no different from home. You make a mistake, you get punished. Punishments hurt, a lot! On my first day I was asked to read, which I of course could not because the Quran was in Arabic and I don’t speak or read Arabic. I remember saying this to the teacher and him replying “No excuses, I told you to read!”. I repeated myself and a pen flew against my head. “READ!” he screamed. I repeated myself. One slap. I repeated myself. Another slap. “I can’t read Arabic,” I said one final time while crying. Punch! I ran out of school, nose bleeding. I didn’t notice my hijab sliding off while running. Before I knew it, men on the street started chasing me. One of them with a bat. Thankfully, many of them were old so I outran them. When I arrived at my great grandma’s place, I collapsed onto my mother’s feet and begged her to never send me back. She agreed, cleaned me up, and gave me a bowl of candy before sending me to my room. I suppose that visit had done what she hoped, made me surrender to her. 

The following days I began asking my mother when we were going back, as school was starting soon. She kept saying soon but the more weeks that passed the more impatient I got. Finally, I lost it and said I was gonna run away if we didn’t leave soon. All I did there was spend time by myself. I couldn’t see my friends, and my mum was always out during the day and smoked shisha with her friends at night. So there was nothing to do, I was going mad. Not to mention no phone, no internet, nothing. All I did was watch Tom and Jerry, for eight weeks. My mother did not respond well to my threat, and before I knew it I was being beaten again. The oddest part to me to this day is the amount of people just casually standing around as my mom would beat me senseless. Then they would salute her as if she just did something good. As if this was just the normal way of disciplining your child. But the worst part was yet to come. Before I knew it I was locked in a different room. All I heard was chattering outside. An hour later the door opens and a bunch of women with bags come in. My mother comes in with them and locks the door behind her. They put blankets on the floor before pushing me on top of them. I start screaming and kicking in every direction. Two women pinned my legs down and another one held my left arm. My right arm was held down by my mother. I saw knives and tools of some sort and knew something bad was gonna happen to me. They pulled down my skirt and then my underwear. Then proceeded to spread my legs apart.  I looked straight at my mom while crying, and said “please mom no” repeatedly until she looked at me. The second she did it was like she saw me again, her daughter. Before I knew she had kicked everyone out. She gave me a bowl of candy and sent me to my room. We never spoke of it again. But something changed for me that day, whatever part of me that thought she would never cross a certain line died. And thus began my plan to escape. 

The devil wears fake Prada

 Part one

Not a summer would go by without a trip to the luxurious Dubai. Somehow my mum had managed to make me go with her yet again. I mean I was living in a group home for kids at the time, yet the very person I had run away from had managed to convince me that a trip to Dubai would be good for us and somehow fix all of our problems. Emotional manipulation at its finest. The part she had so very conveniently forgotten to mention was the “quick little stop” we were gonna make at Hargeisa, Somaliland. 

“We will only be there for one week, two weeks tops!” she kept repeating. 

Yet, I remembered our last trips vividly. Two weeks meant two months. Yet I was 12, in a foreign country, scared shitless. Therefore, I had no choice but to go with her. And from Dubai to Hargeisa we went. In the most ghetto ass plane, I have ever been in. I mean they didn’t even have a fucking seat for both me and my mum. Even though we bought two tickets??? They had one seat, so my mum sat down. Then they brought out a large empty water bottle, put it down in the middle of the aisle, and told me to sit down. I didn’t even have a seat. Then they started to go through the safety rules and one of the flight attendants shushes me and has the fucking audacity to ask me to pay attention. Seeing that I am sitting on a fucking water bottle. Like what was I even supposed to do with the information about the safety procedures?  If an emergency broke loose and people were required to put on their masks, I wouldn’t be able to put one on as I DIDNT HAVE A FUCKING SEAT!!?!? No one seemed concerned with the fact that a kid was randomly placed on a water bottle in the middle of the aisle. Which set my expectations correctly for what was to come. 

As soon as we landed I was screamed at by four men. I heard the words “whore” and “white” be thrown around a couple of times before my mum wrapped my head with a scarf and the yelling stopped. It’s funny to me how I am considered black in Oslo and white in Hargeisa. Yet, my complexion never changes. It’s like I am a foreigner in both of my home countries. I read an article once, where a girl described it as being globally homeless. You don’t feel at home where you grew up and you don’t feel at home where you are from. I don’t think I have read a more accurate term. Globally homeless. That’s how I felt. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing a hijab in Hargeisa, yet I didn’t feel comfortable wearing my hair loose in Oslo. I wasn’t comfortable in either place. Every time we landed in Hargeisa I felt like we had been transported to a parallel universe. The same rules I was used to no longer applied. There was a completely different gender dynamic. Men were far more superior to women and therefore had more decision power. The women felt like housekeepers and babymakers to me. 

The last few times we visited I had made a friend. She was my age, yet our lives couldn’t have been more different. Her parents had died while she was quite young, so she was staying in a tiny hut next to my great grandma’s house. She lived there with her uncle and two cousins that were twins. All four of them lived in that tiny hut. I’m not sure what her uncle did for a living but he left every morning and came back in the afternoons. My friend, on the other hand, earned some pocket money from cleaning for my great-grandma. That’s how we became friends. I was always bored out of my mind so one day I asked her to play ludo with me. She agreed and I asked my mum if we could go look for it at the market. But by that point, she was already smoking her shisha so I knew there was no chance. That’s when my friend found a piece of wood and got out a pencil and started drawing the ludo game board on it. She looked at me and said, “we can use these rocks as chips, so all we need is a dice.”.  I found a dice from my room and we started playing. After some time the twins joined in, and it became our ritual. 

I was more excited to see her than my great-grandma, to be honest. But when I ran towards her to greet her, she seemed different. Less cheerful. A bit weaker somehow. I didn’t think much of it until later when she said she wouldn’t have time to play ludo. She said she had too many chores. So we did them together for her to finish faster so we could play. But by the time we were done I was exhausted, so I didn’t even have the energy myself. The next day I decided to surprise her and the twins with a water fight. Yet the second I started it they all got mortified and started telling me to not waste the water. I remember being so confused because it was from my bathroom faucet, and they never ran out. It wasn’t until I glanced at the hut that I understood that they don’t have access to water. And that the “pocket money” she gets for cleaning our house is buckets of water. At that point, I stopped suggestions games during the day as I understood that they had to work. But rather invited them to my room at night to watch Tom and Jerry, which they loved. Everyone in Hargeisa loved Tom and Jerry for some reason. I guess they are just universally loved. 

One night the twins decided not to come over, so it was just the two of us. Therefore, she felt free to take off her hijab and scarf. That’s when I noticed the marks on her neck. I didn’t need to ask any questions. I was young but unfortunate enough to know what those marks mean to a young girl. I asked her to stay over and made up some story of how it was because I was scared of ghosts. When I woke up I noticed she had wet the mattress she was sleeping on. She woke up shortly after in a panic, but I just looked at her and pointed at my sheets. I had also wet the bed.