Illustration for Denizen by Elaina Natario
I don’t miss the fragrant harbour:
cartwheeling fish in the wet and wild markets, or the
great grey mist that dresses the tops of skyscrapers.
The mossy smell of concrete after it rains,
the streets swelling with swarms of people, like
a clogged artery about to burst
into a million bloody pieces.
I picked New York because it was different.
I wanted to experience the magic of weekend brunches,
thick crust pizza, the possibility of snow.
Yet, now that I’m here,
my dreams are laced with dim sum:
Cha siu bao, zun zu gai, what I would give for a bo law bao!
I love New York, but sometimes I wonder:
can a heart be split?
Dim sum means “to touch the heart”,
but it’s my mother tongue that betrays me,
the little things.
Already, I long for December,
when I will shuttle 16 hours and 13 000 kilometres to another life,
where summer is a salty, slobbery kiss from a dog,
and they issue cold weather warnings
when it dips below 12 degrees Celsius,
where people understand what it is to sau pei, and be cut.
For all its faults, the fragrant harbour has embedded itself in me,
a multilingual native foreigner
who belongs everywhere and nowhere.
So this is the tragedy of being a global citizen,