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© Michaela Pointon/Culture Trip
© Michaela Pointon/Culture Trip
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Read Greenlandic Writer Niviaq Korneliussen's Short Story "San Francisco"

Picture of Michael Barron
Books and Digest Editor
Updated: 1 August 2017
The following story originally appeared in the anthology Inuusuttut – nunatsinni nunarsuarmilu (Young in Greenland – Young in the World), published by Milik Publishing in 2012. The English translation from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund makes its debut here, part of our Global Anthology, courtesy of the author and her publisher.

“GO!”

I discover to my horror that she has decided to do just that after I have told her so for the fourth time. I regret rebuffing her even more when she sticks her arm into the sleeve of her pale blue Peak Performance jacket and gets ready to leave the flat. Consumed by self-loathing, I tell myself to go over and embrace her, apologise and beg her to stay, but my body refuses to obey. I glower at her while she puts on her jacket and her shoes, drops the cigarette packet into her handbag and heads for the door. I really don’t want her to go. I want her close to me again and I want to tell her that I love her, over and over. But all I can do is watch her sad face as she leaves because I’m unable to move or utter a single sound. Get it together, you moron! I know that I’m in the wrong, it was my fault that we started arguing, and that it was stupid, ugly me who provoked, offended and hurt her after a crap day that left me bursting with suppressed anger. Now I look at her adorable, wistful eyes and my remorse is so great that the ocean seems but a drop by comparison. My shame leaves me silent and immobile, but still overdosing on madness. Why can’t I just admit that I was wrong? I look at her beautiful face when she gives me a placating look just as she is about to leave.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

I’m sorely tempted to show her how contrite I am, but why, why is she apologising? Why does she take on the blame? Once more I’m overcome with rage and I glare mercilessly at her with my ridiculous face. I watch her go.

“I love you,” I whisper and the door shuts.

I jerk violently and then I rush to the door taking big strides and I lock it so ostentatiously that my beloved must be able to hear it. I hope desperately that it will make her so angry that she will come back and bang on the door, but I realise that she has given up when I hear her fetch her bicycle and her presence starts to fade. I run to the window to look after her, but she is already too distant to hear my frantic knocking on the windowpane. She is far away, gone, and I am left alone with myself. A dreadful loneliness starts to grow inside me. Serves you right, go on feel sorry for yourself, be lonely, stop whingeing, you got exactly what you wanted, she has left, she is gone. Fia, you bloody idiot, it’s your own fault that she left you. I bang my heavy head against the wall to punish myself for my impatience and stupidity. Darling. Beloved, I’m sorry. Come back, beloved and I will prove to you that my love for you knows no limits. Beloved, give me another chance; believe me when I say that you’re more important to me than I am. Please understand that I didn’t mean what I said. Come back and kiss me again, cry in my arms, scold me and give me the chance to comfort you. I will die unless you return.

The feeling crawls from my heart to my lungs and then up my throat before it explodes out of my mouth. My body grows limp and I start to wail, my face distorts and the snot runs. I don’t care if the people above or below can hear me because there’s no way I can control myself. I throw my heavy body on the bed and sob into her scented pillow which is drenched by the time I fall asleep.

Sara, my beloved Sara, come back.

* * *

I wake up thinking that a mouse is trying to escape from my hand, but realise that my mobile is vibrating. Last night’s dreadful events hit me full force. Then a feeling of joy grows inside me: My beloved is calling because she wants to come back to me.

“My darling, I’m sorry. Come back to me. I love you. Sara, I love you, I love you so so much.”

I don’t bother with hello because I’m so busy telling her all the things I should have said before she left so that she will understand. I’m still half asleep and I can’t make out what she is saying. There has to be something wrong with my brain since her voice sounds so different. It is unrecognisable.

“We’re calling you because we can’t find anyone else to contact, and we can see that you’ve called Sara’s mobile. Do you know Sara?”

Perhaps she is still pissed off with me. Perhaps she is trying to wind me up and maybe she is not yet ready to forgive me.

“Sara, darling. I’m sorry.”

I’m not angry with her at all because I can still remember the horrible and crazy stuff I said to her. Sweetheart.

“Fia? You’re Fia, aren’t you?”

Slowly it dawns on me that the person I’m talking to is not Sara.

“Come on, pass the phone to Sara. Or tell her that I love her. Yes, tell her that I love her and that I want her to come home. Tell that I’m not upset and that it’s my fault and mine alone that we argued last night. Would you? Please would you tell her? I can understand if she doesn’t want to talk to me. Tell her that I understand. No, tell her that I love her more than anything in the whole world.”

The woman I’m talking to, who must be one of Sara’s friends, heaves a deep sigh. She might be about to pass the mobile to Sara or tell her what I have just said.

“Ubgofsjfuofbwjnfjsbfjn sfjfou ofbosjkfbsobegjb ojefbkjbfjbf cnjfeojfbjbfdjgfnaoe,” the woman replies—and when I fail to understand her, I ask her to say it again.

“Rkfkgjbdkfjb kekhjbg efkjekgjuuenaljefkjebgaebug.”

“WHAT?”

I’m in agony, all my muscles tense up and for some inexplicable reason my heart starts to pound. I don’t want to listen to her gobbledygook anymore. I feel dizzy and I want to throw up. The words align inside my head and take shape.

“She has been knocked down by a car and I’m afraid that she’s dead.”

The idiot woman’s words start repeating inside my head: knocked down. Dead. Knocked down. Dead. Knocked down. Dead. And all I can think of is San Francisco, SF…

* * *

Prussic’s song “Qarasat neri10ppoq, imaaru10lerpoq vakalerpoq” from my childhood returns. I wonder why that silly song is going around my head and when I can’t come up with an explanation, I just blame it on my messed up brain.

* * *

Right… If I ignore my madness, then I think that I’m OK. I’m not sad. I’m not happy. I feel nothing. I don’t know if I’m alive or dead. I only realise that I have arrived in Denmark when I hear young, angsty Danish teens talk: “It’s fucking sick, that’s what it is. Bitch nicked my iPhone, and she can’t even be bothered to admit it! I mean, what the fuck! Stupid slag, but she won’t get away with it if that’s what she thinks! Bitch!” It is like being on a bus full of teenagers in Nuuk on a Friday night. They remind me of Nuummiuts who talk just like that when they mess with each other, mixing Greenlandic and Danish and shit, but end up sounding like a bunch of fucking morons. “Shit, whorersuaq niaqulaaruloorpaat! Kalassuaq, utaqqilaar unatagaaruluussaatit! Arnapalaaq!” The Danish teenage slang takes me back to a period I can’t bear to think of, and it pains me so much so that I can no longer control myself. As they are in front of me and are still mouthing off, I run to catch up with them. I slap the boy with the big mouth at the back of his head, snatch his baseball cap and position myself right in front of him. I fling out my arms as wide as I can, shove my face up close to his and start screaming so loudly that the sinews in my neck stand out.

“Shut the fuck up! Learn to talk properly! I’ve had it up to here with you bloody kids!”

I turn my back on them and start to walk away, but then I spin around and erupt in one last roar.

“AARGH!”

I hurl the boy’s cap at him and stumble along, away from them. What the hell? What just happened? What do I think I’m doing? When I turn around to apologise, they are already gone; they have probably fled. Fancy me being in Denmark. I don’t even remember being on the plane.

There are people everywhere. Unknown women, men, children and elderly people block my path; I lean against a building to calm myself down because I feel like I’m suffocating. Behind all the people rushing about like ants, I spot a large, flashing sign: “Welcome to New York!” I experience a sense of urgency when I realise that I’m in America, and I join the ants to get to the exit. It is evening. The atmosphere is strange. Exhaust fumes from cars fill my nostrils and almost stop me from breathing. I look at the giant, luminous skyscrapers towering against the sky. I feel dizzy, I look down and I see a long line of yellow cabs. I walk up to the one at the front and a dark, heavyset driver gets out. New York, USA. I wonder if I brought luggage. I can’t remember if I checked in a suitcase or if I remembered to pick it up. When I see the driver put a large rucksack inside the cab, I realise that I did bring it. Well, that’s all right…

“Where to?” the driver asks me with a smile.

“Midtown,” I say to him.

I get out of the cab when we appear to reach the city centre. Even though the city is fabulous and amazing, I can’t help staring at something dreadful that has caught my attention. I drag my heavy rucksack across the wide street and towards the thing I cannot help but look at. I reach it and see a poor man with a long beard sitting by a pedestrian crossing. His hair is grey and his face swollen from a red rash. Embarrassed, he looks humbly up at me and cautiously extends his begging hand. I find him bizarre in the extreme and I squat down and look straight into his eyes. I’m struck by a stench so sour that I almost throw up. Sweaty armpits, urine, shit, bad breath, mould, rotten fish. His gaze shifts from me; he bows his head and withdraws his begging hand. I cup his cheeks in my hands to raise his head and I smile to him. He frowns at me, trying to work out if I’m making fun of him. As I don’t fancy lugging around my rucksack, which might be crammed full of clothes, and because I need to get the scent of fabric conditioner which I recognise from somewhere out of my brain, I offer it to the abandoned wretch. The homeless man is stunned and hugs the rucksack. I feel so sorry for him that I almost kiss him, but his acidic stench makes me nauseous so instead I get up and leave. My body is lighter now that I’m no longer carrying anything. The scent of freshly laundered clothes has finally disappeared. I want to escape the bright and busy streets so I slip in between two big buildings. It is twilight and silent. I walk past two large rubbish containers, spot an illuminated sign and go inside what I presume is a bar. A couple of elderly men are drinking beer. I order a large draught beer from a vile-looking bartender and sit down, well away from them. New York. I wonder where I’ll go next. What will I do? Why am I here?

* * *

I realise that I have finished my beer. As I still can’t feel it in my blood, I get up to order another. I return to my table and find a young woman, who wasn’t there before, sitting right next to my chair. I look at her in surprise as she turns to me, but when she doesn’t react, I sit down next to her so that my body brushes hers and I start drinking my beer. We sit in silence for a long time, drinking greedily. We don’t look or talk, but she is so close to me that I can hear her breathing. I place my almost empty glass on the table. She puts down hers, she has drained it completely. We sit quietly, doing nothing, making no sounds, making no movements. Suddenly she takes my empty beer glass and drinks the remaining foam and licks clean the rim of the glass. Her behaviour is so odd that I stiffen. She smiles and grabs the cigarette packet from the table. She takes out a cigarette which she sticks in her mouth, and takes out another which she offers to me. I take it. I keep it in my mouth, but I still need a light; meanwhile my companion is smoking like a chimney. She blows smoke in my face, lights my cigarette and we sit smoking with our faces turned away from each other. When she has finished, she stubs out her cigarette on the table and stands up. She jumps up on the table, crouches in a monkey position and looks right into my eyes. I stare back at her. Her hair, dyed orange, is styled in plaits like Pippi Longstocking. She looks very serious, but then she bursts into a smile so wide that she shows all her teeth and I start to laugh. Her eyes are adorable, heavily made up, but the visible gap between her front teeth makes her smile very comical. Without knowing it, she smiles like a comedian.

“HEY GIRL!”

Her voice is so loud and piercing that my body reacts. I start grinning and I give her a hug. I don’t know why. I hug her just because I feel like it, then I grab her and lift her down from the table. We stand there, still holding each other tightly. When she lets go of me, she puts my jacket around her shoulders, grabs my hand and leads me out of the bar. She takes me to a pick-up truck I didn’t notice earlier and sits me down on the passenger seat. She gets into the pick-up and turns to face me.

“Where to?”

Her smile is so wide that I start to laugh again. She sticks out her tongue at me. “Kansas City, baby!”

I shout by way of reply.

She gets so over-excited that she grips the wheel and pretends to race the car while she makes engine noises. I can hear that her car is on its last legs; it shudders and splutters when she starts it. It is red and tall. The pick-up has an open deck filled with empty bottles.

“Oh, shit. Hang on a minute, I’ll be back soon.”

She jumps out and runs back to the bar. A few seconds later she returns, waving a bag of cannabis in front of my face. We laugh and drive off.

* * *

I discover that it is daytime and I put on my sunglasses because the sharp light bothers me. I don’t know how long we have been driving, but at least we have left the city behind. The landscape around here is deserted. Except for our spontaneous giggling fits, we have yet to have a proper conversation. The sunshine is merciless. My chauffeur pulls over and jumps out of the pick-up. I join her and discover that she has put down the back flap and is sitting on the deck of the pick-up while she rolls a joint. I sit down next to her, waiting for her to pass it to me. I don’t know if I have tried cannabis before, but I don’t care. We get so high that our lungs turn black. We puff and we cough. She gets up and stands in front of me. She rests her hands on my knees and looks at me, very gravely.

“I’m Sophie.”

Once more I’m startled.

“Who are you? Where do you come from?”

Her sudden curiosity jolts my thoughts so that I can give her a reply. Only I have completely forgotten where I’m from and so I offer up a guess instead.

“I’m Changhi Peng Pong from Japan!”

Suffia looks momentarily wrong-footed, then she flings out her arms and starts to dance.

“Japan Japan Japan! Peng Pong Ding Dong!”

She doesn’t laugh. I don’t laugh. “Hello Ying Yang! It’s very, very, very nice to meet you!”

For the first time I erupt in bellyaching laughter and Suffia joins in. Our laughter is so powerful that we collapse on the ground and start to howl. Our eyes water. The cramps in our stomachs hurt so much that we burst into real tears before we start to laugh again. I roar with laughter until I can no longer breathe and it feels as if I am about to die. Not that I would mind.

When we have recovered, we get back in the pick-up and take deep drags of the joint. I plug my iPod into the car and play Pink’s new album, The Truth About Love and find the song “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”. We are on the road again with the windows rolled all the way down and we join in the song: “Just when it can’t get worse, I’ve had a shit day! Have you had a shit day? WE’VE HAD A SHIT DAY!!! I think that life’s too short for this! I want back my ignorance and bliss! I think I’ve had enough of this! Blow me one last kiss!” We sing along at the top of our shrill voices and drive faster.

* * *

We appear to have arrived at Chicago. The city is vast and it has grown dark without me noticing it. We stop at a petrol station; I go inside the shop to buy something to eat while Suffia fills up the pick-up. I’m exploring the crisps and sweets section when someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn my head and nearly have a heart attack when I see her face.

“Are you from Greenland?”

The woman who has Greenlandic features looks at me in wonder. Before I have time to think about it, I nod. I would appear to be from Greenland. “What are you doing here? Wow, I can’t believe I’ve bumped into a fellow Greenlander! Who are you? Who are your parents?”

I panic so much that I snatch some food and drinks and make my escape while the woman tries to grab hold of me. When Suffia sees me come running, she opens the door to the pick-up and starts to drive very slowly. She accelerates as I get in.

“GO GO GO GO!” I scream.

When we have driven some distance, we stop the car and light a joint while we howl with laughter.

“I’m not Ying Yang, Ding Dong! I’m Greenlandic!”

I say all the words I can get out; meanwhile Suffia’s laughter grows louder.

“Where the fuck is GreenLAND?!”

I can barely remember our drive from Chicago to Kansas City, but my stomach muscles and my cheeks ache—apparently because we have been laughing all the time. I’m fairly sure that we have been smoking cannabis the whole time as well because my lungs sting and my eyelids are heavy. We drive past a large sign saying Kansas City and get out in the city centre. Here the buildings are also enormous, but they display themselves like great dinosaurs. This city seems filthier and less safe than the other cities. It is revolting. Suffia looks after me when I leave the car to do some shopping and she blows me a kiss. She starts shouting.

“BLOW ME ONE LAST KISS!”

I shout the same back, kiss my hand and blow the kiss to Suffia. When I have done my shopping and am leaving the shop, I see that Suffia is about to drive off and I get a strange feeling. She calls out to me through the open window.

“GOODBYE!”

She turns a corner and waves as she disappears. I don’t really want her to go, but I find the situation funny because that is just what she is like. Suffia is Suffia. I laugh out loud at her for the last time.

* * *

I have left the big city behind and reached the old part of Kansas. The houses are made from wood and the roads are gravel tracks. The people are few and slow. I would appear to have walked the whole way and my stupid, post-operative knee hurts. My post-operative knee…

Following my operation, I stay at the surgical ward at Sana Hospital. I keep falling asleep because the poison still courses through my veins and the staff rouse me by shaking me gently. I’m taken through a big corridor in a bright white bed, wearing bright white clothes. I look at the hazy lights above me while they move me along. I feel fine. Smiling, I turn my face to the waiting room as I’m rolled past it. I check her beautiful but anxious eyes when she sees me and am reassured; a feeling of joy takes over my body. She gets up and accompanies me to the sideward. When we are left alone, she comes over to me, indescribably relieved, touches my head gently and kisses me. “I love you,” she says. For more than one long month, she nurses me, cooks my food, entertains me, comforts me when I cry, helps me into bed, is with me, loves me. She never leaves me.

And now I’m alone…

My head hurts. My last memory is of the old part of Kansas. Perhaps I’ve had a fall. The clearer my eyesight becomes, the more I feel that I’m flying across a big road. Streetlights appear and then disappear just as quickly, and my body feels cool. The sound of an engine hums in my ear and I turn my head to explore my surroundings. A man about 40 years old is sitting behind the steering wheel and I only wake up properly when I realise that he is staring at my thighs.

“Who are you?” I try to look terrified even though I’m not.

“You can call me Jeff.”

He winks at me, without smiling. Even though I feel very unsafe, I stay neutral. He wears a faded red cap with visible sweat stains around the headband. He is huge and has pitch black hairs on his arms. I look more closely and I see that he also has long hairs on his fingers. His stubble bristles; he clearly hasn’t shaved for days. His disgusting lips are so swollen that they might burst at any moment. He is truly hideous. I would really like to know how I got inside his truck, but I remain silent because I am scared of making him angry.

“Where are we going?” is all I say.

“Denver, Colorado.”

He replies while he stares at my breasts. Apart from that, I don’t think a lot about anything during our long drive, but I’m tormented by a hangover and feelings of emptiness and darkness. I’m in anguish. Finally I pluck up the courage to ask him what I’m doing here, but before I have time to open my mouth, he responds as if he could read my mind:

“You were lying in the road and I picked you up so you wouldn’t freeze to death. I was fairly sure you had no place to go.”

I wonder what I was doing on the ground. I’m too exhausted to ask any more questions so I switch off my thoughts and stare out of the window instead.

* * *

I come round when I feel too-strong fingers squeeze my thigh. The man wakes me up; I appear to have fallen asleep and I remove his hand immediately.

“Easy now; I’m waking you up because we’ll be there in a couple of hours.”

So why wake me up now? I’m looking at him with fear and loathing when suddenly he turns his face to me. When he realises that I’m staring at him, he winks at me a second time and I feel both abused and destroyed. Utterly terrified, I cover myself with my jacket and divert all my energy into not nodding off again because the thought that he might touch me again terrifies me. I try to ignore the endless, long road. I count streetlights instead and try my hardest not to think. The beast’s foul smelling eau de cologne makes me nauseous and I keep the window open so as not to throw up. Thus we drive through a dark forest for what feels like for ever. At times I try to remember something I think I have forgotten, but I can’t identify what it is, so I go back to counting streetlights. This lack of clarity brings on a painful headache which keeps getting worse, but as the houses start to rush by more and more often, I start to feel reassured. We drive past the sign saying Denver and vile Jeff heaves a deep sigh. Just before we reach the city centre, bloody Jeff turns off in another direction. Out of fear I tense every muscle so as to be prepared. He pulls up at a remote and deserted car park and rubs his hands.

“Thanks.”

I have thanked him and am about to open the door when that bastard Jeff grabs my wrist and forces me to touch his stiff dick which is caged in behind his trousers. Shocked, I try to get away from him, but his hold is strong and I don’t succeed. Even though my heart is pounding, I try to act relaxed and strike up a conversation, something even I don’t understand.

“I’m into women. I don’t have sex with men. I’ve only ever been into women, ever since I was a child.”

The idiot doesn’t listen to my words and forces my hand closer to him.

“I’M GAY!”

I scream it at him and try to snatch back my hand. When I feel his grip loosen, I turn my head to his disgusting, filthy face. When I see a change in his facial expression, I get ready to save my life. His face turns red and his eyes become insanely angry.

“What? A fucking dyke? You’re sick! SICK, SICK, SICK!”

His body is arched and his muscles tensed when I open the door to throw myself out in order to force him to let go of me. When he finally does, I fall a long drop from the high truck. I’m so concerned with making my escape that I don’t feel anything at all when I hit the hard tarmac. All my energy goes into fleeing. It feels as if I’m running underwater; my legs are heavy as they are in dreams. I’m slow and exhausted.

“Come back so I can have you put in a mental institution!”

The devil has followed me and roars at me. In order to break away from the darkness, I run towards the light; at times I crawl on all fours. I don’t look back and I fight to escape. I run out of strength and can move no further.

“Fucking dyke.”

My energy returns when I discover to my horror that he is still behind me. With the last of my strength I run to the entrance of a metal building. When I reach the automatic glass doors, I fling myself inside and crawl a few metres before I stop. A couple of people pass me and I am so relieved that my fear starts to fade. The monster doesn’t come inside. I calm myself down and drag myself further inside the big building where I slump against a wall to recover. The place is full of all sorts of shops: clothing shops, a florist, toyshops, cafés and a bookshop. At the end of it all are escalators. I’m into women, it would appear. I wonder why? How did that happen?

We’re sitting on a bench in the Nuuk Centre outside Ittu Net. We have shopped for dinner tonight and are eating French hot dogs from Café Mamaq. The shopping centre is fairly quiet, but every now and then people wander past us. She holds my hand and kisses my cheek. I can feel her joy and warmth and look forward to spending a lovely evening with her. She moves closer to me and whispers in my ear. Pure love makes me melt and I smile. As I think about her sweet words, I notice a group of giggling teenagers making remarks about us and I stare at them. I grow a little irritated at her welcome caressing of my back, but I don’t do anything. Two women walk past Nønne Fashion and I turn my head towards them. One of the women sees us and whispers something to her friend. I follow them with my eyes. The friend slowly turns her face to us with a look of surprise. I feel deeply embarrassed. I let go of her lovely hand and quickly finish my hot dog so that we can get out of this place. I see an elderly, fragile man head in our direction. His bag groans with beer bottles. I look at him when I feel her warm hands on my cheeks. She turns my face towards hers and kisses me gently near my lips. I want to kiss her back. The man looks at us, furrows his brow and stops. He glares at us and shakes his head. “Why don’t you go home if you want to do that, it’s too hideous to look at!” Then he stomps off in disgust. A feeling of shame and inferiority overwhelms my common sense and I push her hand away from me. “Stop it. Not here, it’s too embarrassing!” I say and look at her. The joy drains from her face and is replaced with distress. Her beautiful eyes are veiled with tears and she stares down at the floor. I have hurt her deeply. I shouldn’t be angry with her. She is a loving person. She is not someone I should be ashamed of, she is someone I should be proud to show off. I should have gone over to those grinning, staring and prejudiced people and told them that my love for her cannot be changed and that I’m lucky that she has chosen me because I’m happy. I want to scream at the top of my lungs: “This is my girlfriend!” But I just get up and leave.

* * *

When I can no longer breathe, I run outside and into the city without stopping. I need to drown my blinding headache in strong alcohol. I count the passing cars as I run and slap my forehead when I get it wrong to make me count properly. Even though my body is exhausted and my lungs hurt, I keep moving and I don’t stop until I reach the nearest bar. I go inside and order three shots of neat vodka and down them in quick succession. I start to relax. Every time my thoughts try to take over, I knock common sense into myself with vodka. I feel lighter and I sit down at the bar to enjoy a quiet beer. The bar is murky, lit only with dim red lights. The customers are few, but their loud talk is pleasing to my ears. I can make out someone in a corner and I’m taken aback. My heart aches when I recognise her, but I still can’t work out who she is. Who is she again? Her long hair is dark and loose. Her beautiful body has impressive curves. Her back arches inwards while her buttocks stick out a little. Her legs are straight and I think they would be lovely to touch. I feel warm. Time passes and I give her a few looks while I order stronger drinks. When she turns around, her face is different from what I expected, but it’s OK. I think it will do. As she walks up to me, I look away and pretend to ignore her. She places her hand on my back and moves her face very close to mine.

“Were you looking at me?” she asks. Even though her voice is not what I expected, then it’s all right.

“Yes.”

I hope to score her quickly. She smiles and whispers to me.

“Why?” I smell her neck and whisper back to her.

“’Cause I want you.”

She is still for a moment. Then she takes my hand and leads me to the lavatories. The moment we get inside, I turn her towards me and start to kiss her. We enter one of the cubicles and we paw and tear at each other like wild animals. My blood races. I come alive. I stroke her arse and her back. Her breathing deepens. I pin her against the wall and kiss her while I slip my hand under her T-shirt. Her breasts are not particularly big and they are lovely to touch. Her nipples, which I’m busy kissing, are hard. I move my hand from her breasts and down across her stomach. When I reach her belly button, she closes her eyes and starts to pant. I lead my hand away from her belly button and slip my fingertips inside the lining of her trousers. I move my fingers further down because I can wait no longer. Wet. My blood is pumping through my body. I close my eyes and everything inside me starts to burn. I plant wet kisses on her neck and her moaning grows louder. I look down and discover a tattoo on her stomach which I don’t recognise. I feel dizzy and I steady myself by taking deep breaths. I feel her tremble violently and I remove my hand from her and support my back against the wall and my hands on my knees. She comes over to me and gives me wet kisses on my neck. I want to, but I just can’t do it. I can’t do it. I’m overcome by nausea, I push her away and I leave. I stumble through the crowd which has grown larger, looking for the exit. I get outside and I throw up for what seems like for ever while I rest my hands against the wall. During a brief pause, I try desperately to drag oxygen into my lungs so as not to suffocate and then I start to throw up again. I still feel queasy, but appear to have puked up all my guts as nothing more comes out. My throat is burning. In order to get my breathing under control, I stand with my head lowered while I inhale deeply.

* * *

Someone touches my shoulder and I turn my head.

“Are you OK?”

The petite woman looks to be around 50 or maybe more. I nod while I carry on trying to breathe. She takes my arm and slowly leads me to her car. The tall, black SUV is elegant and looks comfortable. She leaves me next to the car while she fetches something from the driver’s seat. She returns with a bottle of water and helps me to drink from it. As my breathing stabilises, distressing thoughts start to creep up on me again. I discover that I have feelings…

I go limp and I start to cry. The woman sits down next to me and puts her arms around me for a long time.

“Do you need something? How can I help you?”

Her voice is gentle and comforting. I can’t give her an answer because I’m bawling my eyes out and I can’t breathe. She holds me tight, refuses to let go. My sobbing is so convulsive that I have to force myself to stop. The woman dries my tears and waits patiently until I become lucid. Neither the pain in my throat or my desperate sobs hurt me because my heart suffers more.

“Can you take me to San Francisco? Please, please, please?”

I burst into tears again. She embraces me in silence and strokes my hair.

“Yes, of course. I’m heading that way so I might as well take you, mightn’t I?”

She comforts me. I nod my head and dry my eyes, hugely relieved. The big seats in the car are covered with light brown leather. The seat on which I sit is so soft that my body relaxes instantly.

* * *

I look at the woman, my saviour. She turns to me frequently with a concerned smile and I start to feel safe. The fine, fragrant car is almost silent and makes me sleepy. I abandon my efforts to count streetlights.

“What’s your name?” I ask out of curiosity.

“Danielle Michel,” she replies kindly.

“Hallo, Mrs Michel. Thank you very much for helping me.”

I am on the verge of crying again, but I swallow my tears. She makes no reply, but touches my arm and smiles gently. She clears her throat and makes to speak. I don’t mind.

“Where are you from?”

I am tempted to say that I am from Japan, but I can’t lie to a person with such a big heart. “I’m from Greenland.”

I’m reminded of Suffia and am tempted to giggle, but when I can’t manage it, I remain silent.

“Why are you so far away from home?”

She asks casually and even though I don’t feel like telling her, I can no longer control my mouth.

“I’ve lost someone.”

I can feel that Mrs Michel is struck by grief and struggles to find the words.

“Who?”

Her voice makes me feel so safe that I want to answer, but I can’t recall anything.

“I can’t remember.”

I reply without lying. I am relieved that Mrs Michel doesn’t think I am insane; instead she looks at me with understanding and unprejudiced eyes. The pain in my heart floats away. I realise that it is morning and that Mrs Michel has a calming effect on me, so I find the courage to look at her without worrying about it. From time to time she touches my arm to ask if I need something. I know perfectly well that there is something in my mind and heart that I need to explore and resolve, but right now I am at ease. We drive for awhile in silence. We arrive at Salt Lake City and the many hours we have been driving feel like a short period of time. I am so comfortable that I stay in the car while Mrs Michel gets out to do some shopping. She returns, hands me a cup of coffee from Starbucks and turns to me.

“Sweetheart, how is Greenland?”

She smiles faintly. I try in vain to think of an appropriate answer.

“It’s cold,” I then say.

We start the car and drive on. Mrs Michel’s questions become more frequent which make my body grow restless.

“What do you do in Greenland? When did you come to the States? Are you visiting someone in San Francisco?”

Every time I have to reply that I don’t know and every time my heart beats faster. Why can’t I give her an answer? Why can’t I remember anything? What am I doing here? What am I doing in San Francisco? As I have not thought so profoundly for a long time, I struggle to come up with a reply. Just as we are about to cross a large bridge, a magical city appears and it dazzles me. My emotions intensify. Whether it is from joy or grief, I don’t know. But I feel too much.

“SF” San Francisco. When I see the big sign, I become nervous and my heart hurts. Mrs Michel senses my anxiety and takes my hand. She does not let go of me. A feeling of loss overwhelms me and I focus on my breathing so as not to panic. SF. Now I’m here.

The roads in the city centre have no specific directions. Up, down, right, forwards, left, down, up, backwards. It is undoubtedly an enchanted city. I know people call it “gay town.” There are cable cars here, small, open trams that you see everywhere. You can follow tall buildings into infinity. Outside the windows clothes have been hung out to dry next to the dried fish. People look down from the windows and admire the city from the top. I spot the great ocean which I have not seen for an eternity and am reminded of Greenland. I get a little homesick. Mrs Michel asks me to look at her and I become aware that she wants to tell me something.

“I have to move on. Go for a walk and get some fresh air. Search carefully for the things you repress and don’t be afraid of them. You take care of yourself now.”

She puts her arms around me and even though I don’t want her to leave, all I can do is let her go. My throat starts to well up.

“The things I repress?” I ask confused.

Mrs Michel looks at me, smiles faintly and drives off. I take a good look at my saviour before I turn around. What things?

* * *

San Francisco is so unique that it can’t be compared to anywhere else, and I decide to do something about my feelings for this city to fill the emptiness inside me. I enter a discreet tattoo parlour and wait to be served. A man with multiple tattoos on his arms comes over and shows me to a chair.

“How do you want to be tattooed?” he asks with a smile.

“A heart with SF inside it. I don’t want it to be big.”

While the tattooist gets ready to tattoo my wrist, I look at the people around me. A large man weighing around 200 kg sits on my left. He is having a naked woman tattooed on his arm and I’m pretty sure that tattoo is the only woman he will ever have. I turn to my right and see an attractive woman with short, whitish yellow hair. Now who does she remind me of? I jump when I feel a prick on my wrist and the tattooist gets to work. He doesn’t take long and in a strange way the pain calms my body down. While he fetches me a Band-Aid, I look to the right again. When the woman turns to me, I can barely believe my own eyes and I stare at her unashamedly. Pink! Pink! Pink! I snap out of my dreamlike state and turn my gaze to her again. She is so beautiful that I can hardly believe it. She talks to her tattooist. She is clearly aware that she has been recognised and glances at me. She has noticed me! She is looking at me! Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. I can hear a voice screaming inside me. Several of Pink’s songs come back to me and I rediscover all the love which has been absent in me for so long and the feeling is so indescribably huge that it cannot be resisted. When she turns to me, I bow my head to her in gratitude. There is no doubt that Pink’s music is the best guide I have in my life. When she sees me bow, she sends me a smile which I will treasure deep inside my heart for ever. Pink. Who would have thought that I would see such a beautiful person? I pay the tattooist and take a last look at the woman with the wonderful voice when she suddenly waves to me by wriggling her fingers and my heart explodes. I can sense that Pink is looking at me with compassion and as I can’t understand why, I just leave.

Heart.

My tattoo has penetrated the skin properly and my body is less tense. I sit down on a small mound of green grass and light a cigarette. I pick up my iPod and play Pink’s latest album, The Truth About Love. I gaze at the blue sea and try to put my chaotic feelings and thoughts in order. I have to knock some common sense into myself. What am I doing here?

“Right from the start, you were a thief, you stole my heart, and I, your willing victim, I let you see the parts of me that weren’t all that pretty, and with every touch you fixed them.” The song “Just Give Me A Reason” starts to play and some degree of lucidity seeps into my thoughts in such a terribly short space of time that I almost become fearful. I have come to my senses.

* * *

“Just Give Me A Reason” is playing in the background. The television is on, but silent. Our small kitchen has been left untouched and filthy. I have woken up feeling fraught and because of that I have a headache and I am crotchety. I heave a deep sigh and go to the kitchen to start washing up. She dries the dishes and smiles a little while I try not to get annoyed with her. I want to look at her lovely face without looking angry myself. When we have finished, I sit down on the sofa and spend a long time on Facebook to avoid talking to her. She sits on one of the chairs by the table and looks at me with devotion. I pull a face to offer her a kind of smile by way of acknowledgement. Today we have been together for three years and I’m still in love with her. I get butterflies in my stomach when she puts her arms around me. I always long for her to come home from college. I always look forward to lying next to her, holding her, kissing her neck. When I tell her that I love her, I always mean it. I don’t want to lose her, but I’m not OK. Even though our relationship is exciting and happy, something is wrong. I’m fine as long as I’m at home, but when I go out it feels as if the whole town despises me and talks about me behind my back. I log off and go to my room to lie down for a little while. My lovely girlfriend enters and lies down next to me. Without making eye contact, I slip my arms around her and kiss her a few times “Fia, just look at me,” she says. I make myself comfortable and she smiles and starts to caress my face. She gazes at me with her pretty eyes. “Are you OK?” I nod in order not to show my frustration. We lie in silence holding each other. “Fia…” She clears her throat to firm up her voice. “Three years.” I smile and she starts again. “I love you, and you know it. You love me, I can feel it. When I think about my future, I always imagine spending it with you. You’re so precious to me and I don’t want to lose you. I can’t imagine life without you.” She smiles and continues. “If you feel the same way about me, I would like to marry you, make a home with you and have children.” She kisses my cheek.

“Of course I feel the same way about you. If all goes well, I obviously want to live the rest of my life with you and have children. You’re a part of my future because I have no chance of ever being happy unless you’re with me.” This is what I want to tell her, but I’m worried what other people might think. “Get married? Have children? You have to understand that our relationship will never be straightforward. Can you imagine what people would say if we were to marry? If we have a child, people will look down on her or him because she or he doesn’t have a father. I’m telling you, our child will be bullied at school. He or she will have two bloody dykes for mothers, and that will be a shame.” I don’t pause to think before I launch into my rant. She looks shocked.

“If our child doesn’t have a father, but gets plenty of love, feels safe and can talk openly to us, having only two mothers won’t be a problem. I know that we would make good parents. I’m sure that we can offer a child everything it needs. Are you against marriage? Are you against making promises to each other, loving and respecting each other for the rest of our lives? You have to ignore what other people say and live your own life. Many people think that we’re completely ordinary. Our relationship is no different from their relationships.” The truth of her words hits me hard and I snap. I get up and reply: “But I know that lots of people think of me as a freak!” She gets up, comes over to me and puts her arms around me even though I shrug them off. “Fia. And so what? I don’t want them getting in the way of our love. Don’t let them stop you from being yourself.” Her embrace reassures me, but I remove her arms and get ready to leave. “Where are you going?” she asks softly. “Out to buy fags,” I reply angrily and leave. The rest of the evening I’m unapproachable. I walk away whenever she comes near me. I go outside to smoke when she tries to talk. My body grows tenser and I can no longer control my rage.

* * *

Everything comes back as images. A sofa. A 42″ television. A big lamp. A double bed. A freezer. A MacBook Air. A PlayStation 3 and two games. I remember now that I sold it all except my iPod. Her mother’s pale and red-eyed face appears when I close my eyes. Her grave. Sara being buried deep in the ground. Sara. Sara. Sara. I can’t remember attending her funeral, but terrifying images flash up in my mind. Everything is dark, but her bright white coffin shows up horrifically and I can’t make the disturbing sight go away. I remember the phone call. The words seem so fresh that it feels as if they were spoken only a few seconds ago. “Knocked down. Dead.” Sara’s last word, “Sorry”, and her pretty face filled with grief repeats on a loop, tormenting my ears and eyes.

* * *

San Francisco’s warm atmosphere is choking me. I can no longer bear to watch the otherwise fascinating people. The enchanted city turns into something ugly. I start to wish that someone would blow up the Golden Gate Bridge. I have to go. I need Sara because I’m going crazy. Sara. Sara. Sara. How do I find her? I want to search the entire city, but instead I go to a hotel because deep down I know that I won’t find her anywhere. I throw my heavy body on the bed and I suffer. I don’t care that children are starving to death in Africa; all I want is for Sara to come back. I don’t care if World War III breaks out; I would be content as long as Sara is by my side. I don’t care if I die as long as I can touch Sara again. I’m dying because I can’t go on living. I hear my heart beat, but I can’t feel Sara’s heart. Sara isn’t here. She is gone. She is dead.

* * *

I have to fall asleep. I have to forget her. For the first time since her death, I remember going to bed. I’m cold. I’m in pain. I’m shaking. I’m insane. I’m alone in the world. I prefer not to wake up again. “Sara, come here. Sara, I’m sorry I threw you out. I’m sorry. Lie down next to me and warm me up. Lie down next to me and love me. Come back to me. I will always love you.” I don’t usually believe in God, but I pray to Him with all my heart for help. I close my eyes. I try to recall the feeling of Sara’s warm skin against my body. She is by my side. I can feel her breathing against my neck and my body feels safe. She is by my side. Her love embraces my heart. She is breathing. Her heart is beating. She is alive. I can see it. I believe it. I will fight unto death to preserve this magnificent love that I feel. I am no longer cold and I fall asleep. I wake up. I can feel Sara in my heart. I want to be by her side for the rest of my life. I will love and take care of her for the rest of my life. I want to be with her for the rest of my life. Is there anything left of my life? Is there a rest of my life? “Don’t leave me,” I beg Sara. “I’m right here,” Sara says. I have probably lost my mind, but I don’t care. Her voice calms me down. I’m no longer afraid, I open my eyes and all I can see is SF… The small picture frame is sitting on the small table in our room. SF, heart. We carved it into a small log cabin in the mountains so that our love would last for ever. Sara. Fia. Heart. It is so reassuring that it brings me to my senses. I feel her hand near my heart and I grab it and I will never ever let it go. My heart is pounding. I turn around—I turn towards Sara. Her eyes sparkle, her cheeks are flushed, her beautiful face is alive. Her heart is beating. She is alive. She is alive, and I’m restored to life. I awake to life. I am alive. I feel her warmth, I embrace her wonderful body, I kiss her soft lips. I feel love and reassurance in my heart. My eyes fill with tears of joy and I say: “Why don’t we go to San Francisco?”

Copyright © 2012 by Niviaq Korneliussen and Milik Publishing
Translation © 2017 by Charlotte Barslund

Read our interview with Niviaq Korneliussen here.