“Are you seriously going to eat that?”
Sasha was hunched over the retro-style refrigerator, long enough for the fridge light to go out. Her almond eyes were squeezed firmly shut as beads of sweat rolled from her temples to the bridge of her nose. Even for July, this Arizona heatwave was sickening. Her hand was holding a container of the last remaining item from last night’s takeout disaster: a slice of Double-Dutch Death By Chocolate Cake. They’d ordered in, from the same ridiculous diner where they’d met three years ago. This had become their default anniversary dinner. However, last night they bit off more than they could chew from this expensive hipster establishment built solely to separate the local private university’s enrollees from their parents’ allowances.
Sasha, who was wearing her go-to pair of nude brown bicycle shorts and matching sports bra, was once one of those entitled and overly-optimistic, cheery, college freshmen. She was riding high, until she was unceremoniously cut off from her strict and financially controlling, Nigerian medical doctor parents who did not, despite what the American liberal media insists, have to embrace their firstborn daughter’s homosexual lifestyle choice. Their words. They made a point of telling their daughter that she chose wrong and that when she was finished making her bad choices, she knew where to find them. Long Island, New York. Sasha never really tried to explain that the only choice she made was to be happy. Her parents had raised her right, which was code for not to express her opinions. Sasha’s parents, Semi and Sola never argued with their children, because there was no place in their house for back-talk. They did manage to find time to argue with each other. Constantly. They didn’t agree what university Sasha should attend: what major she should declare, or even what type of hairstyle she should wear, but they were absolutely in lock-step agreement that they did not immigrate to the United States, work like dogs, get treated like slaves, put Sasha through six years of preparatory school, so that their first born child should take up with some mannish-looking woman, which is how they referred to Sasha’s partner, rather than by their name, Sam. Who is white. On top of everything else, Sam is polo-shirts-tucked-into-the-waist, naturally-blonde-and-blue-eyed, burn-in-the-Connecticut-sun, Anglo-Saxon if ya got ‘em, white.
Sasha has not received a penny from her parents since she started dating Sam. Or a birthday card. Or a ticket to fly back east for any of the family holidays. After making the difficult, though fiscally responsible decision to NOT go into decades of student loan debt, Sasha has worked her ass off, literally dropping her freshman fifteen, at a string of cafes, restaurants and diners, including the Famous Thirsty Flamingo, where she first laid eyes on Sam. She remembers that they were wearing a crisp polo shirt, tucked into a pair of Levi’s that had been ironed to a pointed crease in the front, with brown leather loafers. Like, this was some old school shit. Who, under the age of 65 irons their jeans? She figured someone with such a specific style choice probably, couldn’t help but stay true to themselves and would never require or even ask her to be anything other than herself.
Without moving her flat feet, which were planted to the checkered linoleum floor, like a suction cup, Sasha sleepily peered out over the fridge door, to the cheap dinette set they had salvaged off a CURBSIDE craigslist post: her gaze landing squarely on Sam’s boyish grin.
“I’m sure it’s fine,” she nearly scowled, rolling her eyes and closing the fridge. She was not in the mood for rhetorical questions this morning. Her knees and back were still throbbing from hours of quality time bent over the toilet, last night. Sam, who was not a big eater, sensed that the lobster mac n cheese smelled off, but Sasha, who up until 1:30 am was known for her iron stomach, doused it in hot sauce and the remnants of her dwindling optimism. She joked that she was up to the challenge. She was not. Sam was good about it though. They stayed, up rubbing Sasha’s back, bringing her cups of water and aspirin. They even googled “pressure points” as Sasha lay collapsed at the foot of the toilet in a tentative slumber. Sasha was Sam’s first real relationship. Sam was a fox and never had a problem attracting attention, but Sasha was different. She never let them off the hook. Sam never called her high-maintenance because Sam craved standards. A latch-key kid and the fifth of seven, no one ever really expected much from him. Not his teachers, his parents or his siblings. He hated that. Sasha’s standards for how she expected to be treated far surpassed even his natural desire for rigour. As long as she would have them, they knew they would never leave.
With a groan, Sasha dragged herself over to the table, where Sam had already drawn open the curtains, overlooking the quiet courtyard. The view was why they got the apartment. Sasha’s coffee was prepared exactly to her liking: light cream with three sugars. Two slices of unbuttered toast lay stacked and sweating on her plate. Sam got up and walked over to the cutlery drawer and returned, presenting her with two forks. She smiled and popped open the plastic lid. Clearly, some things were worth the risk.
About the Creator
Omotara James is the author of “Song of My Softening,” from Alice James Books. A multidisciplinary artist, she creates as a means to preserve joy, confront the past and free herself of it.
Follow @omotarajames & inquire at omotarajames.com