As the sun kissed the top of Sacrca’s head while waiting on the sidewalk just outside the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, validated were his dreams of a sparkling place with boundless opportunity. His first thought: The heartland. Though Saccra was far from it, the mid-afternoon gleam reminded him of the hot, peaceful courtship between sky, man, and savannah back home. With an exhale, his jet lag dissipated. Here, he would court a new life. “I like Ike,” he mumbled, recalling the presidential campaign slogan of the airport’s namesake. Though his pragmatic nature led him to computer science, he’d always carried an affinity for history, politics and literature. Americans prefer simple rhyme. Simple rhythm. Wheat blowing in the wind.
He doesn’t wait long; his friend, Malachi, pulls up honking and calling out. “Time to fly!”
“Eagle’s landed,” Saccra responded, tossing his luggage, one suitcase and one duffle bag, carelessly in the car trunk. Though he planned an extended stay, he’d packed light; his life would consist of all new things, including clothes.
He settled on selling insurance, having failed to land a position in his field of study. Ascension was quick, his success largely attributed to his voice, which reflected a variety of baritones with confidence and intelligence. His suave rhetoric never seemed manipulative, but rather honest. And he was honest—for the most part. He was honest with himself and his capabilities, while realizing preconceived societal ideals.
Most assumed him French until they entered his office. To his credit, though young, he was of the old guard mindset of good sportsmanship; he was competitive and not easily triggered. He responded with hospitality and a lot of demand, informing them they had no choice but to take advantage of the opportunity of protection while it affordably presented itself. His lion-like strut and self-assurance resulted in a great majority of kills.
It had its advantages, the job. Not only was he able to interact with various types of people while earning a living, but he was also able to construct a social life through work. Romantically, he was a voyager with many conquests, though sometimes he felt American women were not worth the trouble; he believed Kansan women less secure than Togolese—even with all their rights—and that their bodies—even with all the gyms and plastic surgeons around town—were disappointing. If not out of shape, without shape or downright fat, they had augmented standard top halfs resembling overgrown grapefruit that denied the natural softness of a woman paired with nibbled on apple bottoms.
He was neither discriminatory nor picky, the woman who would become his live-in lover indicative of such facts. She was a twenty-three year old third working on fourth year undeclared partying sophomore who felt now was not the time for building, but rather for recovering time stolen by overly restrictive parents. Jenny was not overwhelmingly ugly, but her very plain face combined with stringy blonde hair and husky body made her relatively unattractive. She fought it, as is every woman’s duty—her main ammo make-up and suggestive clothing—but the clothes were ill fit on her box-like figure. She meagerly attempted to look tan with foundation five shades darker than her neck, which inadvertently caused her to lose the battle of beauty in the saddest way possible—to herself. The consensus about the couple among black women was, “At least he could have picked a pretty one,” and among white men, “She’s the only white woman he could get.”
For two years they played, living together the last eight months. When Jenny’s parents trimmed her financial support after discovering she had been shacking up without moving an inch closer to graduating, Jenny picked up a third shift job as a home security dispatcher. On Saccra’s part, he’d always placed greater focus on securing his silk du-rag nightly than cuddling with Jenny, so he was far from torn. Still, he’d become restless, tired of selling insurance and searching for a sociological academic position, wanting to earn a PhD, with no prospects of entering higher education in sight. Had it not been for Jenny’s scholarly Aunt Edna subsidizing their income, her having been charmed—“I see no reason this handsome man can’t get a PhD” she would often say—he’d have left the situation sooner.
Saccra regularly hunted for employment with Malachi and when they returned home on evenings before Jenny left for work, he’d find Jenny sitting on the middle of the living room sofa waiting. Malachi would plop next to her, cut the tension of a man coming home much too late, and tell Saccra to make a round of drinks. On nights Jenny didn’t have to work, the three would play gin rummy or watch a movie. “You act more excited to see him than me,” Saccra would chide, looking at Jenny, trying to sense her true feelings, though he already knew.
“Of course not,” she’d reply, determined not to get snapped into his trap, remembering she should be the one asking the questions. “Another round?”
Mishaps happen when a heart yearns for change but is too cowardly to act. Saccra didn’t have to hustle back out to the field—he’d never really left it—but he did abandon the sense of ethics he’d formerly maintained while at the plate. He had gone from a strutting lion to a lazy lion, frustrated from unrealized expectations. A third shift working girlfriend was an open invitation to play, and Saccra had begun gaming on home turf, Jenny’s car the signifying flag to stop or go. When it was gone they came and incense burned to snuff out the smell of foreign flesh.
She left work early that day, feeling nauseous while heading home. A blue Nissan sat in her parking space, so she parked at the next spot over and headed towards the door. When she stepped in she saw Sacra lying on the sofa with an espresso colored woman between his legs, a lackadaisical vibe between the two as if their only concern were one another. When they noticed Jenny in the doorway Saccra tapped the woman’s leg and she slowly stood up.
“Hi,” the smooth woman said, as if there were nothing to slice—no tension, no foul—before gliding past Jenny and letting herself out. Saccra then stood up and poured himself a glass of milk. “Do you want anything?” Jenny noticed the small invisible lines connecting the corners of his lips to his nose.
“No,” she responded. He sat back down on the sofa and began flipping through channels. Jenny walked to the bedroom and sat on the bed. She didn’t cry, she just thought. She took her clothes off and went to sleep.
A couple of weeks later Saccra left on a weeklong trip to Denver for what he told Jenny was “marketing enhancement training.” She spent the hours cleaning, beginning in the kitchen and continuing until she was dusting the bedroom light fixtures. She was only a week late, but one too many stories of pregnant women scrubbing floors and disinfecting door knobs rendered her afraid of the potential implications.
While on her knees tugging the bed skirt just so to give it a perfect silhouette, she saw a shoebox near the side table. In it lay unimportant matter—pictures of Saccra’s family, resident documentation, and at the very bottom, bank statements for an account Jenny never knew existed.
Saccra was enjoying his view of Aspen through the windows of his suite.
“You want something to drink?”
“Why so standoffish? Are you happy?” She moved forward to kiss him, but with a slight turn of the head what was intended for his lips landed on one of the invisible lines Jenny had noticed two weeks ago. For a moment he searched her face for any family resemblance and, to his relief, found nothing. Edna was twenty years older but didn’t have to try so hard; she was a natural looker and a serious woman who still knew how to have fun, probably a lesson learned late in life, Saccra figured, which is why she was alone.
“She’s been good to me. Supported me, stuck by me.”
“You love her?”
He hadn’t asked himself this, never felt it was important and had he been questioned a week ago he would have answered no without a doubt. He’d pitied her originally, thought he did her a favor by being with her, and at this moment couldn’t explain why he hesitated to answer or why the answer itself had changed. “Yes.”
“Just like that? I’m too old for you.”
“That’s not it.”
“I’ve invested in you.”
“I’ll pay you back. All of it. I’ll pay you back.”
He dozed off on the plane and reflected peacefully in the rideshare home, thinking of a new way, a new life, a new identity.
Finally he was home. He walked up the cement path and felt the sway of the pussy willow fan his body. He loved this place. He opened the door and walked in, stopped in his tracks by the scene. Jenny lay atop Malachi on the sofa, two stalks still in the wind, the rhythm of the silence a masterful serenade to the comfort found between two people. They both looked at Saccra. Jenny stood up and Malachi followed her, wordlessly passing his old friend. After he left, Jenny pulled out a bottle of wine. She opened it, poured herself a glass. “You want one?”
He walked into the bedroom, where his financial statements lay scattered across his side of the bed. He sat fighting a mist of pride while down the hall Jenny called Malachi to see if he’d safely made it home.
Text © Margery Hannah 2023. All Rights Reserved