She tells Unuoma she won’t take his name at a time when it is too late for him to do anything about it other than make some disapproving grunts that soon become snores as she rubs his back in her tiny bed, in her even tinier room in her tiny apartment on 134th street West.
It is here they come to make love and do other things men and women do when they love each other. Unuoma shares living arrangements with two cousins and Nigerian visitors that filter in and out of the two bedroom apartment on Lexington. It would be impossible to do anything more than argue there and so they avoid it as much as possible. The only reason they haven’t moved in together is Sade is more Catholic than she likes to admit.
She and Unuoma are rarely ever clothed in her apartment. It is their Eden; here they are naked and not ashamed.
Before Unuoma, Sade had never seen anyone fully naked. She had always insisted on closed drapes and the guise of darkness with her former lovers. But from the day he had kissed her for the first time at night on 5th Ave, Sade had known that there was light with this one.
She gets out of bed now because she doesn’t like to sleep while he does. Why would anyone want to sleep when they could be watching such a beautiful man in repose?
It is summer so light still filters through the tiny windows of her bedroom even though it is almost 8.30pm. Her easel is nearby because her bedroom sometimes doubles as her studio. She positions it so she can begin.
When he awakens, she is finishing it off.
‘You better sell that for millions,’ he tells her after a few minutes of wakefulness have passed.
“You aren’t that spectacular this Ibo man!” She shoots back.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, still better than all the Oyinbo boys that were trailing around you before I saved you from a lifetime of paleness.”
“You are so racist Unuoma!”
“Yet I am marrying you…white girl in black skin.”
“Biracial skin you mean…”
“Obama is black. You too are black.”
They continue to banter and laugh, all the while naked until it is time for him to get out of bed and go to work.
He kisses her first, glancing at the picture.
“Give me some more muscle at least…”
“An artist must be true to her art.”
Sade laughs and swats his arm playfully away. She doesn’t understand a word of Ibo but ‘Akuko’ is one her favorite words nonetheless. That and ‘nnanya’
When he starts to sing, she leaves the easel and joins him in the shower. It is Saturday so she will sleep in after their love making. Her job at the bank affords her such luxuries. Unuoma works 6 days a week in construction; 5am-5pm. It is a good job, and Unuoma recently made supervisor so he has less back breaking physical work to do. The job also pays good, compared to the first jobs he had when he came to America after winning the lottery. His salary is at least enough to afford an emerald engagement ring since green is the color of her eyes. The emerald is small and she is not a ring person but she loves him so she wears it everywhere. She will however not bear his name.
“Why?” he asks as he dresses for work.
There is so much she hasn’t told him, so much she is afraid of saying. Before Unuoma she used to be afraid all the time. Now not as much.
“Does it matter?” She asks him now.
“To be honest, not really. It is just expected I guess. My mother will ask why and before we can furnish her with an answer, she will remind me how she warned me about marrying a woman from America. My father won’t care, so long as his grandchildren bear his last name.”
She watches him as he carefully dresses like he is going to work in a bank. It was the first thing that attracted her to him, the attention to detail. He is the only man she knows who still wears cuff links religiously. She wonders what it must have been like to know the love of a mother, an opinionated forceful mother yes but a mother still. She imagines her last foster father, the one who tried to rape her, insisting on her right to bear his name even after marriage to some man. She would have liked to know what it felt like to belong to someone, to somewhere other than the American public system.
The nuns at the orphanage had named her Sade because she was the child of a black woman and a white man and Sade, the singer was the most visible biracial woman they knew. God alone knew how any of them had heard of the singer since all they listened to were Latin recitations. Probably from their past lives as sinners. Her last name Nicholas was for the patron saint of children- another gift from the nuns. So many foster homes yet she had managed to hold onto both names. She didn’t know how to not be Sade Nicholas.
She doesn’t realize she had closed her eyes until he kisses them open, one at a time.
“Does it matter to you?” She whispers as she drinks in the smell of his aftershave.
“The only thing that matters to me is that you are mine, and that someday you find me safe enough to call me home.”
He leaves after kissing her on her forehead and draping the windows so she can pretend it is night and sleep. She waits for the door to shut before positioning her easel to face her in bed. She falls asleep as he returns the favor and watches over her.
Song of the day: Amy Miller : Faithful