Femininity was her sole disability. A charming face was nothing if femininity was such a social disorder
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
Tunhidzai was busy in front of her wardrobe, admiring the woman in the mirror. The skin on her face
was a mixture of milk and chocolate powder.
Her eyes were a pair of coffee beans floating in tiny puddles of fresh milk. Her smile exposed a pair of silver chains. Her facial composition meant the world to her.
Tunhi did not, however, possess the emotional balance to derive lasting pleasure from the choice she had made, to be her own person, her own woman, her own road out of ill-defined social norms that prohibited her from scanning the landscapes beyond the close curves of the horizons set around her by her only handicap.
Femininity was her sole disability.
Her mother, from whom she had taken all the attributes that marked her out as a tremendous beauty, had succumbed to the malady of quiet acceptance.
Mrs Taonezvi’s voice had proven to be the echo of her husband’s voice when the couple had prevailed upon her to throw her pride before the biblical swine in a matter she thought she could settle alone, albeit with just a little financial support from her father.
Chino’s illness had seen Tunhi’s sense of self-worth running down the drain, but now, even after Chino’s full recovery, Tunhi felt sapped of her sense of autonomy. She had paid all hospital expenses, but her purse had run dry at the last hurdle.
She did not have enough cash to buy medication for her son.
On her return from hospital she had sat expectantly in her parents’ sitting room, her child lying almost lifeless in a sofa. She needed financial assistance from her father.
Mr Taonezvi had arrived home at precisely 7 pm, his wife with him. The couple seemed not to notice their daughter who sat helplessly in a sofa, like a doll.
After greeting her parents, and hearing their lifeless responses Tunhi, in as desperate a voice as her situation dictated, had asked her father for financial assistance.
Mr Taonezvi had looked at his daughter across the coffee table and said, “ The boy has a father, who is gainfully employed.”
Tunhi had waited for more words from her father, but the man had stood up and left the sitting room for his bedroom.
Tunhi had turned to look at her mother, who was normally very supportive, but before she could find the right words to address her mother, the elder woman said: “Raising a child is a collective responsibility, with the parents always playing the frontline role. Why do you spare Michael from playing his part.”
“You are not only wasting time. You are also gambling with your son’s life to please a worthless god, your pride, “ the queen of the house had spoken.
Tunhi had hastened to make contact with her estranged husband, and the boy had responded quickly to the medication his father had bought.
Tunhi’s marriage had collapsed three years before.
Her fecundity had responded well to the pleasures of her premarital sexual experience with Michael, her boyfriend since they were fellow students at Africa University. The result was a speedy settlement of matters between two families, to make Tunhi and Michael husband and wife.
Mrs Taonezvi was bitter that her daughter had been taken away before she had found a job after all those years of University education, while Mrs Zvavaenzi was unhappy that Michael had rushed to be a parent without tasting the pleasures of a single, employed young man.
Things had grievously gone wrong when Michael’s employer sent him to South Africa for a three months staff development course in human resources management.
Mrs Zvavaenzi had turned into a harpy within a fortnight. She would say a dozen imponderables to her pregnant daughter-in-law in a single breath.
“Do you see any future in your relationship? “ Mrs Zvavaenzi would ask.
“No matter how modern society has become,” she would continue without receiving an answer, “no African man places any value on a woman who allows him the forbidden joy before their marriage is formalised.”
Tunhi’s situation had worsened when Michael opted to communicate with her through his mother’s phone whenever he thought he had anything to say to her.
When Tunhi finally made up her mind to leave, she told herself that she would never get emotionally involved with a man again. She had spat at the gate as she left Mrs Zvavaenzi’s territory.
Things had seemingly worked well for her. She had got a job in no time and she had already bought a piece of land in Mutare’s Chikanga Area to build her own house.
Then came her son’s illness and her parents’ betrayal. These disturbing thoughts were a great affront to the woman in the mirror.
Her facial muscles tensed and her eyes brimmed with the water from within her tormented skull. Two rivulets cascaded down her cheeks. The woman closed her eyes and Tunhi fell on her bed.
A charming face was nothing if femininity was such a social disorder. Why were some women in the forefront of the incapacitation of other women?
Something even more degrading was foregrounded in her thoughts, how her emotional attachment to Michael had been reignited by the single hour they had spent together as they drove around the city looking for the scarce drug.
Why would her emotions be enslaved by the shadow of a man whose romantic preferences had long shifted nests? But as if someone was reading her thoughts, the vibration of her phone struck her eardrums like the knocking of a madman on a closed door in rainy weather.
Reaching for her phone, she opened the messages with trembling fingers. Michael was begging her for another chance. He had lived a life without her long enough.
But the part that Tunhi found most incredible was about Mrs Zvavaenzi who was insistently telling her son to take back his wife before it was too late.
Tunhi stood up to face the mirror once more, and the sun once again shone in her smile.
Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263777460162. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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