8:00 a.m Zimbabwe time.
At Charge Office Flea Market, where we have learnt skills to multiply the dollar for daily survival, there are stacks and stacks of second hand clothes, and unopened bales too. We can’t afford the bales, so we shuffle through the heaps of old clothes to find better looking jackets and blouses that the ‘queens’ sell for a dollar for two items. We will resell these at a dollar each in Epworth, a semi-rural settlement on the outskirts of Harare where residents will grab almost anything that comes from the city. We sell just to get enough for the following day, and remain with the revolving capital for tomorrow’s order—bread for children’s sandwiches, a bunch of green veggies and tomatoes for supper, bus fare for school children, and of course two dollars for Precious, my daughter. She has to buy a scone and cool drink at school like the other girls lest she dates the kombi drivers (emergency taxi drivers) for it and gets pregnant—let alone HIV/AIDS. Bang! My heart beats fast, my head aches, I’m feeling hot all over, and want to faint. There is so much fear inside me. What if she….? What if…??? Why am I a mother in such a difficult environment?
And suddenly I remember Tariro’s encouraging words.
‘Be strong Kudzo. It will be over soon. We are all in this world for a purpose, and there are moments we can’t escape.’
I find so much warmth in Tariro. Besides pronouncing my name with an ‘o’ instead of an ‘i’ at the end because of her foreign accent, Tariro gives me strength and reason for living each day. No moralising, no quick judgments, just realistic and down to earth.
The clothes in the stacks smell so much.
‘But why do the clothes smell this much?’ Lillian asks, bending and shuffling.
‘I don’t know and I don’t care Lillian, I just want the good ones. Somebody told me about a chemical that they spray to preserve the clothes.’
‘Kunyepa, mapeche enyu ndiwo anonhuwa’ (You lie, it is your vaginas that smell). Male voice.
I pick myself up from the bending position and before I realise he is a policeman, I have already slapped him hard on the face. His police hat falls down and as he bends to pick it up—KICK!—from the back. He bites the ground and groans. A crowd is gathering, and I am getting confused, and hot, and mad, mad, mad!
Another kick, and the policeman lies face and tummy down. Somebody nudges me.
‘Run!! There is going to be a scene.’
People are gathering, I hold Lillian’s hand and we run. We run, no looking back, through the crowds, we run, run, run. At Karigamombe, we jump into a taxi.
‘Please take us to Mbare, quick.’
We throw ten dollars on his lap and he takes off. We are safe.
Inside Mupedzanhamo we buy the dollar for 2 items and quickly change into them. We have to be safe.
Then we board a kombi back Home, straight from Mbare. No more town, no more charge office. No orders—our money is almost finished.
1:24 p.m. Zimbabwe time.
I am changing clothes after showering. I have to go back to town. There is a JASS get-together with Sally. I can’t miss it despite my fear to go back to town. And Sally re-awakens me, so I have to go.
I board a kombi at Westlea shops. As I pass on my coin to the conductor, he looks at me in stitches!
‘Why are you laughing?’ I ask.
‘But ambuya (madam), why did you beat that policeman?’
My heart kicks but at least he is laughing.
‘He insulted me.’
‘But how ambuya, you were not the only woman around the flea market, and the women there get that vagina curse everyday.’
‘But I am not an ordinary woman, I am a vagina warrior!’
More stitches. I look at the woman besides me, our eyes meet and lock, and we laugh.
Life goes on.
‘We are on this earth for a purpose Kudzo. It will soon be over.’