The hardest part about living in a high density suburb is not the electricity, neither is it the water that is rarely ever available even though the bill couldn’t care less whether or not you have a green lawn, laced on the edges with a decadent array of exotic flowers in your front yard. No. It is not even the raw sewage bound to be found on at least two streets within 5 blocks of each other, nor is it the noise coming from your raucous neighbours, the children playing in mud pools on the street or passersby who know fuckall about confidential tones no matter the subject matter, no.
The hardest thing about living in a high density suburb is commuting, towards and away from ‘civilisation’ I’d say, but political correctness would rather I make no such ignorant remarks that border on self hate and calls to mind images of pointed noses turned upward and disdain arching thin lips into n shapes.
Political correctness would rather I rethink this part altogether but …commuting; to the places that lie beyond the thin film of black smoke seated atop a sea of industries_ do you know that in the olden days, especially in winter, one could hardly ever tell whether it was the pollution coming from the industries or the weather that made it hard to see?
The mist was thick then and the countenance of the workers as they rushed towards what used to be a monstrous sea of industries, was always vacant and sometimes if you were lucky and the chilly wind wasn’t biting into their faces too much, sometimes you could see a smile.
Those were the days when the workers used to talk with animated voices and laughter could be heard as they passed you by. This is not to say that they have long since stopped laughing, simply, the spirit of laughter has left them.
The hardest thing about commuting to middle-class Harare is negotiating your working class situation and surrounds that believe they have a marked right on you. As long as you still use the same buses and combis as they, they have a hold on you and they won’t hesitate to remind you of this, should you ever stray too far into those murky middle-class Harare waters and start thinking you can talk, behave, walk and dress like them in these parts. This is the ghetto, where God reins supreme and the masses are his firm hand of divine execution, or lightning whip depending on the occasion. The hardest part is undoubtedly knowing when to code switch so that everything about you, within and without, perfectly blends in with the two worlds.
As a child of the ghetto, one must know how the system works and neatly tuck themselves into its confines.
But on this particular morning I’ve decided to raise my middle finger to the system, which in all honesty is only a system in spirit only.
On this particular morning I’ve decided to say fuck you to The Man, the preacher, his loyal followers down here in the ghetto and my mother. And so I sit on the edge of my bed with my hands carefully pulling up the navvy blue stockings that are supposed to bring the *BOOM* of my outfit to full circle.
I look at myself in the mirror and I can’t help but gasp at the woman staring back at me “I’d totally give you,” I say to her before I blow her a kiss and leave.
Usually, what happens is that The Lover parks a few streets away from my house and then he calls me. But today he has called to let me know that he can’t make it to my side of town and can’t I just take a cab, he’ll pay the driver when I get there?
So I stand at the corner of 2nd and Kaguvi, waiting for any private vehicle at all_ I’m not a picky gal_ to stop in front of me and tell me it will go wherever I’m headed.
This upsets the Combi drivers and their conductors who have taken the liberty and great pains to stop in front of me so their seats can be full already and I_ get to town quicker_ win-win.
Instead I wave them off, the follow up to this is usually a clicking tongue or a cuss word on their part. I pay them no mind.
I’m standing at the corner for a while until an elderly woman grabs at my arm tenderly with a beautiful smile painting her and says to me “Vasikana vane hunu havamiri pamacorner.”
I smile back and I have no choice but to follow her.
I whisper a silent prayer of thanks to the elderly woman when I see her ogling at my outfit and visibly choking back the morality lecture she’s thoroughly contemplating, down her throat.
After a few minutes, a blue Sedan stops in front of us, the man-driver smiles lewdly at me and asks if I’m in need of a lift.
I nod then turn towards the elderly woman and ask her to join me. She frowns and says
“Ah, I’m waiting for a combi. No thank you. Zvemaprivate hatizvi affodhe isu”
I make sure to smile my best smile before I say
“Don’t worry Motha, I will pay ” punctuated by a furrowed brow, which I hope will make her realise that I’m pleading and worried about my safety in this driver-man’s hands.
After a few seconds, she concedes and slumps into the back seat of the car with me. The driver-man huffs before he turns his gaze away from the rear view mirror, somewhat agitated. I pay his asinine little tantrums no mind.
“Imarii mukwasha?” asks Motha as we are about to reach her destination.
“Ha, don’t worry Motha. Tongoita pachikristo so.”
“Waita zvako mwanagu. It’s good to know that there are still one or two people who are like this. Ingondhidropa hako pano kana zvichiita.”
I am 15 minutes away from where I’m supposed to meet The Lover, but I’ve decided that I will not be left alone in the same space with this man, so when Motha gets off, I follow behind her.
I’m pacing through downtown Harare hastily, blocking out the loud remarks aimed at me with the head phones I’ve decided this situation desperately needs. But sadly, there is no recourse to the huge bulging eyes, boring into my body, consciously and unconsciously making me feel uncomfortable. Something about the way those eyes maul into you will have you reaching for the edges of your skirt, involuntarily pulling it down as though one tug will miraculously add length to it. It never does. So you try and remind yourself that you don’t actually have a problem with the length of your skirt and for goodness sake you are wearing stockings underneath, THEY are the problem! But the eyes couldn’t give a fuck about how you see it, this is downtown Harare, all these eyes and the bodies attached to them have a marked right on you. There is a system to this thing and your failure to neatly tuck yourself, raging tits and dissenting thighs, within the neat and crisp confines of the system is your own downfall. You are the leaking roof, and they are simply the owners of the house, scowls and tool boxes in tow.
It’s so loud inside my head I almost don’t realise it when I reach the quiet part of the CBD. I let out a huge sigh of relief and decide to find somewhere to sit down and regroup. The Lover calls me then, and says he is on his way.
I’m doubly relieved.
He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves…
Plucking magic out of earthen vessels, the mouths seems to cry for their loss, crying with pain for things they cannot contain. But I pay them no mind.
and let her own works praise her in the gates
My worth is far above rubies
The heart of my man safely trusts me
And he has no lack of gain
Doing him good and not evil, all the days of my life
Seeking wool and flax
Willingly working with my hands
I am like the merchant ships
Bringing food from afar
Rising when it is still night
Binding spells in earthen bowls. Silver strands of hyena hair and a little bit of snake juice. The night hangs at midnight, and grey haired baboons growl.
A little juice trickles from the herbs as I crush them, just a little but not enough to make the paste I seek. So I spit into bowl, and some of my tears fall in there too. They all mix together until the paste has the right texture, so I let it set and pray. I’m on my knees praying for strength and wisdom, for the tempest within me to keep still, for peace and light, but I’m too far out at sea for providence to find me. Against my open and raw flesh the paste stings, it licks and licks until I can see the redness of my wounds inside my closed eyes. It is a petulant redness, forever seeking, never sated. And with each lick I can almost feel every one of their hands on me, tearing this way and that, squeezing and grabbing at this and that.
The hardest part, the hardest part about the whole thing is that I didn’t, couldn’t remember any of them from that morning. The dark and skinny tout with the green and red wool hat on had been the loudest, his rage had incited the rest and called attention to me.
I hadn’t even reached the bend before he recognised me and started shouting that I go back to wherever I was coming from and that I should get the same cab that had brought me to town to take me back home.
He loves me. He loves me…
Hands, many hands tugging this way and that. One pair pulls down the skirt. He loves me. Another claws at the stockings, they come undone like a london bridge set on fire. He loves me not. Over here on my left breast, someone is tugging. He loves me. There are weights firmly rested on either of my hands, I can’t scratch or claw my way out. He loves me not. The jagged edges of a broken bottle, Castle Lager, scissors it’s way past my thighs, my panties are threaded in two. He loves me. 1.2.3. different scents and necks against mine, I lose count at 4 and I pass out. He loves me not. When I come to, my phone is ringing, somewhere in the darkness. I don’t know how I’m doing it but It’s almost in my hands. He loves me:
“Babe, I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for a while now. Where are you?”
And I cry into the receiver until the words crawl their way past the sobs.