Voices

Extract: Divorceable woman

2015-11-02 17:12

Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi

BlackBird Books

204 pages

R195

Zvobgo, the father, now remarked to his daughter that his ‘harem of women’ had left him, and offered a gentle laugh. It sounded as if she had laughed too before putting her mother on the phone. He spoke with a kind of familiarity that caused Tsitsi to feel a sense of resentment. To her mind, she had driven them apart in physical distance, but they nonetheless seemed tied to one another by the physical manifestations of the consummation of their marriage.

If Tsitsi were honest, she had been surprised by the relative ease of it all.

Chiedza had been surprised too. ‘Chokwadi ndekuti, Mrs Zvobgo is definitely a better woman than I am. I always say, if an ‘unclassy’ situation happens to me, then I reserve the right to ‘unclassy’ actions – petrol, matchsticks and all.’

A woman like Mrs Zvobgo, one of such stature, with such a name, to divorce so easily? Chiedza had read in the papers that she had been the one to have filed the papers. That he had been the one to initially refuse to give his signature. That she had threatened him if he didn’t. With what, Tsitsi didn’t know.

Zvobgo had not spoken to her of this. He had made it seem as if it were all his choice. His choice to begin taking care of her family. His choice to promote her from the status of the Small House. His choice to have her become the Woman of His House.

His choice to endure the initial disapproving and disparaging looks. She saw their looks.

‘But, Zvobgo,’ they said, ‘you are not the first to have a Small House. We have our own, but we don’t go and chase out our wives, the mothers of our children, in order to put these Small Houses in the Main House. If you really didn’t want to have to continue playing truant with your wife, why didn’t you just make the young girl your second wife?’

Their eyes would ask until they would later be duly informed that Mrs Zvobgo would not have any of it. To which they would respond that it was perhaps because she had been spoilt by the fact that he, a man of his stature, had been so good before.

To which the informant would have a hearty chuckle. To which the other would in turn respond: Besides was it not her degrees that had gone to
her head?

To which the other would answer: I think it’s the kind of family she came from. Very proud, vaivaira. Her father used to own businesses in Chitungwiza. He also had the Tingamara Buses all those years. He sent all of his children, all girls, to school. Primary school right up until university. All of those girls.

To which the other would question: Was she not part of those Party women who made a noise about having to wombera and welcome the men ministers at the airport as they returned from overseas visits?

To which the other would respond: No? But in any case, wasn’t she supposed to become the Minister of Women Affairs, Gender, Community Development and All Things Considered UnImportant in the Greater Scheme of Things when there was that fallout with the first minister?

To which the other would confirm: Yes, that was before her arrogance got in her way and she caused some trouble in the department. Very arrogant woman that. Yes, even during the Chimurenga we warned against that sort of bourgeois imperialist feminism, women’s lib what-what of hers.

To which they would then both agree: With all of this to have had to put up with, perhaps it was understandable that the old man had put the Small House in the Main House. Poor old man.

In no time, they agreed, they would have a child and all would be forgotten.

Eventually, Tsitsi believed, it all had become his choice, although at times she would find him looking at old pictures of the two of them (the ones she would eventually throw out) and, at times when he was particularly forgetful, he would call her Rudo. But that was not grounds to be unhappy with the relationship. As long as he was there. He was there and providing. She could accept the situation.

She could accept the situation – whereas Mrs Zvobgo could not.

Mrs Zvobgo was not an Undivorceable Woman. Not an Undivorceable Woman who would refuse to see that she was no longer wanted. That he had a new life.

No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman who would defiantly continue to wear her wedding ring. Continue to wear hers, even when he had long since stopped wearing his.

No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman who could forgive a husband’s sins for the sake of a name. A name that was revered for its bravery in the Second and Third Chimurengas.

No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman who could forgive a husband’s sins (of the flesh and others) for the sake of sanctity. The sanctity of a
holy union.

No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman who could forgive a husband’s sins for the sake of family. For the sake of a family that would, too, have its fair share of its own open secrets – children in the bush, incest, Small Houses, bruised bodies and the like.

No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman who would appeal to his family – first to Tete and then
his brothers and, if alive, the mother, who in this case was not. Appeal to his family so that they in turn would appeal to their dear, but misguided, brother, son.

No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman who could bring out dockets of her years as a good muroorato the family. A good muroorawho was always hardworking and, very importantly, humble. A good muroorawho had dutifully looked after their sick mother before she had died. A good muroorawho had been a mother to all his siblings – and the many other relatives – who had needed a halfway house of sorts when they had come to town from the village.

No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman, who was going to produce any dockets in public either. No dockets that contained details of the many properties acquired through impropriety at his job.

No, she was not an Undivorceable Woman.

The ex-Mrs Zvobgo, Ms Rudo Tingamira, was in fact a Very Divorceable Woman.

Yes, she was in fact a Very Divorceable Woman who took off her wedding ring and, in turn, had her ex-husband Mr Zvobgo, the almost Undivorceable Man had it not been for her Divorceable-ness, discover just how Divorceable he was.

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November 18 2018