I Am Woman – Episode 1
A Story By Brian Ngoma
Summer of 1997, in the suburbs of Lusaka township, I remember sitting on the lawn reading a magazine while my brother and sister were playing. The moment was so perfect. Had it been up to me, I would have stayed in that moment indefinitely. If only wishes were horses.
“Kasuli, call your sister and brother to come in for lunch”, my father called my sister.
From 1994, our father had raised us on his own. He was the most loving and hardworking man I had come across in my life. He provided for our daily needs and made sure we never lacked his attention. Despite working night and day on most days, he made sure he was around. Whenever he was around, he insisted cooking for us.
“Tinashe and Gary, dad is calling us”, Kasuli called us running to our father.
I called Gary who was busy with his ball on the roadside. He ran to me and we were heading to the house when I heard a boy’s voice calling me. It was Fumbani with his friends. I had become accustomed to his voice.
“Tinashe, Tinashe, my angel”, he licked his lips.
“What now Fumbani?” I rolled my eyes.
“I love those beautiful eyes you always roll at me”.
My brother ran to the house. His friends started chattering after hearing him chaff me. Funny thing about the 90’s was that boys thought that when they liked a girl, it had to be automatic to like them back. Fumbani had been on my back for three years and I always wondered why he never gave up because I gave him all the reasons to.
“What is it Fumbani? My family is waiting for me inside the house”.
“Did Gary give you my letter”, he asked pompously looking at his friends.
“Yes he did and I trashed it like the other 100 Fumbani”.
“You will come around Tinashe, best believe that”, he pointed at me and joined his friend.
Fumbani was arrogant, assumptive, uppity, assertive, presumptuous and chesty. He was a good looking boy and every girl wanted him, my two friends inclusive, Diana and Clara. They had always pushed me to accept him but he never moved me. He was never near to my ideal man. I wanted a lowly, humble and modest man. A man that I could introduce to my father without feeling ashamed. My father was very conservative and attitude really mattered to him. Fumbani was no such man.
“You have to tell that boy that he is not welcome here”, my father told me as I got into the house.
“I have told him countless times papa. He is stubborn”, I replied sitting.
“I think you encourage him. When a woman says no, she means no”, he passed me the plate.
My father was right. Perhaps my NO was not convincing enough. Three years was a long time for someone to keep pursuing an unhopeful love. I had to tell him that he never stood a chance with me in this lifetime. I decided to tell him the next time we crossed paths.
“I will let him know that my no means no papa. Don’t worry”, I smiled.
“Good girl. Now eat your food all of you”, he looked at us. “Vegetables inclusive Gary”.
Lunch was astounding as usual. We finished eating and washed the dishes with my two siblings. Our father prepared for his night shift in his bedroom. He took longer than usual and that made me nervous. Despite hiding the fact that his responsibilities were overwhelming, I could read through his eyes that he was stressed. I never wanted to ask him because I knew it would break him if he knew I felt his pain. He didn’t want us to know what he was going through.
“Tinashe, you have to prepare supper early for your sister and brother”, he said closing the door behind him.
“OK papa”, I answered looking at him.
“Tomorrow is the last day of school so I am sure you won’t find me when you knock off”.
“No problem, I am coming early tomorrow”, he wiped his right eye discreetly.
His eyes seemed sore. From there and then, I knew he had been crying again. I pretended not to notice the sore eyes and passed him his bag.
“Bye papa”, Kasuli waved him goodbye.
Gary had a tendency of escorting our father to the station. Most times he would go with him to his workplace especially when he worked during the day. He would come back with sweets which he would fight for with Kasuli. Even though Kasuli was the youngest, Gary behaved more childishly. They were only three years apart.
I woke up the following day feeling happy that it was the last day of school. Me and my friends had planned the day thoroughly. I wore my favourite red short sleeved baby doll dress. I complimented it with black combat boots and a jean jacket. I met Clara and Diana who also looked amazing. They had both worn overall shorts and both left one of the clasps undone. They handed me a butterfly clip to complete our looks. We were proud to be women. We rocked the 90s.
The celebrations were over at school. I looked for Fumbani to put an end to his mediocracy. I searched everywhere for him. A part of me wanted him to see how good I looked and the other wanted him gone. I eventually found him with his friends. As soon as he saw me, he walked to me and stood like a robot looking at me.
“Wow Tinashe you look amazing. Spice girls should sign you up”.
I blushed and didn’t want him to notice. “Fumbani you have stop pursuing me. You and I can never work”.
“Ok darling, I will stop”, he said calmly.
“What?” I thought out loudly.
“You said I should leave you alone. I am leaving you alone Tinashe don’t worry”. Fumbani said.
“OH good then. Have a nice summer Fumbani”, I turned my back on him and left.
“You too Tinashe”.
Did I just make a fool out of myself? What was I thinking to confront him and tell him that he had to stop pursuing me? I felt so stupid walking away from him. What made it worse was when his friends laughed making it obvious that they were laughing at me. It was the terrible walk of shame. What comforted me were Papa’s words, “When a woman says NO, it really is NO”.
To be continued