When Silence Speaks
Short Story by Batsirai Easther Chigama
When I speak like one possessed with thousand demons and swear the unthinkable, it’s your fault father. I carry the wounds of being made a mother at that tender age. Father, I do not mean to disrespect you at all but I choose to make this my time, unshackled from your continued manipulation and abuse. I choose to make freedom my best friend from this day. I give myself the wings to float in a phantomless abyss of solitary choices divorced from your unwelcome influence that has plagued and shaped my life this way, a social zombie. When kids of my age were going to parties and watching Titanic, I was imprisoned at home being a mother to your three sons and being a wife to you in every way but conjugal. Now when people talk about the Smurfs or Voltron a recollection of their childhood I pretend I am not there.
I have noticed of late that you have been sending your sisters to ask me subtly about my boyfriend, or should I say man-friend? Aunt Maggie coming to me telling me that I should at least have a baby if I do not want to get married! You want a mukuwasha now? Do you remember father that at the age of 21, just the day I was supposed to get THE KEY you chased me away from home because you had seen me with Martin. Martin, the boy from next door, who had come to collect his copy of The Sands of Time.
I used to dream of making you proud father, college education, a decent son-in-law and to cap it all walking down the aisle, a big white wedding… but who says getting married is everything. I get the feeling that misery will soon suck my remaining memories of happiness and peace, the precious ones I have sheltered in the recess of my troubled life, memories of mother when she lived here. Committing myself remains the furthest thing on my mind. The thought scares me for I am full of memories of that morning when I woke up with sleep crossed on my face to hear the triumphant voice of Maggie, your sister, telling me that mother was not coming back. My tears flooded 22nd Street and the neighbours talked about it. You failed to hear the silence that followed, failed to hear my silent whispers when my back started to break under too many ill-words that came from your people and the tears that carved my cheeks with ashy lines that ran down like two dried rivers.
Remember the time when you accused me of getting muti from mother to poison you. In this instance I speak for my mother and not for me. Not a single day did she ever hint anything evil against you. Of all the times I went to see her, not a single day father, not in riddles or suggestive behaviour. When I came from uncle’s house the other day and went straight to bed feigning a headache, you threatened me that if I had received muti from mother I should confess. I didn’t have anything to confess. I was tired, so tired of my silence and your ignorance. For a moment there I thought I hated you, actually I did. I hated you when you walked into the house laden with strange bags and a strange woman.
The ultimate demon, amanini. How could you do that to us father, marry a girl the same age as your nevanji? I never told you this father, even after you accused me of being lazy and not helping her with household chores, that she left the house everyday going to the ‘telephone booth’ with Martin’s brother only to return after I had prepared supper in the evening. I had nothing against the poor girl, nothing against her choices in life. You wanted me to call her mother? Father please! The day that you packed her bags to leave, you came home bloody-eyed, all accusations directed towards me. I cried for the umpteenth time in my life, said not a single word to defend myself. Didn’t my silence bother you at all father? That you could walk all over me like that and not feel the words trapped under my tongue? Didn’t it rattle your conscience somehow father? I envied my brothers, they never felt what I felt because they had a mother, me, a sister, me.
I do not want to sound ungrateful, I am grateful for the education, father. You were able to send the four of us to school. I am proud of you for that. I am proud of what has become of me. There are plenty of fathers who, in your position, would never have bothered at all. You made sure we were provided for, never wanting of anything material. I guess you loved me father even though…. I loved school better than home. I bless that person who came up with the idea of boarding school. I escaped from this maddened reality for a while. How I loved the approach of new school term after those dreary school holidays. O, father, I hated your house that functioned with me as the mother.
I went through hell when I started my menses, always had a hard time trying to tell you that I wanted panties and petticoats or money to sanitary wear. I remember I would debate hours and hours on how to phrase my request to you. Hallelujah, I whooped when I got my first job, my salvation from this most, as I always felt, uncomfortable encounter.
I tell myself now that I should not judge every man by your standards father but shouldn’t I be exactly doing otherwise? I go on to tell myself that I should learn to forgive, the lump that had set on my chest is subsiding yet there are plenty of things I crave for; freedom. Freedom is the things I seek, the things I badly need like country air as I am trapped in this city’s miasma. Where do I get the freedom if I nullify my vow with the institution of C? I fear that newly found conviction will easily filter through my imagination and soon be blown by the heavy overbearing ghost of my past. There is an incessant knock on the frontal lobes of my brains, nagging silently and I know I hear the story it tells, unlike you I cannot ignore it.
I thank God for making me a strong woman for I would have cracked somehow father, committed suicide, ran away from home to join the streets. I could be one of those women testifying in A Tragedy of Lives… No don’t speak, I am almost through. I want to be brave father, like I have always been. I want to speak and not let my thoughts die and rot under my tongue, unsaid, prejudiced, so as I pack my bags to leave, I am not running away, go I to the mountains to right away the life I didn’t live. It is imperative that I commune with the external forces, imperative that I speak now to everybody like I have spoken to you. Bless me father.
Glossary Muti concoction Amainini step-mother Nevanji first son
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