Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Val Chatindo

“I’m pregnant Godfrey.”

I look at her. A few months ago I would’ve praised my ancestors. Been thankful for the dilution of my strong genetic pool that bred the type of blacks, white people were afraid of. The type of black that fitted the stereotypical African profile if you now what I mean. Her words would’ve been the medicine that soothed my soul. Hearing those words pour out that petite little pink mouth, I would’ve been mesmerized by those big, sleepy brown eyes. Her dimpled cheeks would’ve melted my heart as they did with any sane man. With her honey coloured skin and voice like a whisper. A lady of all ladies. Chipo Makore, with her big beautiful eyes and soft spoken voice, had never looked uglier to me than she did right now. But not for the reasons you think.

Two weeks ago I would’ve jumped at this news. Twirled her little petite frame around while we laughed and celebrated. We would’ve called my mother with the good news because it would indeed have been good news.

Two weeks ago.

After all I had been planting my seeds with great intention, my mother’s words at the back of my mind, “You will not give me tar grandchildren”, but just thinking about it now made me sick to the stomach. But again I repeat, not for the reasons you think.

I blame my friends for this. Infact, I hate them. I hate them and I hate Chipo Makore. I even hate the shallow minded woman who sired me. If not for my mother’s influence and for that dare and if Chipo hadn’t made that last minute alteration, none of this would have happened. Life wouldn’t have spiralled out of control and landed me into what I can only describe as.

A bloody mess.

How can I explain all of this?

All I can say is that I’ve dug a huge hole for myself and maybe life will afford me the one remaining privilege of letting me bury myself in it. I am a man of many sins perhaps the greatest being that of my cowardice. But even a coward must be granted one last dying wish. My last wish? That I hear that song one more time. That I hear your laugh one last time and bear witness to those beautiful rings on your slender neck as you tilt your head back overcome by laughter. That I hear you as you sing our favourite song and feel the perusal of your cat-like eyes on me. That you reach out your hand and save me from the quick sand that is my life. Reach out your hand for mine.

Hold my hand MaNcube.

Willard Tizore, Perseverance Gwenzi and Tawanda Bere, if not for those sons of Satan, none of this would have happened. Had it not been for their dare. That very first one perhaps I would not have succumbed to the pull of superficiality that seduced me that day.

I was a dark baby. Dark and big. My mother often said that  I came out so dark she wasn’t sure if she had given birth to a human being or not. Even the nurses had been skeptical. Or so she claimed. It was Mother after all and she had a way of making it seem like her opinions were the facts of life. I should’ve known I was fucked the first time she told me that story. Deep inside my mother had a silent(silent?) demon festering in the form of colourism. Inside her was the longing for a child as yellow as the sun. What a shame.

In primary school I acquired the nickname Golly, after the infamous racist doll the Golliwog.  It was round about that time that I acquired a fascination for dancing. Break-dance, traditional, kwaito. You name it, I had mastered them all. Unfortunately my mother was not a fan, especially since I was still going through my baby fat phase and was one of the few blacks in a predominantly white school.

I remember the first time she caught me dancing infront of the mirror. I had felt the sting of the wet dish towel on my butt.

“You want to bring shame on this house! Is that what they are teaching you at those private schools? To be a jester for the colonizers? Heh? Heh?”

By the time she was done, the dishtowel was in rags.

Still I persisted and soon had quite the reputation at school. I became so good at my craft, I was asked to perform at the school musical that year. I was only in fifth grade and everyone knew that only the seventh graders had that special privilege. I had excitedly told mother as I showed her the letter the drama teacher had sent.

“When is this show?” She had asked.

I told her that it was in two weeks to which she had only responded with a “hmmmm”

A day before the performance, as I was changing for our afternoon sports, a group of grade seven boys cornered me in the bathroom. “So you think you can dance Golly? Well show us”. That day infront of nearly the whole school, I was made to dance naked while my limp penis dangled to and fro. I never showed up for the musical and only years later when I became friends with those boys who had started the whole thing, Willard, Tawanda and Percy, would they tell me that my mother had paid them to carry out the whole thing. And knowing the person my mother was, I believed them.

High-school came and Golly became Gori, for gorilla. My nickname after I joined the rugby team and became famous for my tackle. I should’ve been offended but that’s just how things were back then. People would call you Fatso if you were fat and Skinny when you were, well, skinny. There wasn’t all this political correctness. I can’t say that it was good but at least you didn’t have to tip toe your way through the world on the premise that you might offend someone.

It was years later when I would become friends with my primary school tormentors, after college. When we would somehow end up drinking at the same pub and forge a friendship from there. Another testament to my foolishness.

It was at that same pub that we first laid eyes on Chipo Makore. She was with a group of friends and despite being the quietest in her entourage of equally beautiful women who sang and danced, she stood out. She had that kind of beauty that was international. The kind of beauty that got you crowned as Miss Zimbabwe or Miss World. The kind of beauty most men obsessed over, men that excluded me. Sure, she was pretty, but looking at her from across that room I could tell she lacked something. That soul and personality I liked in a woman. The kind of women my mother often called whores. Women who weren’t afraid to laugh out loud and express their opinions.

“I dare you to go talk to her” Tizore had whispered. I could tell from the glassy look in his eyes that he was close to drunk. And if there was one thing that Tizore wasn’t, it was a good drunk. He was the kind of guy who turned into John Cena when the waters of Solomon flowed through his veins.

“Don’t worry G. You aren’t that ugly boy anymore. You have stash man. That makes you a god in any woman’s eyes. You can have any woman you want now. The best of the best”

I didn’t feel the need to tell them that getting women was never something I struggled with. Yes I may not have been the type to grace the covers of Men’s Health or GQ but I knew how to listen. Something most men didn’t know enough off. Nor did I feel the need to explain to them that a woman’s complexion and looks didn’t make her the best of the best.

I took one more look at Chipo and decided to humour my friends. If not just to get them to shut up.

Talking to Chipo Makore that night, I realized that she wasn’t that bad. Sure, she didn’t have much to say and she laughed at my jokes in that quiet way of hers even when we both knew they weren’t funny. She would be the type of woman who would make a good wife but not a great companion. Someone who easily blend into my life though not shake it. With her, there would be no late nights spent talking and laughing. There would be no nights spent at a bar drinking beer and maybe smoking a bit of weed. No, with Chipo Makore there would be no passion but she was someone my mother would accept. Chipo Makore with her light coloured skin.

I since had stopped showing my girlfriend’s to mother. She hated them all. Not only because they didn’t suck up to her and showed a kind of defiance that Mother resented but mostly because they were dark. Anyone reading this would have a hard time believing that a seasoned lady of my mother’s age would succumb to such levels of shallowness and superficiality but believe me, this is no fabrication of my mind. We now lived in a society that due to the fragments of colonialism that still reared their sentiments, more and more black people decided that standards of beauty lay in attaining a fairer complexion. Women were bleaching their skin religiously just to secure their chances of being courted and hopefully married, their promise being in the possibility of siring similar children. I recall reading a column where one woman mentioned that she was in panic mode, seeing that she was pregnant and her husband was boasting to friends and family that he was going to have little honey coloured babies not knowing that his wife was once a different complexion altogether. Perhaps my mother should have known all this before she judged the women I brought her their skin tone. And judge she did.

“I don’t want ugly grandchildren Godfrey. Having an ugly child was bad enough” she’d say after they had left. The implication clear.

“Imagine the kind of children a woman like that will give birth too. Beautiful children” Tizore had said licking his lips.

“A girl like that just needs a guy with a fat wallet, a guy like you G. Imagine those yellow bone children”

I didn’t want my future children to experience prejudice in society simply because they were a shade too dark. I didn’t want them to be disliked by Mother and disliked they would be. Mother with her own orange skin which was a stark contrast to the of her siblings. The orange skin she would often brag, that made her a favourite with neighbors and family. Skin which she said, captivated my father and made him a high bridal price just to make sure she was his. Skin she hadn’t successfully passed onto her only son. Something which disappointed her and whose sentiments I would have to live with for the rest of my life. I didn’t want my children to grow up like had, always feeling like that they had done something wrong and were an embarrassment to their mother. No. My kids would not experience what I had. With Tizore’s sentiments playing at the back of my mind as we left the club I made sure to call Chipo Makore the very next day. And from there our courtship had begun and would continue for months.

It would be months later that I would find myself at the Reps theatre on an errand for Chipo. Months later that I would find myself sitting in the crowd and have the trajectory of my life altered forever.

I would find it hard to believe what it was I would be bearing witness to that day as I first see her again on that stage. As my mind would slowly begin to comprehend that the figment of my imagination was infact and reality. She would be there! Dark skinned goddess, mic in hand, that head tilted back to reveal those rings as she would show her smile and share her laugh with them all. And to further settle the matter, that smooth and rich baritone, Nina Simone-like voice would waft out of her effortlessly like it once had so many years ago once more intoxicating all privileged to be the pilgrims worshipping at her alter. Men would fall in love with her and women wish they had her charm. All as she would stand on that stage and sing our favourite song. Naka Di a lela by Judith Sephuma. Enthralled and unable to move I would find myself rooted to the chair, even after most of the crowd had dispersed leaving her and her small band to pack up. I would still be there. Transfixed and rooted be her.

I couldn’t move.

“Godfrey Sibanda?”

“Is that really you?” She laughed.

Cindy Ncube now stood before me. It must have been a dream.

“MaNcube” I said trying to sound casual and relaxed though my heart was racing not only from her presence but from using a name only I had used all those years ago. A name that had been shouted in times of strife and whispered during moments of intimacy. A name that for three years, had been embedded to my tongue till it graduated into a daily mantra. A prayer of devotion. That name could never be uttered so casually. Not without evoking the emotions it did now.

“How are you!?” I exclaimed

Finding somewhere to sit as the little theater closed its doors we fell into conversation. The kind that people who haven’t seen in each for years find themselves having. People who once loved each other.

She looked even more beautiful than I remembered and I tried my best not to show that I was checking her out but I think she saw right through me. She had changed since I had last seen. Where once she had been a tall slender girl, she had now filled out slightly and actually looked more like a woman now. Even the innocence that once marked her countenance seemed to have disappeared. I wondered if perhaps I had something to do with that. Still. She looked even more beautiful and I leaned in closer I picked up the scent of cocoa butter. Cindy MaNcube my college love.

“What happened to you after college?” I asked

“You mean after you unceremoniously dumped me?” She laughed before swatting me playfully on the shoulder.

“I’m only kidding, that’s old news now”

She had gone to the Netherlands to further her law studies and lived there for about five years.

“I had a good job and even have a citizenship now but something was just missing. I missed this place and I missed preforming. My family never supported my dream as you know but now since I have my own money and education to fall back on, I decided to come back and do what I love. At least for a while. And you?”

I told her about my boring job as a chattered accountant and how my life was pretty much a routine.

“You also forgot to mention that you’re getting married,” she smiled conspirationally

I smiled back feeling a bit disappointed. After-all she had been told that the host of the event she would be performing at would be attending her performance to ascertain that indeed she would be a good fit. That event of course being my wedding reception. A last minute arrangement Chipo had made when the artist we had booked cancelled. She had woken up sick that day and asked that I attend the event and communicate with the artist. I, of course had had no idea that I would be sitting hours later face to face with Cindy Ncube. And had I known I had no doubt that I would be in the same space I was in now. Even with the conflict this all created in my mind and soul, I knew that there was no place I would rather be than with Cindy Ncube.

Pushing my luck I would ask her if she wouldn’t mind having lunch with me the next day.

“Would your future wife like that?”

“There’s nothing wrong with catching up with old friends” I would hurry to say

Checking her watch she would nod to one of her bandmates and get up,

“Sure, let’s meet tomorrow then, you have my number. Oh and congratulations. I hope your mom likes her”

Laying in bed that night with Chipo snoring lightly besides me, all I could think about was Cindy Ncube. The ghost from my past. How many years had it been since I had last seen her? Five or six since I had heard that laugh and felt those eyes on me? There was a time when I thought that she would be the one I would be planning a weding with. A time before that last day when she walked away from me, tears in her eyes. Lying in bed that night I chose to remember the better days. Days we would sit on my small squeaky college mattress and discuss our future. How I would make enough money and support her dream of being a singer. How we would travel the world and make memories that no-one could ever take from us. Falling asleep that night I felt the memory of her fingers lacing through mine and the wind of her breath in my ear singing me to sleep.

Two weeks from my wedding all I could think about was another woman’s arms around me.

“Do you know what I want? A real Zimbabwean meal. Not this KFC or fancy western cuisine that seems to be flooding the market. I want authentic African cuisine” she had said

With that I had taken her to Garwe restaurant, one of the best places in Harare for all the traditional Zimbabwean meals. Watching as she dug her hands into her sadza before dipping it into the calabash with the rich Matumbu nemaguru stew, I laughed.


“I had forgotten how real you are”

Most women wouldn’t have done such a thing. Chipo would have used her cutlery or ordered a salad so as to not be seen a certain way in public, with Cindy Ncube there was none of that and I found her genuinity refreshing. After the meal we went to a local pub and drank some beer, passing the night laughing like we once had years ago. By the time the night ended and I kissed her on the cheek goodnight. Watching as I would that night as she drove away in her little vintage Volkswagen, I would face the reality that I was in trouble.

I was falling in love with Cindy MaNcube all over again.

You’d think I would have felt guilty. Spending all the time I did with her for we saw each other almost everyday for that week. Sometimes she would invite me to some of her other performances and I would feel jealously coursing through me as I watched how those other men fixated on her and how she entertained their attentions. Only when her eyes would find mine in that crowd would I feel peace in knowing I was the one that held her attention. She wasn’t mine but at the same time she was. She shared something with me that they never could. We had history and box filled with memories only we knew about. Was there anything more powerful than that?

Was it a wonder then that three nights away from my matrimonial vows we fell into bed like we had done so easily years ago? That we danced those same steps we knew from memory and revisited those places that had once been home to both of us, long long ago. In the silence that followed afterwards I felt this pain in my chest. Only as I finally poured out what had been building up in my heart did it finally subside.

“I won’t marry her!”

When she said nothing I turned over to my side and looked at her. Still she said nothing, eyes on the ceiling as her naked body glistened.

“If you tell me to leave her, I will. I don’t love her like I love you”

With a sigh I watched as Cindy got up and pulled her Java wrapper over her body and tied her dreadlocks in a bun.

“Do you know why I said I hope your mom likes her and not I hope you’ll be happy? Do you know why Godfrey?”

Even though I did I shook my head.

“I heard what your mother said about me all those years ago. When she said that I wouldn’t be suitable for you, that I wasn’t good enough. I thought you would defend me, that you would speak up and be a man for once. But it’s you Godfrey. It’s you”

She continued.

“Don’t you think I noticed how you changed towards me after that day your mom said her peace of shit like her son was some perfect sculpture? How you started to ignore and avoid me. You were not even man enough to tell me that you were no longer interested in me. And because of what? My inability to live upto your mothers superficial expectations?”

“I was interested” I started to say

“You are a weakling. You let other people pull at your strings. I don’t think you’ve ever made a single decision for yourself especially where that mother of yours is concerned. And to think that there was a time I would have given everything just to be with you. And for a while I did. Bent myself in all sorts of ways just for you. I would’ve stayed here just for you. If you had never broken my heart like you did I wouldn’t have had to run all the way to another continent”

“I’m sorry. I can change all of that. Just give me another….”

“What will I do with a man who can’t make a single decision for himself Godfrey? What? Heh? I don’t want you to leave your fiancé. Marry her. Maybe she will be content enough to live with a man as weak as you”

“Just give me another chance” I pleaded

“Please leave Godfrey”



“MaNcube please”


Leaving Cindy Ncube’s apartment that night I knew that something had to change. I couldn’t live like this anymore. And so that in mind I finally summoned the courage to come clean with Chipo. Today I would put an end to my cowardice.

“Godfrey do you hear me. I said I’m pregnant”

Ears burning I find myself unable to say anything to Chipo Makore.

“We are getting married Godfrey. You are going to be a good father and husband. You aren’t going to bring shame on me or this baby the day of our wedding. I refuse” specks of her hot spit landing on my face. It is the first time I’ve seen her display this much emotion.

Feeling the strength leave me, like Christ did after the incident with the woman with the issue of blood, I sink to the floor, listening to Chipo Makore’s receding steps. Unsure of what to do, I dial MaNcube’s number. A man answers the phone and for a while I remain silent.

“Hello?” He repeats

“Could I please speak to Cindy please”

“Oh! Cindy is not here, could I ask who this is?”

“A longtime friend”

“Cindy went back to Netherlands yesterday. Her fiancé’s mother fell sick. Perhaps you could give me your name and I’ll let her know you called”

I drop the phone and feel the tears fall one by one.


Valerie Tendai Chatindo is a biochemistry graduate from the University of Zimbabwe, entrepreneur, writer and poet. Her work has appeared in The Kalahari Review, Enthuse Magazine, Bhizimusi and Pink Disco Magazine. She has work that has been published in an anthology entitled, ‘Nehanda Reimagined, curated by Povo. Her short story ‘Sheba’, was shortlisted for the African Cradle, ‘African Heroines’, literary prize and she is working on her first book of poems with them as part of their writing clinic. She currently is a resident artist with, Page Poetry Alive. The twenty seven year old resides in Harare, Zimbabwe with her cat, Muffins.

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