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The girl at the market

by Jera
17 Dec 2018 at 11:28hrs | Views
They stood at the edge of the busy market, two complete opposites like night and day, winter and summer.
The light-skinned girl was a life-size cut-out from a fashion magazine; smooth caramel skin, the sort that catches the eye of rap video producers, wispy straightened hair which paid homage to Soft & Free relaxer, a petite body that would struggle to bring the scale past 55 kilograms and a pair of manicured hands that had probably escaped the worst chores in her childhood home.

The dark-skinned woman – her polar opposite – balanced a fruit-laden basket over her head. The spiky threaded hair that sprouted from her scalp put me in mind of porcupine quills. Her symmetrical piano key teeth accentuated a broad welcoming smile set between two full cheeks that looked like she was concealing two stolen gobstoppers. Her fleshy arms told the story of hard labour. Over her smooth bare shoulders, I saw no bra strap. She probably had no need for bust support. Beneath a java print bust wrap, her perky small chest was the trade-off for thick hips and round buttocks. Her rotund thighs held the promise of several unborn chocolate babies. Above the java wrap round her waist, her sunken navel gave rise to impure daydreams of sipping sweet red wine from the depths of her bellybutton. Her wrapping cloth, tied in a large ball on one side, called attention to the thickness of her hips. Yet all the customers, mostly men, buzzed like green flies around the other girl.

I was about to exit the car when my phone rang. While on the phone, I watched as customer after customer walked past the Amazonian girl and made needlessly long conversation with her video vixen neighbour. One guy who hovered the longest pointed to a bunch of bananas. With her pampered little hands, she broke off the largest banana – one so thick it would have put Mandingo's member to shame – and slowly peeled back its foreskin. Exhibiting impossible jaw elasticity, she parted her lips, wide as a crocodile before sinking the entire banana into her mouth. She held it there for what seemed like a minute. Then slowly she drew it out like a python emerging from its hole. With trembling hands, the man handed her a wad of bank notes. Even from afar, it was evident that the payment far exceeded the value of the merchandise. She smacked him lightly on the biceps before leaning over. She pulled the round neck of her tight-fitting top and slowly shoved the money into her bra while simultaneously granting the man a view of her pale cleavage.

Finally my long phone call ended. I remembered that the last time I had been at the market, I returned to find dark holes, like eyeless sockets in a skull, where the headlamps used to be. I pocketed my phone and moved the car nearer to the market stalls. As I approached the conjoined market tables, the deepthroated girl fiddled with her hair and corrected her skin-tight top whose goldprinted message advertised her physical form in a four-letter word: "DOPE"

In contrast, the girl in the ethnic print outfit lowered the basket from her head and dropped her gaze to the vegetable-strewn table. In the corner of my eye, I saw the yellow skinned girl tugging at the hem of her bright red skirt and wiggling her hips to bring the insubstantial garment midway down her Fanta-coloured thighs.
"Good afternoon ladies, what is on offer today?" I enquired.
All the while I had my eyes fixed on the java-skirted woman.

"Anything you want, handsome," was the reply from the lightskinned girl.
Her voice was like passing traffic – insignificant. I maintained my gaze on the woman next to her.
"How much for amacimbi?"
I pointed to a big see-through bag filled with dried Mopani worms.
An orange-crush coloured hand was thrust into my face. Inside the hand was a greasy vetkook.
"My fat cooks are firm and delicious," she said in what was meant to be a bedroom voice. "Would you like to have a feel?"
Again – traffic noises in my ear. I clicked my fingers twice – click click.
"Miss. How much for amacimbi?"
The darkskinned woman looked up, half startled as though a cellphone had unexpectedly rung during prayer time.
"You mean me sir?"
I smiled and then looked first to my left, then to my right, like a school kid at a road crossing.
"I don't see anyone else selling amacimbi here, so it must be you, pretty lady."
She let out a shy laugh.

"It's just that um, er…"
She palmed her chocolate brown cheek.
"Most people, most men–"
She stopped midsentence and fiddled with the long quills on her head. I folded my arms.
"Most men…?"
"Never mind sir." She waved a hand, as though attempting to erase the incomplete sentence she had uttered. "What can I get you sir?"
"I'd like a bag of amacimbi and some pineapples."
"The pineapples will be $2 each and $1 a cup for madora."
I handed her three $5 bills.
"I'll take three pineapples and the rest is for amacimbi, please."
She flashed her piano key teeth and bent her thick brown knees as she accepted the money before ladling cupfuls of Mopani worms into a plastic bag.
Behind the adjoining table, the lightskinned girl was side-eyeing and sucking air through her teeth like a neglected third wife. Traffic noises – I paid her no attention.
I held out my arm to receive my goods. But the brownskinned girl came round the table. For a big woman, she was nimble-footed like a ballerina.
"Let me take these to your car, sir."
I smiled.

"You're very kind, Miss. But I'll manage."
"It's not a problem sir."
She led the way to my car, buttocks jiggling beneath the java wrap cloth.
At the car, I unlocked the door and relieved her off the bags before placing them onto the front passenger seat.
"You've been such a help," I said. "See you next time, Miss, um, er…"
"Tsitsi," she offered. "My name is Tsitsi."
I nodded.
"The name of a kind-hearted woman," I said, shaking her hand. Her fingers were warm. "I won't forget it any time soon."
I suddenly became aware of the fact that I had held her hand for too long. I liberated her hand. Immediately she clasped her hands together in front of her and smiled bashfully.
"Well, Tsitsi…. I have my amacimbi. Now all I need is a cook…" I got behind the wheel. "Preferably one from the Ndebele tribe to prepare them the correct way."
She placed a chocolate hand over her bright piano key teeth and laughed.
"You have never cooked madora?"
I shook my head and shut the car door.
"Never ever?"
I patted the bags of produce on the passenger seat.
"This will be my debut."
"Well, I hope it goes well. Thank you for your business, sir."
She curtsied with a broad smile and spun around, causing the large knot on her wrapping cloth to swish like a horse tail. I started the engine. As I glanced into the left side view mirror to check for traffic, I heard a soft knock on my window. I turned to see Tsitsi's piano key teeth behind the rolled up window. I lowered the glass down to the bottom.

"Will the daughter of a Ndebele woman do?"
"I don't follow," I replied.
"I grew up on madora," she said. "Several school holidays in Lupane."
"I don't imagine there are too many Tsitsis who come from Lupane," I said.
She laughed and shook her head.
"My father was Shona. My mother is from Lupane."
I reached into my pocket and took out my phone.
"Ngicela inombolo yakho, Tsitsi."
She recited her phone number and I keyed it onto my phone.
I looked up and winked at her.
"It's a date then."
She smiled shyly.
I rolled up the window and drove slowly away. In the rear-view mirror, the orange crush faced girl was still pouting like a neglected concubine. I didn't care.


The meal was close to hotel quality and the company equally mouth-watering. With the threaded quills unravelled, her long black hair stood like dandelion spines. Throughout dinner, I was visited by the urge to reach across the table and run my fingers through her hair. But I figured she would object to having sticky sadzary fingers in her follicles. We cleared the plates away before retreating to the dimly lit balcony with a bottle of wine and two long-stemmed glasses. She had recently moved to Harare from Marondera and had never been in the city after dark. From the balcony, I pointed out the city's landmarks: the Reserve Bank Towers where men in grey suits plotted the suffering of the hoi polloi, the derisively named Karigamombe Centre named after the previous despot and a darkened part of the city.
"What's that?" she said.

I turned and moved my nose closer to hers.
"That is a place where something beautiful began."
"Oh?" she said, breathing warm, wine-scented air into my face.
"Yes," I replied. "That's the marketplace."
I kissed her on the mouth. Moments later, she slowly pulled away.

"Why me?"
"Why you what?" I said.
"On that day. You chose me, not her. How come?"
"Well, you were selling amacimbi. I went out specifically looking for amacimbi. And she, on the other hand, was selling artery-clogging vetkooks."
She laughed.
"You know what I mean."
I took her hand and led her indoors, carrying my glass and wine bottle in the other hand. I guided her onto the sofa. Beneath the bright lights of the living room, she was even more beautiful.

"It was your hair," I said.
Her neck tensed. She moved to the far end of the sofa, creating two feet of space between us.
"My hair? That's all you saw in me?"
I sensed that a perfect evening was about to blow up like a lit jerry can.
I took a sip of wine and replaced my glass on the coffee table. I turned and faced her.
"Tsitsi… an African woman who wears her natural hair makes a statement–".
She placed her palm to her chest.
"I don't wear my hair this way in order to make some sort of political statement."
I held up both hands, as if surrendering.
"Give me a moment."
She folded her arms.

"A woman who keeps her hair natural says many things. Without saying a word, she says ‘I am comfortable in my skin, I have no self esteem issues, I am not inferior to a woman with straight hair.' Just by her hair, she says ‘I am not going to change my values just so I can fit in'. She is most likely intelligent, because it takes a sharp mind to understand about cuticles, to grasp the difference between oils that penetrate the shaft or oils that seal it. She is deep; she will pick Solange over Beyoncé, Jill Scot over Nikki Minaj. She values her health – she will not drown her scalp in harmful chemicals. Just by your hair, I knew there was more to you than beauty of the surface.'

She unfolded her arms and moved a few inches towards me. I slid across to her and took her hand. Almost simultaneously, we turned our heads until our noses touched. We joined lips. This time, she did not pull away.

My pen is capped.

Source - Jera
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