Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Short story: Tapiwa

For Brown Vitsitsi and Chawezi Chirwa: taught, my friends, you now teach future teachers the complexities of learning….
Tapiwa

I ignored the knock at my front door.

Usually, when I mark the students’ work, I do not entertain any disturbances, let alone interruptions.

The students’ English notebooks, heaped on my coffee table, stared at me, as if challenging my intellect. I had promised myself I would finish them all by eight, in three hours’ time.
The knock persisted.

I rose from the reed basket chair and walked towards the door. When I held the knob, I looked around the room.

My living room was a mess: books were lying all over the place, the plates I had used at lunch were still on the table and I do not know when I last mopped the floor, to say the least.

Why should I care, I reasoned, every visitor into my home knows this is a bachelor’s lair.

I froze when I saw the visitor. It was Tapiwa, one of my students.

She smiled at me. She turned around and nodded at me when our eyes locked again, as if to reassure me no one was watching us.

How could I let her in? The mere thought of her at my verandah would invite raised eyebrows from my fellow teachers. The teachers’ quarters were out-of-bounds for the students at Dzukani Secondary School.

Moreover, at that hour, the students were supposed to be in the school library, studying. When she had told me earlier that morning that she would be paying me a visit, I thought she was joking. I had also jokingly said she was welcome.

“Sir, can I come in?” she said, exposing her ivory-white dental formula.

I could not say no, for she had already started into the house.
I followed her with my eyes. The aromatic scent of her perfume was tantalizing, and arousing. Her gait, as she shook her behind, was just captivating.

She invited herself into my basket chair. I sat on the coffee table, and crossed my legs.
“Why are you here?” I started.

“I thought I told you I would come,” she retorted.

“What do you want?”

The best way to communicate with students, I had learned during my one year at the school, was for me to always be on the offensive with the students. It provided the best atmosphere for the learning process: teachers are never wrong. Period.

“I only wanted top see you…” she began.

“See me? Am I ill?”

She pulsed her lips.

“I wanted to say farewell to you as we will soon be closing for the long holidays,” she said.

I had known much of such girlish temptation during my four years at the university. Girls would just storm my room ‘to see me’. Usually, seeing me had strange meanings, but I always hid behind a shield of coolness.

But now things were different.

“Can I help clean your house? Certainly, the house of our youngest teacher must look better than this,” she said.

She stood. I followed suit. I wanted to touch her hand, and feel if it was as creamy as it appeared. I did, it felt like velvet.

“Why are you not married? The girls at the dormitories say munagwa mumtengo wapapaya. I am implored to believe them.

I caressed her hand, working upwards. My heart was pounding faster, and harder. I am sure, I could have heard it from a distance. I touched her behind.

“Sir,” she groaned.

“Yes…” I said.

Silence.

A knock at the door brought me back to reality. But at the same time, it heightened my agitation. I sped Tapiwa into my bedroom; there was no safer place.

Another knock. I ran into the living room. Another knock, harder this time.

“Hey Timvane, are you going to open up? Why do you behave like a married man performing his marital obligations?” It was Jack, a fellow teacher.

I opened the door. A pungent odour of beer, mixed with tobacco smoke, greeted me from his mouth. He had been at the bar again.

He invited himself into the house, and sat on top of the notebooks on the coffee table.

“You know,” he slurred, “I am the only teacher who knows how to enjoy himself here. The rest of you lot, do not know all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

“You mean all play no work makes Jack a dumb boy?” I asked.

Had it not been for his drunkenness, Jack must have been the best teacher at the school. His love for beer, led fellow teachers, the school committee and even the students to question his judgements as the Biology teacher.

“How many bottles did you have?” I asked, just for the sake of it.

“I lost count at the tenth bottle. Everyone wanted to throw me one, even the students who were out-of-bounds. They wanted to buy my allegiance,” he said.
He hiccupped, and seemed to roll into some slumber.

“See, I am not saying you can go home and have a sleep, but where are you going from here?” I asked.

“Obviously, to get one of the girls at the dormitories. With the paltry salary Government pays me, I can’t afford the services of a hooker. Besides, the girls are my fringe benefits from the Government,” he said.

“Not your terminal benefits, if you think of Aids?”

“Achimwene, I guard my own morals. The greatest of these is: mbuzi imadya pomwe ayimangilira,” he said.

I was beginning to dislike the direction the conversation was taking.

“Or have you never heard that wamkachisi amadya zamkachisi? But let me not bore you with my morals. Can you lend me K200, there is nothing at the home and I am not ready to face the nagging wife,” he said.

“Arrrgh… mwamwera zandiwo.”

“No, I already told you some Good Samaritans gave me drink to cool my parched throat. I had literally nothing on me.”

I dipped into my pockets, and gave him the money he needed. He sped out of the house.

“Good night to you. I have to face the bitch now,” he said as he walked out into the dusk.

I do not know if he meant he was going to his wife, or the girls’ dorms.

The door closed, I went into the bedroom, where I found Tapiwa seated on the edge of the bed. She was perusing my photo album.

“You were really having wonderful times at the college, eh?” she said, without looking up.

She was looking at a picture, taken during my second year at the university; I had no clothes on me, save underwear.

“Yes, those were the days,” I said. “And I wish you were there.”

“You never think of me but as your student,” she said.

I sat next to her and put my right hand round her waist. She shrilled. I caressed the beads she wore around her waist.

“Can I go and clean the mess,” she said.

“No, the mess can wait,” I said, as my other hand ran into her shirt.

I felt the hard nipple of her supple’ warm breast….

***************************

From that day, Tapiwa had changed her character. Before she ‘came to see me’, she always wanted to attract my attention, even if it meant touching my hand when I walked around the class.

I used to feel uneasy then. But now, she was a totally different person, and my uneasiness when I was teaching in her class had plummeted.

She was always looking out of the window, as if she was bored. When she looked at me, it was as if she was disgusted with my presence there.

This change of behaviour really unnerved me. I could not rebuke her in front of her colleagues, for fear of hurting her feelings.

I acted nonchalant to her behaving as if I never existed. All the same, I had given her what she had wanted.

One day, a month later, as I was marking the English notebooks, I decided to start with Tapiwa’s. She was a brilliant student and her compositions were always worth reading.

A small piece of paper fell from the notebook. It was a terse note, addressed to me:
Timvane, it began.
When did she start calling me by my first name? I read on, nonetheless.
Hope you are well. I am not okay. I am pregnant.
I know you are responsible. I will tell you more tonight when I come for a talk.
You loved me, I need your love most now than ever before.
Tapiwa.

Beads of perspiration ran down my brow. I never presumed things could take such a melodramatic twist. I was not ready to have a baby, and one from a student was the greatest sin I could fathom.

Once this came out, I knew, I would be dismissed for being the hen that feasted on her chicks.

She came home last night. I noted she was lighter in complexion, than she had been when we had come close. Gloom was writ on her face.

“So, what will you do?” I asked when she had sat down.

“I don’t know. What else do you think I can do, apart from waiting for my time to come?”

I could see the tears welling up in her eyes.

“Never fret,” I said, holding her closer to me.
I let her cheeks rub mine. I could feel her warm tears streaming down her face. Did she feel mine?

“We will sort this out,” I whispered into her ear.

“How?” she moaned.

I let go of her, slowly.

“I have a doctor friend at the hospital. We were together at the university. He will help you,” I said.

“No! Not an abortion. I am not a murderer,” she screamed.

“Hush baby. It is not murder. What is better for you, spoiling your future because of this thing and getting rid of it?”

“This thing? But it’s your baby,” she cried.

“As far as I know, it is not yet my baby. You know I love you so much that I can marry you, but I can only do that when you finish school,” I begged.

“It will never hurt. I will give you a note tomorrow and you will pay him a visit tomorrow.”

“Since you insist…”

“Everything is under control,” I cut her short.

“I cannot go back to the dorm, the matron has tightened security,” she said.

“Sure, my bedroom is always open for you my dear.”

***************************

The headmaster called us for an emergency meeting that morning, five days later. The staff room was filled with sorrow. Most of us had already heard the news unofficially.

He looked around, as if to read our reactions when he announced the sad news.

“Tapiwa Banda, one of our students, died last night at the central hospital. It appears she had gone to a private doctor to seek an abortion,” Mr. Mvula, an old disciplinarian who was our headmaster, said.

I looked at the floor.

“The funeral arrangements are that her parents will come here and we will take her body to her home village where burial will take place,” he continued.

Unanswerable questions flooded my mind. Did they know who was responsible for her pregnancy? Did she reveal who was behind her plan to abort? Did they know I knew more than the others?

“Before she died, I am told, she said she would miss your classes Mr. Timvane Diwa. For Mr. Jack Kumwenda, she said she would remember you for your great Biology lessons and experiments,” the robust head-teacher said.

I passed my gaze to Jack. He yawned. I knew he was nursing a bad hangover. He looked at me with red, blood-shot eyes….

How much did he know?

3 comments:

brown said...

thats great work!! that you are using latest technology to have your work read on the web_CONGRANTS!!!but please do not write negative about teacher 'bachelors'. it is not true that such teachers alway seek an opportunity to get sexually involved with their students.
as young 'bachelor' teachers we know our responsibility and our professional ethics and that is not compromised with personal satisfaction. needless to say that we get sexually involved with our students. we KEEP OUR SOCIAL DISTANCE!

Kondwani Kamiyala said...

Brown
Indeed, teachers try as much to keep the social distance, but it so happens that some teachers breach that distance. Tapiwa explores that area. Do write again.

Robert Chirambo said...

I have read this short story several times but everytime i read it i learn a new thing