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Broken Pieces

By Patrick Midzi


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Tambudzai and Kendo have been trying to have children for the past three years. They have almost accepted that this will not be possible and it has become their one deep regret. Every avenue has been explored but the doctors and analysts have found nothing.

Each morning Kendo gets up and after a quick gulp of juice, he goes to the corner of Watermeyer Street where he waits for a public mini-bus to take him to town. Tambudzai works in the suburbs so she takes the car and drives from home to Belgravia. Their house is small but it is homely. What is missing is the patter of small feet about the place.

Kendo recalls with mixed feelings the last examination he underwent.

“Your sperm count is normal. There are no abnormalities…” The indignity of that plastic cup. They put you in a sterile room which is guaranteed to make you feel uncomfortable with its bare and impersonal walls. But as a concession to what you have to do, there is a T.V set with some “adult” videos prominently on display. Even though they call them adult videos nowadays, they are still voyeuristic collections of pornography filled with girls who are by no means adults. There is a single seat in the room and on it are placed various magazines. The covers alone are enough to show the kind of material they contain. These are the items from which they expect you to get your inspiration. The nagging feeling that there could be a camera hidden somewhere refuses to die down. How can you make love to a plastic cup when visions of you plastered over the internet keep intruding into your thoughts?

In the end the deed is performed but there is a feeling of betrayal because even though Tambudzai is waiting outside, even though there is a plethora of videos and magazines, the inspiration finally comes from a suddenly exciting recollection of his teenage years and an uplifting encounter with a prostitute.

Kendo adjusts his clothes and it requires an effort for him to leave the room. He walks out self-consciously and cannot meet the eyes of the lab technician as she takes the cup from him.
“Is that it? I’d better take that, hadn’t I?” Her face is devoid of expression. Just someone doing her job. But her question has started another train of embarrassed thought – isn’t it enough? Should it be more?

Tambudzai stands up, looking anxiously at him. Her face is not really beautiful but it has something striking about it. Every time Kendo looks at her he is immensely conscious of how lucky he is. Kendo is silently daring her to laugh, but she does not. There are no words between them, just a quick embrace and the warm brush of lips.

But later, much later as they lie in bed, the laughter surfaces. She is helpless with mirth. Kendo tries to be stern but in the end, he too is laughing.

“Oh Ken. Can I get you a plastic cup?” She dissolves into laughter. “You should have seen your face as you came out of that room.”

“I can imagine it.”
“What were you thinking about through it all, darling?”

“You.” But the reply is given guiltily, and too quickly to be the truth.

Now as he lies beside her, he timidly stretches his hand in a half-apologetic, half-inviting gesture but Tambudzai stiffens at the first brush of his fingertips. “Keep your hands to yourself!” She refuses to give an inch and as if to reinforce her words she slides to the furthest edge of the bed.An argument about nothing but it has stayed between them. The whole day they have barely spoken to each other and now each one faces the opposite wall, backs rigid from offended pride.Hell, Kendo thinks savagely. What do I care? She can go away to England and never come back for all I care. Why doesn’t she want to even discuss it? In his mind’s eye he sees again the scene from yesterday. Tambudzai coming in from work late, her face flushed with happiness, waving a bunch of papers in his face. “I’ve got it! I’ve got it! Oh, isn’t it wonderful. I didn’t believe J.B would come through!” Her voice jumped with excitement.
“What? What have you got?” He smiled tolerantly, already feeling happy for her, although he didn’t know what it was all about.
“I’m going to England! My secondment has been approved!”
“England?” Startled surprise. From his reaction she might as well have said Mars.
“Isn’t it wonderful?”
“How long for?”

He was subdued but she failed to notice. “Well, it’s for two years but J.B says if I impress it may be more,” she replied, her voice beginning to lose its buoyancy. “Darling, aren’t you pleased?”
“When did you decide you wanted to go? – And why didn’t you ever tell me?” His voice was hurt. Two years, he thought, two bloody years!
And so the argument began. It raged well into the night, even after they had eaten supper. Supper was burnt steak and tinned vegetables and half-cooked sadza full of lumps. Tambudzai accused Kendo of not supporting her. He didn’t want her to progress in her career. His behaviour was that of a typical male, and given a choice he would prefer to see her barefoot, pregnant and slaving over a hot stove. Kendo cut in saying that all he wanted to know was the motivation behind her decision. Why had she kept it dark for so long. The words between them flew furiously until Tambudzai flounced off to the bedroom, leaving Kendo to make his way to the guest room.
Tambudzai’s job is with an N.G.O whose offices are in one of the leafy suburbs of the city. She is the only black person in her department and after three years of working in the open plan offices, she has unconsciously adopted some of the mannerisms of the expatriates she works with. She now calls everyone by their first names, to Kendo’s relatives’ horror.
But now they lie in bed like two strangers who have been forced by circumstances to share a bed. Maybe I ought to grab her by the shoulders and force myself upon her. That would soon show her. She won’t be able to remain so cold towards me if I make her body sing. As attractive as the prospect is another picture comes to his mind. Technically, it would be “rape” would it not? His ardour cools immediately as he sees himself having to explain his behaviour to an outraged policewoman. In her present frame of mind, Tambudzai may just be tempted to file a report. A woman raped by her husband… Again he relives the first time he ever made love to Tambudzai. They were not married then. He sees Tambudzai, her mouth opened invitingly. Her body is a passionate instrument of hot flesh… His arms tightened around her almost roughly. She felt his fingers digging into her flesh and she nearly cried out. When she felt herself being guided towards the bed she thought, My God, this is it. He is going to make love to me. I mustn’t be upset. I’m the one who pushed him into this. His breath came quickly as if he had run a considerable distance. The fumbling hands failed to undo the intricate fastenings at the shoulders and as Tambudzai listened to the material tear, she experienced a thrill of fear. It’s my fault for teasing him. I hope he will be gentle. I hope…The movement she made was hardly discernible but even in the web of desire Kendo felt it. A small shudder of protest, a little unconscious wiggle of withdrawal and the magic for him was shattered. He let her go so suddenly, almost wrenching himself away so that she gasped. She was left lying on the bed as he swiftly left the room without a word. Her body felt like an eagle fluttering on the edge of a cliff, ready to soar to the utmost apogee of pleasure – but, in an instant, it folded its wings and came to rest and Tambudzai was left feeling strangely cheated.

She came off the bed and picked up a shirt from the floor. It was not hers but she put it on anyway because her clothing was in a mess. In the lounge, Kendo miserably fingered the T.V remote but the T.V was off. Tambudzai hesitated then walked slowly to stand a few paces away from him.

“I’m sorry,” he said without looking up.

“For what?”

“For everything,” he replied, throwing out an arm in an uncertain gesture. “I nearly raped you in there but –”
“Rape?” her voice was a surprised screech. “That wasn’t rape!”

“No? Admit it - you didn’t want it to happen.”

“Well, a part of me preferred the wining and dining treatment,” she confessed. “But I can’t say that I was surprised at the turn of events. I’ve been trying so hard to get you to like me. A girl has to use what her mother gave her, after all,” she added archly.

“I really do want to sleep with you so much. But when it happens, I want it to be special. I don’t want it to be just two people f-” he choked on the impossible word. “If I had wanted to do that I could have done it a long time ago.” He raised his head and looked keenly at her.
Tambudzai smiled in perfect understanding and slowly opened her arms to him. The first time of many…

Three years have gone by and they are still to have children. Even Kendo’s mother has started to hint politely that she would like grandchildren. Any change in Tambudzai’s weight is noticed with appreciation followed by a flood of anxious queries.

“Are you feeling alright, muroora?” Kendo’s mother is a frequent visitor. She comes into town to attend to her flea market stall from which she has wrung a precarious income over the years but enough to send her two children to school.

“I’ve never been better. I’ve started to jog so that I don’t let the kilos creep up on me.
“Jogging?” Astonishment. “You don’t feel faint or sick in the mornings?”

“No. Is there something wrong?”

“There is nothing wrong.” She pauses and takes a thoughtful sip of tea. “You know you can tell me anything, muroora. Are you having problems, you know, in there?” Her hand points to the passage but there is no doubt that it is meant to indicate the bedroom.

Tambudzai, with the clarity of a person too long deceived, comprehends.

“There are no problems of that sort, amai.” Her embarrassment is beyond words.

“I thought not. He is his father’s son after all. Until I put my foot down his father was a wild one, I tell you. You don’t know how many of his ‘other women’ I had to confront.”

Tambudzai sits there with a fixed smile on her face. Her mother-in-law prattles on about the joy of children and throwing hints in what she imagines is a very clever and subtle manner. But her earnestness portrays all the force of a battering ram. She finally leaves, happy in the knowledge that the message has gone home.
When Kendo comes in Tambudzai informs him of the visit, confident that he will find it funny. Kendo remains serious as she recounts the highlights, and when she is finished, the thoughtful expression on his face does nothing to hide the thoughts running through his mind. Tambudzai finds this disturbing.

Kendo looks at Tambudzai’s stiff form and is struck by how defenceless she looks. He regrets the argument they had. Now he wants to understand and support this woman who is very special to him.

“Tambudzai, dearest, please let’s talk this over. I’m sorry I was so abrupt before,” he says softly. “Please turn around.”


“Honey –”
“You are not sorry! You are just saying that because you want sex!” Her voice is hard and unyielding.


“Yes, that’s all you want so don’t pretend you are sorry. Now, go to sleep and stop bothering me because you are not coming near me tonight!”

He swings about so violently that he catches his temple on the bed’s head board. The string of curses he lets off fails to relieve his injured feelings and he lies there staring into space. Sleep finally claims him after a long time of introspection.

Tambudzai’s screams wake him up. The bedroom door is open and there are three men in the room. All have pantyhose masks pulled over their heads giving their faces a grotesque aspect. The bigger one of the three has an AK grasped in his hands and one of the others wields a knife.

Burglars! The word bursts into Kendo’s brain and he tries to leap up to go to Tambudzai but he is met with a savage kick which folds him to the floor. Tambudzai remains crouched on the bed, eyes wide with fright, and her long hair in a wild disorder. Three men against the two of them – it is no contest. One of the men leaves but soon comes back. He shakes his head and the big man who appears to be the leader looks upset behind his mask; his eyes burn like twin stars in the universe of his face. His glance sweeps around the room and comes back in mid-sweep to rest on Tambudzai. Almost at once he averts his face but not before his eyes have sunk themselves into the soft mounds of Tambudzai’s bosom. Kendo feels the start of a tingling sensation at the base of his spine. A metallic coldness descends into the pit of his stomach and the realisation hits him that this is his last day on earth. They will have to kill him before anyone perpetrates the kind of violence which he now sees as inevitable. He looks at Tambudzai and the pain that bursts within him is like a volcanic eruption. There is no God. A loving God would not let this happen. In his mind the image of Tambudzai cleaving to him rises so graphically that he has to bite his lower lip to stop himself from crying out. To think that one of these brutes will force himself into the citadel of her womanhood… The thought is like a poison flowing through his heart.

“Not Tambudzai.” The words are whispered with the anguish of a soul on the rack of a desperate torment.

“Shut up!” A violent back-handed blow against the side of the head.

The sound of horrified screams is accentuated by the coldness of naked steel pressed at his Adam’s apple. Riiiip! The tearing of fabric giving way to hands not asking for permission to seek and explore.

“What the hell? –” One of the men asking angrily but only to be silenced by the impersonal glance of an AK thrust in his face.

“Please don’t –” Abject terror in her voice which ends in a choking gasp.
Behind tightly closed eyes flesh meets flesh with the moist sucking noises of feet pulled from quicksand. Fists tremble in response to liquid grunts which fill the room. Noises like drowning cats and not knowing which noises were from whom but the horrible realisation of the betrayal of the flesh. Knees give way so suddenly that the man pressing the knife to Kendo’s throat emits a startled curse as a spurt of blood sprays him in a thin streak. But there is no respite from the horror. The oppressed senses refuse to leave, and as another weight moves to replace the now boneless form it is just another page turning. A wailing so pronounced in its grief rises from the floor followed by a solid blow.

“Shut up!” the words are snarled with the fury of fear.
Another blow. Kendo’s visiting senses feel the impact of the first two blows. Thereafter the punches are just like raindrops falling on a stone. But finally, mercifully, oblivion rolls over him like a black blanket.

A hand fumbling for the phone. Each touch of a button a summons to his shame.

“Someone help me. I think they have killed my husband. I’ve been raped!”

A professional query in a soothing voice at the other end of the line.

“Oh my God! I’ve been raped.” Finally the address struggles out and the phone is banged down.

A quick slide and Kendo’s head is cradled tightly, hands like living ropes gently binding him to her shattered frame.
“Ken… dear Ken…” she sobs.

Gently rocking to and fro. But the odour of sex fills his nostrils like the stench of evil pervading and defiling the sanctity of a church. Instead of soothing, the warm nearness of her is revolting him. He gives a slight shudder and there is a grateful catch of breath.

“Ken, dear Ken. Thank God you are O.K. Don’t worry, dearest. You’ll be fine. Help is on the way.”

The incongruity hits at him like a tidal wave. He has been attacked with fists and booted feet, even suffered a cut on the neck but she has been raped! Somehow, it is easier to lie back and let the physical pain take control. It is too soon to be able to think, much less know what to say.

“…To love and protect…”

Words that have so much meaning when you say them in a church as the woman you love stands beside you, but who knows when you are going to be put to the test. His home has been violated, his wife has been ravished, and his dignity has been smashed. His very manhood has been denigrated.

It has been some weeks after what the counsellors refer to as the “unfortunate experience.” Tambudzai is unable to sleep in the main bedroom so they have moved into the guestroom. Several visits to the doctors and counsellors and still the night holds untold horrors for Tambudzai. They had a power cut some time ago and a doctor had to be called to prescribe a sedative. Tambudzai becomes a gibbering wreck in the dark. Her nerves are all gone and even unexpected sounds can make her scream out in fear. But she has started to go to work. The counsellor who comes in to talk with her positively bullied her into it. She says that Tambudzai needs to establish a routine. Kendo has tried his best to make things easy but he is unable to do much. He bears his burdens alone – his insurance company sent a representative to say they had increased the premiums because he and Tambudzai had become “high risk” policyholders. They didn’t even have the decency to wait.

Tambudzai came back from work early yesterday. She felt dizzy. He has noticed that she hasn’t been eating in the mornings. The traumatic experience must be weighing heavily on her mind. They have been to counsellors who have tried to help but he doesn’t think it has done them much good. Instead they have been reminded, day after day, that Tambudzai was raped while he did nothing to protect her.

At night, when he gets into bed, Tambudzai catches her breath and watches him warily like a caged animal waiting for the blow to fall. When he gruffly says “goodnight” to her, she lets out a slow sigh.

Kendo comes in, burdened by the parcels of groceries he is carrying. Tambudzai gets up, tense and frightened. But her unease is not due to Kendo’s sudden entrance. She looks at him, her face working from the strength of her emotions.

“I’m pregnant.” A bald statement of fact. No greeting, no questions about his day – just those two words.

Kendo sits down, suddenly bereft of speech and thought. Another blow on top of another. Three months ago life was almost perfect. There were no dark clouds in their skies. Most of their problems were to do with money or work. Since then they have dealt with the police, lawyers, insurance agents, doctors and reporters “wanting to nail the bastards” if only they would give them the story. They have had more professional interviews in that period than they have had in their entire lives. What gets you in the end is the thoughtless treatment you get at the hands of the professionals. The questions from the Police almost make you scream: a list of Tambudzai’s previous boyfriends… did either of you have an affair or any sexual liaison at any time during marriage?… any suspicious people following you around… which bars or clubs do you go to… did the attackers have any unusual marks, scents, etc…what language did they use…? And tomorrow, they come back having remembered other questions they did not ask the last time. Every time there is a knock, you tense up, afraid to open the door yet afraid not to respond to the insistent drumming.

What is harder to bear is the sympathetic silence of friends. They look at you, their eyes full of sorrow while they try to find innocent topics of conversation. In the end, they sit in an inadequate silence after the trivial references to the weather have been made.

Now this latest blow. He can see an endless line of gynaecologists, lawyers, police and counsellors. How is Tambudzai going to take the trauma of an abortion on top of everything else?
“I’m going to keep it,” she whispers, the tears rolling down her cheeks, unheeded.

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