Eau De Toilette


Zvakaita sei? She asks her daughter. Mummy makanaka. Apa manakisisa. She had never seen her mother looking as beautiful in her make up, new dress and new hair do. She thanked the lady, while her daughter gave the lady a hug and left the salon. It was a scorching hot day with a promise of rain wafting through the humid air. I was irritable.

The queues to board a commuter omnibus seemed to just grow longer by day. Everyone was always in a rush to get home. It was understandable because given the heatwave situation, one couldn’t wait to dress down in the comfort of their own home far away from prying perverted eyes.

I was thinking about a lot of things, feeling slightly dizzy from sheer frustration. It was a week after black Friday. Our dollar was now trading 1:13 from a situation of 1:5. I laugh at myself now when I think of the young me who thought that was the end of us.

Life could not ever plummet beyond this. A young girl had her hand tucked under her mother’s elbow stopped and stood beside me. Sisi ndokumbirawo mari. I looked at her clean beautiful embroidered dress. Then I looked at her mother, clean, beautifully made up and also in a new floral dress and red court shoes.

Annoyed I told her I had nothing to give her. It was not entirely true. I was saving my takeaway for dinner. I had down graded on my lunches to save for a designer scent I was dying for and was a few dollars away from my target. It was not even half month yet so I could afford to spare a few coins. My turn finally came to board the commuter.

As I sat I listened to the ladies behind me talk about how ridiculous it was that one can afford make up and new dresses yet still go out to beg. If I had known the ladies I would have joined in too. I got home thoroughly spent.

As I warmed my food my flat mate who worked at a beauty salon in town came out to greet me. She was beaming and happy. I was about to tell her of the woman and her child begging in town when she initiated conversation with me.

Today I did something that filled me with so much joy.’ Too tired to respond I let her continue. ‘ There’s a blind woman who begs with her daughter that I see sometimes in town. I gave them a make over on my tab today- top to bottom.

Poverty takes away a persons dignity and just for a day, I wanted them to know, especially the little girl, what it is to be pampered and look and feel beautiful. Its such a pity her mother is blind but you should have seen the girl looking at her mother as if she was a pageant winner. I have been thinking about it for a while.

I saved my birthday monies to buy their dresses a while back and was elated when I saw them walk past the salon today. No one else would touch them so I did everything myself. I got compliments for the work I had done after but I honestly could have done with help and not a pat on the back.’

My heart sank. I had taken in every detail, absorbing it for a juicy conversation. The beggar and her daughter were beautiful and clean and that had been the problem.

They did not collect a single cent from the long queue in which I stood. I switched off the stove. ‘You did good’. Suddenly I could not eat. ‘My head hurts’, I lied. I locked my bedroom door and wept my shame into my pillow.

How could I ever confess I was worse than those who refused to touch them. I had judged someone into a hungry night and probably into never wanting to feel beautiful again. I thought she had smelt of that scent I was saving for. What good was my dignity now?

Oh that eau de toilette, my scent of shame has etched in my memory the stench of my arrogance. I can never be that woman again!

A mother of three who is passionate about Art, Food and Societal Development. She is a free-lance Writer, Event Manager, Creative Consultant and Visual Artist working from her home studio in Tafara. She also tutors in Art and English Literature. Her personal motto is “We paint the Zimbabwe we want to see”. While she cannot change the world at once, Christine acknowledges that individual effort in individual spaces collectively will make all the difference.