Nervous Conditions Chapter 8 Second half

She made no bones about
telling me that spending so
much time with Nyasha was
turning me into a snob.
The door was locked but
happily the dogs were not loose
‘Tambudzai!’ she scolded anxiously,
intercepting us in the passage.
`Where have you been? Your uncle is very
angry with you.’ I could feel myself shrinking.
I lied thinly.
‘But you should have said,’ fluttered my aunt.
‘Now see what has happened. Babamukuru is
annoyed.’ muscles simply refused
to obey the half-hearted
commands I was issuing to
Nyasha was worried. She
thought I was ill, but I knew
I appeared to have slipped out of my body
and was standing somewhere near the foot of
the bed, watching her efforts to persuade me
to get up and myself ignoring her. I observed
with interest and wondered what would
happen next. It was quite exciting. Maiguru
came in and mentioned Babamukuru.
‘Mai,’ he instructed Maiguru, ‘get
that girl up and washed. Right away.’ He
said I was ungrateful, that I did not
respect him. ‘She is growing into a bad
child. I am spoiling her here. She knows
she is in my house not because of herself
but because of my kindness and
generosity. She must get up. Right away.’
The scene became much less focused. I heard
them talking from a great distance that
rapidly diminished as I slipped back into my
body. I found I could speak again and speak I
did, although my heart was racing and my
voice when it came was high and thin.
Babamukuru was always very
categorical when he made these
kinds of statements.
to trigger my uncle’s volcanic
temper. I tried to explain why I could
not go, but it was useless.
‘You have been having too much of the
good life,’ my uncle raged, his voice rising on
each syllable and breaking on the top note. ‘I
do everything I can for you, but you disobey
me. You are not a good girl. You must be up
and dressed, ready in half an hour. Ma’Chido,
Let us have breakfast?
Maiguru moved aside to let him pass,
hung back for a moment as though to
speak, then thought better of it and
followed her husband out of the room.
Babamukuru could not leave me
alone. ‘Tambudzai,’ he returned to warn me,
‘I am telling you! If you do not go to the
wedding, you are saying you no longer want
to live here. I am the head of this house.
Anyone who defies my authority is an evil
thing in this house, bent on destroying what
I have made.’
He threatened all sorts of things, to
stop buying me clothes, to stop my school
fees, to send me home, but it did not
matter any more.
But I accepted that I had forfeited my
right to Babamukuru’s charity.
Nyasha was watching me. ‘You should
have told us earlier if it was so important,’
she said. ‘Really, Tambu, you should. Shall I
be bridesmaid? Will it be better if all you
have to do is sit there?’
I did not answer. As far as I was concerned,
she belonged to Babamukuru and his beliefs,
whereas I did not. Yes, Nyasha, I thought
bitterly, we can change bridesmaids’ dresses
because it’s all a joke. Andnow the joke’s over. You
told me it wouldn’t last. ‘He won’t send you
home,’ Nyasha soothed. ‘Goodness, no! Just
imagine what people would say.’
Expecting worthy entertainment,
they were not disappointed.
Everybody was impressed by the
elegance of the occasion.
My father cutting a dashing figure!
Babamukuru talked to me calmly,
authoritatively and at length, told me how
disappointed he was that I had grown so rebellious
when he was doing so much for me, when he had
been holding me up for nearly two years as an
example of filial virtue for his wayward daughter
to follow. Babamukuru said I had to be punished
for any disobedience and that although he did not
like to beat me, because I was of an age to be
treated maturely, my behaviour showed that I was
not yet mature and a beating might speed the
I went about these chores grimly, with
a deep and grateful masochistic delight; to
me that punishment was the price of my
newly acquired identity.
I was so frightened of Babamukuru now and
my own daring in having defied him once
This sort of talk made me
uncomfortable because Babamukuru
was taking on ogre-like proportions in
my unconscious mind. Vaguely I
thought he might suddenly appear and
do something dreadful, like take away
Lucia’s job if he heard her talk like
Did you ask my sister if she wanted that
wedding? I do not see that the child did you so
much wrong by preferring not to be
‘I see, Lucia,’ he explained, ‘that you
think Tambudzai is being punished because she
did me wrong. It is not that, Lucia, but children
must be obedient. If they are not, then they
must be taught. So that theydevelop good
habits. You know this is very important,
especially in the case of girls. My wife here
would not have disobeyed me in the way
that Tambudzai did. ’
‘Well, Babamukuru,’ said Lucia, preparing to
leave, ‘maybe when you marry a woman, she is
obliged to obey you. But some of us aren’t
married, so we don’t know how to do it. That is why
I have been able to tell you frankly what is in my
heart. It is better that way so that tomorrow I don’t
go behind your back and say the first thing that
comes into my head.’
Don’t tell me you paid attention to Lucia.
You know she says the first thing that
comes into her head. As for Tambudzai,
we will spoil her if we let her carry on in
the way she has begun to behave. She
must be disciplined. She must finish
her punishment.’
Tambudzai is my brother’s daughter, I
am her father. I have the right to
discipline her. It is my duty.’
‘But when it comes to taking my money so that you
can feed her and her father and your whole family and
waste it on ridiculous weddings, that’s when they are
my relatives too. Let me tell you, Babawa Chido, I am
tired of my house being a hotel for your family. I am
tired of being a housekeeper for them. I am tired of
being nothing in a home I am working myself sick to
support. And now even that Lucia can walk in here
and tell me that the things she discusses with you,
here in my home, are none of my business. I am sick
of it Babawa Chido, Let me tell you, I have had
‘It is as I say,’ she insisted. ‘And when I
keep quiet you think I am enjoying it. So
today I am telling you I am not happy. I am
not happy any more in this house.’
‘I don’t think she will leave,’ Nyasha said as
we lay in bed in the dark. ‘But you never
know. She’s never gone this far before.’
There was a note of awe in her voice that I
had not heard before when she talked of her
I was silent. Nyasha knew nothing
about leaving. She had only been taken to
places — to the mission, to England, back to
the mission. She did not know what essential
parts of you stayed behind no matter how
violently you tried to dislodge them in order
to take them with you.
‘You grow,’ said Nyasha, as though she had heard
what I was thinking. ‘You grow and you compensate. You
have to. There’s no other way. We’re all trying to do it, you
know. All of us. But it’s difficult when everything’s laid out
for you. It’s difficult when everything’s taken care of. Even
the way you think.’
Whether this was the case or not, I remember that
there was something large and determined about Maiguru
in the way that she made up her mind and, making no
fuss, carried out her plan.
‘I’ll tell you why, Tambu,’ she explained. ‘Sometimes I feel
I’m trapped by that man, just like she is. But now she’s
done it, now she’s broken out, I know it’s possible, so I can
She sighed. ‘But it’s not that simple, you know, really it
isn’t. It’s not really him, you know. I mean not really the
person. It’s everything, it’s everywhere. So where do you
break out to? You’re just one person and it’s everywhere.
So where do you break out to? I don’t know, Tambu, really I
don’t know. So what do you do? I don’t know.’
It was true. It was a sad truth, tragic in Maiguru’s case,
because even if there had been somewhere to go, she would
not have been able to, since her investment, in the form of her
husband and two children, was all at the mission.
If Babamukuru was unhappy about Maiguru’s disappearance,
he made a good job of concealing it.
Nyasha was unhappy that Maiguru had gone to her brother.
‘A man! She always runs to men,’ she despaired. ‘There’s no hope,
Tambu. Really, there isn’t.’
Maiguru had been away for only five days, but the change
had done her good. She smiled more often and less mechanically,
fussed over us less and was more willing or able to talk about
sensible things. Although she still called Babamukuru her Daddysweet, most of her baby-talk had disappeared.
‘It’s such a waste,’ lamented Nyasha, noting the difference.
‘Imagine what she might have been with the right kind of

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