Pss! Pss! I slapped a policeman today
City flea market, Harare. Stacks of second hand clothes, and unopened bales too. We can’t afford the bales; we shuffle through the heaps of old clothes to find the cheapest. We resell these at a dollar each in Epworth, a rural settlement outside Harare. We sell to get just enough profit for the following day’s budget, and remain with capital for tomorrow's order. We buy bread for children's sandwiches, veggies and tomatoes for supper, and keep coins Precious’ bus fare and pocket money. She has to buy a scone and cool drink at school like the other girls, lest she dates elderly men and get pregnant—let alone HIV/AIDS. Bang! My heart beats fast, my head aches, I’m feeling hot all over, and want to faint. There is so much fear inside me. Cry the beloved country!
The second hand clothes in the stacks smell so much.
'But why do the clothes smell this much?' Lillian, my friend, asks, shuffling.
'I don’t know and I don’t care Lillian, I just want the good ones. Somebody told me it’s a chemical that they spray to preserve the clothes.'
'Kunyepa, mapeche enyu ndiwo anonhuwa!' (You lie, it is your vaginas that smell).
Before I realise that the intruder is a policeman, I have slapped him hard, twice. His cap falls down. As he bends to pick it up someone kicks him from behind. He bites the ground and groans. Crowd, jeers!
The policeman lies tummy down. Somebody nudges me and whispers, ‘Run!! There is going to be a scene.’
I hold Lillian’s hand and we run, no looking back, through the crowds. We jump into a taxi.
‘Please take us to the main market, quick!’
I throw a note, the driver takes off.
We buy cheap clothes and quickly change into them, discarding our original ones.
We board a bus home, straight from the market. No city routes.
As I try to sit down someone nudges me and starts laughing. Another man!
‘But why are you laughing?’ I ask, feigning courage.
‘I was there. I kicked the policeman. I helped you get away?’
My heart kicks, I want to run!
‘Don’t be scared, well done. No more abuse of women in the city market. You are a strong woman!’
‘A strong vagina warrior!’ I shout back.
More stitches! I look at Lillian, our eyes lock and we laugh again.