Monday 29 August 2016

Burning Woman part 13

April 1994

Coming out of the priest’s private vestibule feels like it always does. Unsatisfactory. Father Underwood does the best he can but he doesn’t truly understand. I have unloaded my burdens to him but the weight hasn’t really left my shoulders.
Talking about it is supposed to help. His advice to keep on praying for my family seems ineffective for the titanic problem I am facing. The priest’s vows make him the perfect candidate for me to expose my private fears. He can’t tell anyone what I say behind the brown door.
I suremptously wipe the moisture from my eyes. Talking about my husband always makes me weep. I am angry at God too. I have served him faithfully all my life yet he let this happen to me.
Though the Sunday service is finished the women’s group is having its monthly meeting. I would have preferred to slip out and head straight home but the group is seated in the back pews right next to the door.
There is nothing for me to do but join them. I am a woman after all. I used to enjoy these meetings but I can’t stomach them anymore. I notice a few heads come together as I get closer. They whisper, their gazes on me. It is quite obvious that they are talking about me.
I take a seat at the back. My attention is directed straight ahead where the group leader, Mrs Murombo is making announcements.
“Now that we’re done with the business of the day. Is there anyone with anything to say?” Her eyes seem to be aimed straight at me before moving on. “Alright then we can go and make our rounds.”
The ladies at the front take up the groceries the group has purchased. The Catholic women’s group always visits the needy, the elderly and the sick once a month. Why did I have to pick today to go to the confessionary? Now I have no choice but to follow the ladies as we visit members of the church who are in need.
The ladies soon settle into groups as we make tracks for the first home. I feel like the odd one out.
“Mrs Moyo come and join us. We do understand your troubles but your mopping is becoming rather tedious,” says Mrs Mlambo a matron in her sixties.
The other women are all staring at me.
“With all due respect mam you have no idea how I am feeling.”
“Really?” she said. “Look at all of these women here. Do you think you hold the monopoly on marital problems...or that yours are the worst?”
The women nod in agreement, there isn’t a single sympathetic face in the group. I feel cornered.
“All of these women are facing difficult times. Sandra’s husband has a good job right here in the village but he drinks it all away within a few days of getting paid. Chipo’s husband beats her for no reason. Claudia’s husband left the village same time as your husband he hasn’t been heard from again. Would you prefer any of these men instead of your own?”
I look at Chipo’s heavily made up face, Claudia with her toddler on a hip and look away shamed by my attitude these last few weeks. “I am sorry mam. I will strive to do better.”
Mrs Murombo nods. “Talking to the priest helps but what you really need is this group of women you’ve been avoiding. Sweetie we’re not just here to gossip-” At that the other women laugh. “We’re also here to help and give wholesome advice. Believe it or not these old village women have been around the block a few times. There’s nothing you can share one or two of us haven’t experienced first-hand.”
A genuine smile forms on my face. I don’t see myself surrounded by gossiping busybodies and backbiters. These women are my family they will support me through thick and thin. I can see now I’ve been wrong to isolate myself. These women truly understand me. For the first time in months I can breathe easier knowing a part of my burden is shared.

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