*UBA is a term used in Zimbabwean tertiary institutions to refer to male students. For some it stands for University Bachelors Association, for others, Unable to Buy Anything.
Rumbidzai storms out of the Diamond Lecture. Her mind has been somewhere else the whole day and finally she can get everything done. In seconds she has showered up, put on the black cargo pants she reserves for special occasions and the red tank top she borrowed from Nina. For the first time ever, she has applied lipstick and the shade of red contrasts well with her light skin. “Roomie askana, only this once,” she pesters her roommate for a single gust of the Avon Attraction deodorant that is always nicely positioned among the other expensive cosmetics.
She finally gets the go ahead and soon enough she is all set to surprise him.
At Manfred Hall, Takudzwa lies motionless on his tiny bed, staring at two spiders wrestling at the corner of the ceiling. The knock on his door drags him from his world of thought and he pushes himself to open the door. He had been wondering if what he had for his girlfriend was way below the instagram-portrayed standard of a Valentine’s present. What would Rumbie say? Would her friends judge him as broke as usual?
“Happy Valentine’s day, baby,” Rumbidzai chants as she dives inside and plants a kiss on his left cheek. What she fails to notice is his lack of excitement and his hand brushing aggressively on his cheek soon after.
“What did you get me?” she inquires as she throws herself onto his bed and grabs the pillow to make herself comfortable.
Takudzwa sighs and walks to his desk to sit far enough from her to get a full view of all the curves and edges he loves but close enough to catch her subtle scent. It is that time of the year again, the time he hates the most. As much as he tries to prepare for it, the stress always catches up. He looks at her and feels like he is falling in love all over again. The thought of disappointing her breaks his heart. He evades the topic by shifting his attention to how amazing she looks.
“Guess what Nzwisisai got from her boyfriend for Valentine’s,” the topic pops up again.
“What?” he asks, not because he is interested but because she is going to tell him anyway.
“Those seven hundred dollars Luxe Flora roses. Isn’t she lucky?”
Takudzwa nods in agreement. What has he got to say, anyways?
“And Munashe got a brand new Mercedes Benz, can you imagine? These are serious goals!”
“Wow that’s amazing,” he replies in a feeble tone. He gathers up the few atoms of confidence within him and pulls out the tiny gift bag from his drawer. “This is what I managed to get for you.” He tries to emphasise that his means could only let him go this far as he draws out his arm to hand her the wildly decorated bag. This is definitely not the best he could do.
The glow on Rumbidzai’s face falters as she catches eye of the Pascall Mint chocolate wrappers. Takudzwa watches her as she empties the contents of the bag onto the bed with the anticipation of finding something hidden in there, something better, maybe a ticket to a romantic getaway, a jewel, or perhaps a note that this is all a prank and that something better awaits, but no: just five bars of the cheapest mint chocolate on campus.
“Is this some kind of a joke?” Rumbidzai asks with the trace of a chuckle in her voice. She is not sure if she is supposed to be laughing or not.
“Well, that is your problem Rumbie. You take me for granted. Go on, laugh. Laugh at my efforts.” Takudzwa looks sternly in her direction.
“No Takudzwa. I just…”
“Weren’t you just about to laugh?” he charges at her as he grabs the chocolate and shoves it back into his drawer. “My birthday was last week and what did you get me? Nothing! Nothing, Rumbidzai, and you have the audacity to laugh. You are very selfish, you know. Busy comparing me with other guys. Where do you expect a UBA like me to get money for Luxe Flora flowers or a car? Worse still for a girl who does not even honor my birthday. ”
“Let me…” Rumbidzai interjects.
“That’s your other problem,” Takudzwa exclaims. You never listen. All you do is talk, talk and talk. I am sure you also laugh at my efforts with your friends. Can you for once shut up and listen.” Takudzwa’s temper reddens his eyes and his voice is shaky. If it were not for the school rules, he would have slapped her by now. Moreover he respects women enough not to hit them. He clenches his teeth and fists to try and push back the anger. What he fails to realise is the prominent bulge on Rumbidzai’s pocket or the affection in her eyes that dies with each extra word he utters.
Rumbidzai clutches the huge side pocket of her pants and the outline of the heavy metal inside irks her. She had wanted to tell him but now the emotions suffocate her. She can no longer tell him about the roasted nuts she has been selling in class to raise extra cash. She can no longer open up about how she missed his birthday to put together all the dollars for the Timex watch he has always wanted, the watch that now rests cold as ever in her pocket. Struggling to keep it together, she takes off, the weight of the watch mocking her dignity.
Alone now in his room, a little guilt bubbles up within Takudzwa. He grabs his phone and scrolls through the contacts list. “Cupcake”— he sees her number but another thought sees him pushing the phone aside once more. In minutes, the boys flood his room for the FIFA video game and soon his mind is preoccupied, very far from a Rumbidzai that lies in bed with a soaked pillow.
Rumbidzai fidgets uncomfortably, trying to grab a little sleep but the most toxic of thoughts keep her awake. Was this relationship even worth all this trouble? She grabs her phone to text him. “I’m sorry,” she types, but another thought takes over and she erases it. “Can we talk,” she types again but pride reminds her that he also has a phone and is highly capable of texting her first and so the backspace button does its job again. She takes out the watch from her pocket which was adding to the discomfort, a feeling that was however more bearable than giving it to someone who doesn’t value her
The day ends and tears dry. Emotions settle and pride grows. Days pass and neither of the two wants to reach out to the other first. The distance widens steadily. The more they ignore each other, the more they learn to live without each other. The love, the memories made, the commitment of the past all go to waste. If only Valentine’s day was not a thing.
14 January, 2023