The Visa: A Short Story on Women, Work and Relationships
Shylet Chabata| Zimbabwe
The email said it all.
She had finally gotten the visa allowing her move to the United Kingdom as a caregiver to the disabled and sick. Rutendo could finally leave the desperation she had felt for the last two years ever since she graduated with her Statistics degree. Being an unemployed degree holder had thrown her into the dark depths of depression. She had sent out so many CVs and been invited to a handful of interviews but nothing had panned out. To her chagrin, she had found herself selling perfumes on commission to help out with her family's finances. Using the caregiver pathway for going to the United Kingdom, she had found a way to get out of the doldrums she was in.
She giddily texted her family using the Whatsapp family group chat to tell them the good news and next she texted her fiancé Tapiwa and her best friend Brenda. Her phone buzzed for the next hour as she received congratulatory texts and answered congratulatory phone calls. However, there was no text or phone call from Tapiwa. Just silence. Rutendo wondered why Tapiwa had blue ticked her on such an important occasion, a defining moment in her life.
She texted him again.
Ruebae: Hello sweetheart. Why are you not answering my message?
It took a good 15 minutes before an answer came through.
Ruebae: Thank you but I honestly thought you would be more enthusiastic.
Again, silence. Tapiwa did not text back. Rutendo decided to call him.
“Hello." Tapiwa answered, without much emotion in his voice.
“Hello, my love," Rutendo chirpily replied. “Isn't it exciting, finally I can attain my goals?”
“Yes, yes. That is why I said congratulations," he curtly replied.
Rutendo swiftly answered him “You don’t seem to be excited.”
“Truthfully speaking, this isn't good news for me. I know I have always said I will support you in all your dreams, but I am not sure how your immigration plans can blend together with my own circumstances.” Tapiwa said franky.
“What circumstances are you talking about?” Rutendo inquired.
“As you know due to my dad getting laid off work, my university fees were paid through a Government grant,” Rutendo's heart sank as she realized why he was not glad to hear her news. Tapiwa continued, “Now that I have finished my Pharmacy degree I have to work for the government for five years to repay the grant and I have only gone through one year. I have a bonded contract and I can't emigrate. Your caregiver visa stipulates that you will have to work there as a caregiver for at least five years before moving on in any way.”
“Do you see what I see, Rutendo?" Tapiwa's voice rasped as tears gathered in his throat.
“Iiiiiii, Tapiwa why didn’t say any of this when I started to apply for the caregiver Visa? You know how much I need this," Rutendo's desperation could be heard over the phone. “Are you looking for an excuse to dump me?” Rutendo asked.
“No, my love. I love you as much as I have ever done. These past four years have been wonderful for me. I am still amazed that with all the guys who were chasing you at college, you chose me. The promise that I made to you in front of our aunties during kupana nduma still stands. We exchanged items of clothing as an engagement to show our commitment to each other and to be married. I remain committed to you." Tapiwa reassured.
“You are my future wifey. My uncles have already told your family that I am coming to pay roora in three months time and I mean to keep those dates. I am prepared, the money is there. I am just finishing up buying groceries. I am definitely coming to pay the bride price as I so much want you to be my wife. Rutendo, I am just scared of losing you to a foreign country. I was kind of hoping that you would not get the visa." Tapiwa continued, sounding his worries. “If you are going to stay in the United Kingdom for five years on your caregivers' visa and I can't join you because of my bonded contract, then how are we going to do this?"
Tapiwa hung a heavy question in the air.
Rutendo sighed as the question settled heavily on her shoulders.
Tapiwa went on, "At the same time, I don't want to stand in your way. I don’t want to clip your wings and make you lose a good opportunity."
Rutendo replied, “You would not lose me. I love you. We can still get married and when your bonded contract has ended, you can join me in the United Kingdom."
“You mean a long-distance marriage?" Tapiwa asked.
“Kind of…" Rutendo reflected.
“Many people are doing it. My friend's mother lives in the United Kingdom. She is working as a nurse but her father works as a lawyer here in Zimbabwe. He could not get the certification to work in the United kingdom. It can be done." Rutendo explained.
“If we decide that it can work, it will work.” Rutendo was adamant.
“Would you be willing to make the sacrifice of not being enticed by another man in a first-world country especially when you are lonely, far away from home?" Tapiwa enquired.
“If you are willing to make the same sacrifice not to let another girl take your affections then I am all for it.” Rutendo sounded confident.
“I don’t know, Rutendo. I would like to have a family soon before I am old. I don’t want to be still paying school fees in my sixties when my age mates are retiring and relaxing.” Tapiwa went on.
Rutendo was still confident in her view. “That won't be the case. We can still have children even during those four years we will be in a long-distance marriage, after all it won't be forever.”
“It doesn't seem normal or reasonable. Rutendo, my visions of marriage were not having a video chat at the end of the day. I want a marriage where I will come home to the love of my life after a hard day of work, you know I have no problem with you working but not 8000 km away.”
“Tapiwa, I need to do this for my self worth and my family. Each month that goes by and I am jobless makes me feel so depressed. Look at my sister, Zuvarashe. It has been 6 years since she graduated and has not found work yet. I don’t want to be just another statistic in this economic nightmare, I can't let this opportunity go."
“I hear you and as I said before, I will not stand in your way. I wish my love was enough and know I would always look after you in every way possible," Tapiwa added a few more points to clarify his position. “I think it is clear where both of us stand, and I don't think there is a way to reconcile our two positions. Let us discuss this more when we meet the Pastor for our pre-marriage counseling session. Maybe he and Amai Pastor can help us. "
“Maybe." Rutendo echoed.
“We will figure this out together and make it work.“ Tapiwa said.
“Maybe." Rutendo repeated.
“I am sorry I have laid all of this on you." Tapiwa apologized.
“It is ok, as you said we can discuss further when we see the Pastor," Rutendo agreed.
“Ok. My love, have a goodnight, try not to worry." Tapiwai said as he cut the call.
Rutendo felt so deflated. An hour ago, the future had seemed so beautiful and on an upward trajectory and now all the signs were showing her losing Tapiwa. How could she choose between this opportunity that could elevate her life and her family and Tapiwa, whom she had loved since her third year at college? How could Tapiwa even ask this of her.
But she also felt for him. If it hadn't been for the government grant, he would have had to drop out of college and now that grant was making him a slave tied to a government job unable to emigrate as everyone was doing to escape the stifling economy.
Was their love strong enough to be able to survive this trial? Could she sacrifice a life changing opportunity for the sake of this relationship? How was she going to be able to persuade Tapiwa to go the distance with her? What was more important, their love or the chance of financial upward mobility and escaping the clutches of a country stuck in an economic mudpit?
The questions spinned in her mind and tears formed at the corners of her eyes.
This is messed up, Rutendo thought as she stared up at the ceiling. But the ceiling held no answers for her. I love Tapiwa but I owe so much to my family. It wasnt easy for them to pay for my schooling. I need to give back to them and this opportunity is the only way I can support them. It seems love is never enough. I can't sacrifice this opportunity for love. Rutendo's musings crushed her heart. Tears welled up in her eyes but she was determined to take hold of the opportunity that had been given to her.
Kupana Nduma: engagement ceremony where by the two lovers exchange items of clothing to show their commitment to each other
Roora: Bride price
Shylet is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mum. She is passionate about writing stories from an emotional and educative perspective. Contact her at email@example.com