Tambo Malawi was nervous.
“Baba, relax. Stop fidgeting,” Thandi said.
“I am relaxed,” said Tambo.
Thandi snorted to indicate what she thought of his claim. She knotted the tie, the third tie they’d tried on, and guided him to look in the mirror.
“I don’t know, Thandi.”
“It’s a bit bright.”
“That’s the fashion today,” Thandi assured him.
“Fashion? Do I look like a model to you?”
“No, Baba. You don’t look like a model.”
“Let’s try the one I suggested.”
Thandi rolled her eyes but relented. She picked up the tie with the paisley pattern she had only moments ago referred to as “unoriginal” and tied it around her father’s neck. Tambo smiled at his reflection in the mirror.
“There,” he said.
He wore a suit that Thandi had warned would only scare Dolores. He even put on cuff links.
“It’s a dinner-and-dance evening, Thandi. That’s how you treat a woman, my girl. Not all these things you young people do.”
Thandi watched in amusement as her father did a slow waltz to his bedroom door. His car had been valeted, his hair cut. Dolores had declined his offer to collect her, preferring to be dropped off by her daughter, Tina.
“You going to kiss her, Baba?” Thandi asked, trailing behind him to the kitchen.
“Ag, Thandi, man! Don’t speak like that.”
She giggled. “Let me make you some tea while you wait.”
Father and daughter had made a truce. There would be no more dates. Tambo still used Thandi as an excuse for his continued church attendance, but the agreement was unless he bumped into an average height, short-hair and dimple-wearing, no-earring man, no dates were to be organised.
“I know what I want,” Thandi had said and Tambo had just nodded.
As she walked into the hallway Tambo thought that Dolores looked beautiful and he told her so. She was pleased at the compliment but parried it by turning to beckon Tina inside.
“Tambo, this is Tina. Tina, this is Mr Malawi.”
Tina stepped into the hallway. She wore red-framed spectacles and her hair was plaited in tiny braids that fell down her back.
“Evening, sir,” Tina said, extending a hand. She was almost as tall as Tambo.
“Ah, pleasure to meet. Your mother has told me so much about you. She didn’t mention your beauty, though. But then again, considering how similar you look, that would have been boasting.”
Tambo was in fine form. He ushered the ladies into the living room.
“We have a few minutes, let’s have a quick drink before we leave. Thandi! We have guests,” Malawi called to his daughter.
Thandi came into the living room and, on taking one look at Tina, the very clear thought that maybe she didn’t in fact know what she wanted passed through her mind with speed and precision. Thandi found the woman easy to look at and she was surprised to find herself looking.
“Thandi, meet Ms Magnus and her lovely daughter Tina.”
Tina and Thandi shook hands. An awkwardness followed as everyone sat down on the various seats in the Malawi living room. Conversation ensued, stilted, about Thandi’s dancing and Tina’s medical practice. About Tina’s upcoming birthday party, Dolores’s new hairstyle and Tambo’s haircut. Tambo had the uncomfortable situation of noticing that his daughter was staring at Tina. He noted, with a sensation he couldn’t place, that Dolores Magnus’ daughter had dimples.
“So,” Dolores jumped right in once she and Tambo were sitting in the banqueting hall for the night of dinner and dancing, “I think your daughter likes mine.”
Tambo, who had intended to ease into the conversation was relieved at her candour. “It would seem so. And yours mine, perhaps?”
“Yes. I know it was only a matter of minutes but I’ve never seen Tina smile like that. That wasn’t a simple friendship smile, Tambo.”
“No, it was not.”
“How do you feel about it? I mean how do you feel about Thandi and Tina? Two women together.”
“I don’t know,” Tambo shifted in his chair. “I mean, I am old, Dolores. I don’t understand these things. But then again maybe love is love. My Thandi looked so happy, happier than I can remember. What can I say, Dolores, in the face of that?”
Dolores nodded, thoughtfully.
Entrée was served, bell peppers stuffed with black rice.
“I don’t think it matters,” Dolores said and it took Tambo a while to realise she was going back to the earlier conversation.
“You know, I think you may be right,” he said after the main course.
By dessert they were planning the wedding. Dolores preferred to wear yellow, she’d add a white hat if Tina didn’t object too vehemently. Tambo would relent and wear a yellow tie to please Thandi. The first grandchild would be a girl, they’ll persuade the girls to call her Modjaji. The second would be a boy. Tambo grimaced at Dolores’s suggestion of Tambo Junior. They settled on Sizwe.
“How about me?” Dolores said as they slow danced.
“What about you?”
“We’ve already planned our daughters’ wedding and children, and you haven’t even kissed me yet.”
So Tambo kissed Dolores.
Two years later …
Tina and Thandi are happily married. They visit Tambo and the woman in his life, Dolores Magnus, and inform their parents that they are thinking of raising a child. Tina is clear she does not want to carry a baby, but Thandi is willing to. She wants to know what it is to harbour a life inside her. The excited couple are exploring options. And if all else fails, they plan to adopt. Tambo Malawi pours himself a stiff drink and he thanks God for his blessings.
Tell us what you think: Tambo says ‘love is love’ whether it is between a man and a woman, or a woman and a woman. Do you agree? Do you think it matters if partners are the same sex?