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The Unemployed Graduate

I was twenty-four when I realized; I was not okay. I had been home for three months now, and there was no prospect of me finding a job.

The family and I were going somewhere, one of the many little trips my parents planned because they were so happy to have me home or maybe it was to distract me.

I can’t quite remember where we were headed but from the contorted expression on my little sister’s face, it was somewhere unpleasant, like kumusha, (the rural areas) to see my grandparents for the weekend and labor in the hot fields.

Bags were packed, my dad had done all the heavy lifting and methodically arranged them in the back of the truck. Mom was still in the garden, picking (from the tree and off the ground) overripe mangoes and tossing them into a plastic bag. An exercise I had begrudgingly helped with because I don’t quite enjoy eating mangoes.

It had been three months since I had arrived back at my parent’s home, but it felt like years, and I had gained the weight to show it. Well, I should rather say re-gained the weight because the first month had been spent dieting, running, and exercising, getting my I-am-a-productive-member-of society body. But that all fell away.

Three months in, my cheeks had ballooned out, and I was sporting something akin to a tiny baby bump (something I am sure my mom secretly wished was real).

Our family home had never felt so foreign, although I was still sleeping in the same bedroom and I was going through the motions as I had done so for many years, it now represented a place of my failure.

The first thing you saw when you walked into the lounge was a beaming photo of me at my first graduation. The Dean is shaking my hand, looking into my eyes, eyes full of hope. It was one of my mom’s favorite photos of me. Two photos from that one, was another one of me getting my third degree, my smile is a little less broad here and my eyes a little less hopeful, but there I was again, a beacon of pride. I hated those photos.

My little sister was already in the car, headphones on, waiting for us to take off. We all ascended into the Trailblazer, a feat on its own because Dad’s vehicle is large and high, a symbol of his manhood. It rumbled to life and soon we had pulled out of the driveway and were steadily cruising through the arid lands of South-East Zimbabwe.

It started as a low buzzing sound, but I don’t think anyone else in the car heard it. Mom was fiddling with something on her phone, Gwen had her head against the window, already falling asleep and dad was focused on the road.

I tried to ignore it and opened the latest book I was reading (I had been reading even more than usual since I’d left Cape Town) and there it was again.


“Dad, can you hear that?”

He looked back at me through the rear-view mirror. ‘Hear what? The sound of your very presence in this car signifying your failure as a human being?’ Okay, my father did not say that but when our eyes connected, I wondered what he thought of me. What did he see now? Did he see the same disappointment I saw when I looked into the mirror? His daughter with a Master’s degree and no job?

Almost a year ago that third photo had been hung on the wall. My mom gushed over my achievement and everyone celebrated what an inspiration I was as the first-born daughter. For 6 months after I graduated, I searched for a job, but no one would hire the immigrant. I had built my dreams in Cape Town, and I had found the love of my life in Cape Town but once my visa expired, I packed and bags and headed back home.

Dad’s eyes were concentrating on the road again, but he responded, breaking me out of my reverie, “You mean the fly?”


There it was again. I shifted uncomfortably and tried to focus on what I was reading. Then the buzzing increased, this was definitely more than one fly. “That sound is annoying.” I was frustrated.

“I rolled my window down several times, but it won’t fly out,” Dad answered. “Just ignore it,” my mom piped in without looking up from whatever she was doing. Ignore it. Ignore it. Like I should ignore what was clearly happening in my life and pretend everything was, okay?

Then I saw it.

It whizzed past the back of Dad’s seat and swooped past me toward Gwen. I reached across my sister and opened her window, hoping the fly would wander out but it didn’t. It just came right back in toward me, taunting me.

Gwen quizzically raised her eyebrow at me and closed the window, shutting the gust of wind that had entered.


“Guys, we need to get this fly out.”

“Okay, Jax…” they chorused, disinterested. I followed the fly with my eyes, tracking its movements and waiting to see which direction it would go. It whooshed past me and then landed on the back window behind, and there they were more flies. All huddled in one corner.

What! I emphatically turned around and swung my arm at them, watching them all flutter up in various directions. There were about four of them.

Each time I opened a window, the rush of wind would chase them to the other side of the car. I tried opening all the windows at once, but they found safety at the back window where there was no wind. I needed to change my strategy. I would get them out one at a time.

I cornered fly Number 4, and with small waving movements directed it toward a small crack in the window. To my surprise, it worked. One down, three to go.

Fly Number 3 was a little tricky because it kept flying close to Number 2, so I had to get them out together. I instructed my sister to slowly roll down the window, which to my surprise she did without complaint, she was now invested in what I was doing too. I used my book this time, to cause confusion on my side of the window, which forced them to flee toward Gwen’s side, and finally out they went.

Yes! Three down, one to go.

Fly Number 1 had seen the danger in the back seat and decided it would hang around in the front with my parents. This would be the most difficult one yet.

I asked everyone to open their windows, and not to close them at all costs. My mom refused of course, and she did so with a laugh, Dad and Gwen indulged me. This one would be about timing. I waited patiently for it to fly around window to window, almost getting out but not until it finally came my way. In one swift movement, I swatted it out with my paperback book, and it was gone! We all rushed to close the windows and there was silence in the car, once again.

I could not keep the smile down. It swelled up from the pit of my stomach to my lips. I won.

That drive will always be one of my fondest memories. I am sure every time I retell it, the flies get a little smarter and the number gets a little higher but what will never change is the feeling. A sense of accomplishment enveloped me. My dad’s eyes met mine again. A concerned look cloaked his face.

“My poor daughter. You’ve been unemployed so long; this is what makes you happy now?” I gleefully nodded.

It was silly, but it was the first day I had felt hope in a long time. I savored the moment not knowing that I still had a long journey ahead.

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