I nearly fainted with gratitude as the palm of my hand touched Miss Maidza’s hands for the very first time
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
I knew that I was going to get an inferior grade in Mathematics if Miss Maidza continued with our class into form four. Time was running out for me, but there was nothing I could do about my predicament.
The Mathematics magician had done everything in her power to destroy my passion for figures. I decided, however, not to give up the race.
I knew I was not going to be the best student in the final examinations, but I had to fight for a good grade.
She was equally good at calculations as she was good at embarrassing me. She always directed the trickiest questions at me in order to start a verbal onslaught on me.
I wondered if she relished the bad air that filled the classroom each time forty-plus laughing mouths pumped out foul breath in a moment of hilarious laughter.
“Desmond,” Miss Maidza would say, her starry eyes glued on me: “Do you wish to return to the counting sticks and abacus cards of junior primary school?”
In every lesson she had an act cut out for me, and it was impossible for me to escape the heatwave that emanated from her uncomplimentary words.
She was indisputably a talented mathematician, and around twenty-six, she was the youngest teacher in the Mathematics Department.
The whole of her oozed with mathematical calculations and formulae.
Mathematics flowed with her blood, and as she carried out demonstrations on the whiteboard, one could sense the figures flowing through her hand, into her fingers, then into the board marker.
She also had a cheerful disposition and only frowned when she addressed me.
Although she never directed her smile at me, I allowed it to linger in my mind’s eye longer than I wished, until it permeated my dreams.
In my dreams, Miss Maidza never frowned at me, except in my last dream of her.
Whenever she sneaked into my dreams, she told me that Mathematics was my lifeline and urged me to take her words seriously.
“I can only believe you if you stop embarrassing me in front of my classmates,” I would remind her.
“You seem to doubt me but you will not only miss me when you strike high later in life. You will also miss my lessons,” she would respond, her balmy smile soothing me of the scathing verbal attacks she directed at me in my waking moments.
One day after such a dream of her, I walked behind her on my way to the dining hall. I was in the company of four other boys.
The whole school was on the way to the dining hall and I knew that she drew the attention of every pupil, boy or girl, walking behind her. The way she walked, the confidence with which she placed one foot in front of the other continuously and the precision with which her footfalls hit the gravel road was purely mathematical.
Suddenly she was standing face to face with me, a white oblong behind her back, white board marker in hand. She was doing what she knew best.
“Desmond, your future is in Mathematics…”
I stumbled and hit the ground with my right knee, while the open palms of my hands connected with the gravel floor of the road to save my face from hitting the hard ground.
Rangarirai, one of my classmates got hold of my hand and helped me to my feet.
“Thanks brother, ” I said, dusting my hands and knee.
“Are you all right Desmond?” Rangarirai asked.
“I’m feeling dizzy,” I lied, hoping that Florence had not seen what had happened.
That afternoon I obtained a pass from the boarding master and spent the remainder of my day in my dormitory bed. Despite missing my lessons, I slowly drifted into a light slumber. Once again, Miss Maidza stood in front of me. A stampede of disapproving words bouncing off her angry lips. “For how long do I have to tell you that you are not working hard enough…”
I had grown tired of her interminable presence in my dreams. I drew a pistol from under my pillow and aimed it at her contorted face, but in a flash, she was smiling right into the muzzle of the gun, and her bullet proof smile turned my ammunition to water.
Immediately, after my hand had shrunk after the evaporation of my impotent anger, she disappeared.
I found myself lying on my back in bed, staring at the white ceiling above me. Maybe, my dreamful experiences with Miss Maidza needed the help of a spiritualist.
It was to be my last dream of her anyway. The term came to an end and I came out fourth in Mathematics, with 72%.
It was announced that Miss Maidza was leaving our school to go and further her education in Russia.
A few students who had been chosen to present speeches at a farewell ceremony held in her honour, lavished praises on her, but I was not sorry that she was going.
Another teacher took us into form four, but I was never willing to admit that his performance was a far cry from Miss Maidza’s.
I passed my O-Level examinations with distinctions only, but I was not sure if my father would raise enough money to send me to A-Level because he had lost his job when the company that employed him went into liquidation.
As I was busy looking through classified advertisements for apprenticeship programmes, I received a letter from my former school head asking me to come and sign some important papers.
On that occasion, I had the longest night of my life. I never slept, wondering what papers I had to sign.
The night mercifully came to an end and I embarked on the journey that ended with a new twist in my life. The one-hour journey back to my old school was like a journey into eternity.
When I arrived at Mutambara High School, the receptionist quickly took me to the Headmaster’s office. I signed my scholarship papers in the presence of two other witnesses. I was going to study aircraft engineering in Russia.
Miss Maidza’s prophecies had been fulfilled. I wish I would meet her again, to apologise to her for failing to appreciate her efforts. I would depart for Russia within a month.
After the signing ceremony, I was taken to the Responsible Authority’s office, to meet the person who was in charge of all Zimbabwean students studying aircraft engineering in Russia.
The person was none other than Miss Maidza. I nearly fainted with gratitude as the palm of my hand touched hers for the very first time.
Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263777460162. Email him at: email@example.com
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