It took the bitter man four years to crawl out of the shell of emotional devastation
While Mrs Mapiye was counting her blessings, her husband was rueing his past. She was too excited to see the dark cloud that sat on her husband’s face, how the marks of age had become more discernible, his shrivelled eyelids slowly retreating with his eyes into the depths of their sockets.
She did not notice how the layer of the petroleum jelly he rubbed on his face after every bath seemed to form a shield through which she might read the trouble beneath.
While Mrs Mapiye did most of the talking, her husband played the passive role of the detached listener. She did not notice the dwindling intimacy in their interaction.
Instead, her vision of the days to come was a parade of colours, like two rainbows embracing, the way she felt when she finally made up her mind to marry him, nearly two decades before.
In a month’s time they would be moving into their new house in Murambi Gardens, bought by none other than her daughter working in Australia.
Melissa was her daughter from a failed marriage, who upon remarriage, she had brought into the custody of Mapiye and Mapiye had played the role of the ideal stepfather.
While Mrs Mapiye was revelling in the joys of a dream come true, Mapiye was experiencing the worst nightmare of his life.
He was a social failure and there was no redemption, even in relocating to Murambi Gardens.
Mapiye had parted ways with his first wife when she decided to stay in London after completing her studies in nursing and hospital care.
She had dropped him a line, telling him that he would have to buy an air ticket and join her in London.
She would help him get a job since his skills as an automobile engineer were on demand.
“But my dear, home is the best,” he had written back to her.
“Desert home, you mean?” she had texted back.
“I wish you to think more carefully and make up your mind and we will talk later.”
“My mind has been made, even before I sat my final exams, it is you who are still to decide,” his lawfully wedded wife had texted.
From this conversation, things began to change drastically for Mapiye. He began to face the tuneless music of estrangement. Even his two minor children were not coming back. The only possible reunion would happen the way his wife desired.
Mapiye felt frailty creeping on him as the world around him crumbled. It was through his blessing that his wife had flown to London to study. He had given her the blessings, but he was receiving the curses in return.
His Sakubva house had suddenly turned into the loneliest place that could ever be. The warmth of the stained walls had suddenly disappeared. Mapiye realised that it was the count down to his family’s return that had kept the old mansion alive.
His wife’s portrait on the wall of his bedroom, his own portrait in the sitting room and various other ornaments in the house all lost their cheerful presence.
It took the bitter man four years to crawl out of the shell of emotional devastation to start entertaining the thought of remarriage.
His eyes opened to the feminine beauties that abounded in every corner he explored as a technician. A candidate did not take long to materialise.
A civil servant who had shown excessive interest in his skill kept on referring would-be clients to him each time they had problems with their vehicles.
Christine, who later on became Mrs Mapiye, ended up suggesting that in addition to running a garage, Mapiye would climb higher on the prosperity ladder if he established a filling station.
Reluctantly taken, the idea gave him a giant leap forward within six months of its implementation. Slowly, Mapiye allowed an emotional attachment to Christine to run over him and proposed marriage.
“It is not easy my friend: “Christine had responded as they drove towards Vhumba Mountains in one of their outings, “My husband is serving a life sentence for murder and I am still his wife.”
“True, true, but he will never come back and play the role of a husband again,” Mapiye had said sensibly.
“That he will never do, but I need the blessing of his family to move on and I dread asking them for such a blessing,” Christine had said.
“Why should you be made to guard the ruins of a fallen house while others move on?” Mapiye had asked.
With a few further entreaties, Christine found herself becoming Mrs Mapiye. She brought into his custody her only child with her imprisoned husband.
As the economic downturn in Zimbabwe took its toll on civil servants, Mrs Mapiye realised that she had made a sensible choice.
The education of her daughter fell into Mapiye’s hands. As her economic fortunes diminished, Mapiye’s business flourished. Mapiye saw Melissa through high school and University until she graduated as best student in Computer Science and Information Technology.
She was immediately employed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe upon graduation.
Within twenty-four months, Melissa had landed a lucrative post in Australia and bought her mother a house in Murambi Gardens as a birthday present.
Mapiye was not in any way inclined towards leaving his Sakubva House to go and live in a house bought by a stepdaughter and registered in his wife’s name. He took it as some form of emasculation.
An emotional crisis raged in his mind like a tidal current. Nobody recognised him after all. For all he had done for Melissa, she had registered their new home in her mother’s name.
He had lost his first family forever, and his compromise family had turned out not to be family enough.
His children with his first wife had invested back home and their mother would soon return home to start a hotel and catering business as his two sons had had three five star buildings erected for that purpose back home.
His only child with his second wife would definitely follow his half sister’s and half brothers’ example! Mapiye could feel his entire system groaning with the pain of being neglected.
Something nearly exploded in him like what happens when thunder clouds meet as he conversed with his wife on the issue of relocating to Murambi Gardens. He managed, with excruciating pain, to keep his calm until his wife’s temper detonated.
“My Dear,” he said to his wife, “We will stay in this house. Let the house earn money for us. There are these multinational companies that rent full houses for their top management.”
“Why should we remain trapped in this dirty location, if we have a house in an upmarket suburb?”
A quarrel ensued, with Mrs Mapiye grudgingly agreeing to stay in Sakubva at the end.
It was not long after their altercation that tragedy struck. The usual cheerfulness had returned to Mrs Mapiye’s face. The relief of her regained cheerfulness began to flow with Mapiye’s blood. He had finally stopped lamenting the demise of his first marriage.
On a fateful day Mapiye had had breakfast with his wife in their sitting room as usual. Mrs Mapiye had left earlier for work, again as usual.
Mapiye never left the sitting room after breakfast on that occasion.
His neighbour, who had come to check on him before going to work saw him sitting on the same chair, his lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling.
The neighbourhood immediately called the police, who later informed his wife.
The police forensic unit carried out the necessary investigations and ruled out foul play. Two months after Mapiye’s burial, his wife moved into her Murambi Gardens house.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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