Rural poverty was a thing a lot of people endured, but it was more manageable than the life of a pushcart operator
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
Mudavose thought about his father’s homestead and a lump formed on his throat. He could visualise the weeds that surrounded the main structure, growing up to the main doorstep.
The grass-thatched kitchen hut’s roof had obviously caved in. He drew a parallel between the homestead that he saw in his mind and his physical and mental status. Was he also not falling apart?
Muda lay on the earth floor of his hovel, entertaining his thoughts, trying to figure out where life was talking him, and somehow thought he had arrived. He felt like a vessel stuck on the bed of a man-made lack, where even the driest season of all time would not create the slightest prospect of the boat’s remains being taken to a museum.
No matter how brightly every new dawn shone on his world, it lacked the capacity to free him from the manacles of the past.
He owned nothing except his destiny, which meant living a pestilential life.
He had been taught to blame himself, but self-indictment interferes greatly with one’s ability to crawl where one would not walk and to leap where there was no bridge.
He was a certified graduate teacher aged 26, but had fallen from grace three years ago. He was a victim of a honey trap that had consigned his life to the fringes of the social spectrum.
The girl whose mesmeric appeal had dragged his life into the muck had also not survived the pestilences of a shattered life.
The thought of that girl made his heart fester. But once the memory of her hit his mind, he always found himself reliving his experiences with her, without nostalgia though.
The first temptation came like Joseph’s ordeal with Pontiffer’s wife, only that his self-restraint had not landed him in jail.
Muda had sent Fatima to his base room with a pile of fifty or so books he needed to mark before the commencement of the next day, while he attended dismissal assembly. The girl had not left his office until he came from dismissal assembly, ten minutes after the last student had left campus.
“What are you still doing here? Your friends have already crossed Chikwanga Stream,” Muda asked.
“I just thought to wait for you, so that we could talk a little,” Fatima had said.
The girl had asked a few questions about the teacher’s past before leaving. Muda remembered engaging in a long debate with his conscience. He needed to be careful because Fatima was definitely after something.
The wind that had blown Fatima into his orbit had ceased once she had found her way and Muda found himself trapped in her shadow with dire consequences in the end.
Although the girl had claimed to be eighteen years old when teacher and learner turned their relationship into a purple passion romance, Muda found himself losing his job when the clandestine affair was exposed.
Now, languishing in poverty, Muda wondered whether it had been love that had made him act injudiciously when every inaudible voice within him bid him beware.
The hatred he now nursed for Fatima was five measures more intense than the love he thought he had felt for her when he let his caution slip in the instance of sweet temptation.
“If I meet her again, I will strangle her, ” he said to himself, “that way I will be vindicated.”
After losing his job he had briefly stayed at his parent’s homestead in Chikanya Village in Mushawasha East. A little gardening enabled him to obtain his basic needs. Being an orphan and an only child, the homestead was literally his. When he got paid for his leave days, Muda left his rural home to try his fortunes in Masvingo.
He bought a pushcart and started operating at Mucheke bus terminus, helping the travelling public to carry their goods to desired points around the bus terminus.
His home was one of the shacks on the bank of Mucheke River, facing the bus terminus. Nine other young men in his trade had also erected wooden cabins with plastic roofs at the same place. They knew that they were living at the mercy of the city council, but they had to live.
After living in squalor for three years, Muda was seriously considering if he should relocate to his father’s homestead. Rural poverty was a thing a lot of people endured, but it was more manageable than the life he had forced himself to live in order to collect a few coins from clients who preferred to carry their own goods.
Whenever he thought of marriage, bile crept into his mouth, and suddenly Fatima’s image was foregrounded in his mind, not because he missed her, but because she was the girl that had made him consider marriage irrelevant.
Another woman in his life would be a second fall, though given his condition he did not have far to fall.
As midnight approached, Muda’s tired eyes finally closed and he fell asleep, but at around four in the morning, he was awake again. He had a terrible headache.
It felt like a herd of elephants were dancing in his head, grinding his brain matter to pulp.
As the pain grew worse, he heard the gentle tread of someone walking towards the only entrance into his shack. The reed door opened slowly.
“Hey, Raphael, won’t you allow me one more hour of rest?” he shouted, “For how long do I have to tell you that I have stopped smoking?”
Raphael did not enter the shack, but in the quasi morning darkness, he could make out the figure of a woman in a red dress, a white handbag slung over her shoulder, standing on the doorway.
“Hello Muda, your Fatima is here,” the woman said with the same confidence that had brought about his downfall three years before.
“Fatima, leave this place before I strangle you,” Muda growled.
“You know too well Muda that you cannot do that.”
Fatima told him of how her uncle had stopped funding her education soon after Muda had lost his job, how she had gone to live with her sister and her husband in Machitenda Village, and how her brother-in-law had attempted to rape her two days ago.
“I knew that telling my sister the story would be asking for more trouble. I decided to leave.”
“So you have come to the right place?” Muda wondered.
“Maybe to the right person. We need to rebuild our lives, but not in this place. We will go to your rural home and start from there.”
Muda rose to his feet with the intention to push the girl out, but only found himself falling into her embrace.
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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