The aroma of washing powder jetted into his lungs as his mind transported him into the past
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
The image of the caked bed of a dry pool was foregrounded in Deke’s thoughts. The long profile of a river that meandered round hills, mountains and other lofty drylands gravitating towards the now lifeless pool had succumbed to the implacable succession of dry seasons that had spanned four years.
Deke’s intimacy with the river had been fuelled by the whiteness of the froth that characterised its course because of the rocks on its bed.
The young man had come down to Vhumisai Village to spend a week with Uncle Victor and Aunt Ruramai before taking up a teaching post at a reputable mission boarding school in Mutasa District.
The horror he saw when he went down the once perennial river had had an adverse effect on his mind.
The dry river bed was strewn with carcasses and fleshless remains of animals of various sizes.
The day before his departure for Mutasa he decided to go down the river once more, although something within him seemed to tell him that his attachment to the river’s stinking dryness was a way of keeping old wounds fresh.
When Deke came to his favourite spot, he sat on a rock facing the sandy dryness that tortured his emotions.
Despite the death that surrounded him, something that had long died in him was suddenly alive again.
He closed his eyes for a short moment and when he reopened them, the pool was alive before him, its frothful water swirling as though an invisible force was stirring the water from beneath.
The aroma of washing powder jetted into his lungs as his mind transported him into the past.
Suddenly, Sharon was with him once again and he was proposing love to her as she knelt on the rock doing her laundry.
“Love cannot be rushed,” Sharon said, “You want your answer here and now, but I have to learn your words first, then confirm if you and your words are one and the same person and my answer will be as good as your heart may desire.”
“Do not torture me with hope; if I can get my answer today, comfort will return to my nights…”
“I wonder whether being in love and living in comfort go together. Only those struggling to fall into love’s trap believe in its pleasures. No, I cannot avoid it, but when I settle for it, I will allow soberness to prevail. When you have found love, you have not necessarily discovered your way to Heaven; it may actually be a way to hell, considering the endless cases of domestic violence,” Sharon said.
A small branch, shaken by a bird, broke from a tree towering behind the would be love birds and landed on Sharon’s shoulder. Not knowing what was happening, Sharon’s heart skipped a beat or two. Rising to her feet to get out of harm’s way, she missed her footing and plunged into the pool. Deke dived behind her, got hold of her arm and dragged her to safety. The water only rose up to Deke’s waist, but was deep enough to drown a panicking girl.
“Thank you Deke,” Sharon gasped her gratitude as she lay on a grassy patch of the river bank.
Deke allowed his caution to desert him and cajoled the girl into being intimate with him, and when the act was over, Sharon simply said, “This is unfair.”
With tears on her cheeks she finished doing her laundry while Deke watched. She never said another word, and neither could Deke say anything.
Now five years down the line, he had never met her again. His secret discomfort had become unbearable. He had left Vhumisai Village a week after ravishing Sharon to start his studies at the University of Zimbabwe.
Sharon had written him a letter two months down the line, telling him that she had fallen pregnant but was not prepared to marry him. She would have to continue with school instead. After all she despised him for behaving like a love predator.
After reading that letter, Deke never visited Vhumisai Village again. What he had done that afternoon was like a desecration of the land. He spent his semester breaks in Muromo Resettlement Area at his father’s homestead.
The memory of that letter tormented Deke more than his amoral behaviour on the fateful day. A woman’s pride does not always desert her, even after being abused. If his exercise of male potency had cheapened Sharon, her position after falling pregnant had cheapened him more.
Her letter had taken away from him the confidence to propose to a woman again. He had let slip all the beauties that had crossed his eye all the four years he was at university.
Thoughts of the dawn of a new life as a certified graduate teacher brought back the sweltering dryness that surrounded him. He left the place with a heavy heart.
Sharon had long left the neighbourhood to study computer programming with Masvingo Polytechnic, hundreds of kilometres away, but why waste a thought on Sharon whom he had lost on the day he had undermined her right to hold back her consent?
Deke finally bade farewell to his uncle and aunt and hoped he would never obsess his thoughts with closed chapters again.
The young graduate teacher settled at his new station on a Saturday morning to be fresh for the new week.
As he passed his day at the sports fields, his attention was swept away by six boys aged about four or five playing football. One of the boys was exceptionally agile and each time he demonstrated his skills, the others shouted, “Pele!”
The boy lingered in his mind longer than he had imagined, until he fell asleep.
The following day the school Head knocked early at his door. “We are shifting you to another house. There, the rooms are larger and all the electric sockets are in working order, but you are still going to share the house with another family,” the Head said.
“No problem Sir,” the new teacher responded.
The Head led Deke to his new house. When the elderly man knocked at the door, the young football wizard opened the door. Behind him was his mother, an extremely beautiful woman of about twenty-four.
“Ms Mapinga, I’m glad to introduce Mr Deke to you. You will be sharing accommodation with him, ” the Head said. Ms Mapinga’s eyes blushed as they met Deke’s.
The Head showed Deke his rooms and left. “Take a seat Mr Deke,” Ms Mapinga said, directing Deke towards an empty sofa.
Deke’s muscles froze as his eyes met the woman’s again. He wanted to bolt out of the house, but allowed his sanity to prevail. Why had things happened the way they had? Why should he be Sharon’s prisoner? He had never heard the name Mapinga, but the woman sitting right in front of him was Sharon.
“I know what’s worrying you Deke. Everything happens for a purpose,” Sharon said expressively. “We have to learn to be together again. I do not know how we are going to manage it.”
“I’m sorry Sharon,” Deke said with a trembling voice.
“An apology hastily expressed is not good for your heart, ” Sharon said, her unblinking eyes scanning the new teacher’s face.
“I do not know what to do now, ” Deke said, remembering how easy it had been to walk into the house, but now considering how difficult it ought to be to simply walk out.
“So you expect me to know what to do? The boy playing in the corner there is our son. What will I say to him?”
“Time will lead us, I think,” Deke said, hardly convinced by what he said.
“Maybe the best way to begin is to tell each other our separate stories. I’m the school’s software technician…”
By the time Sharon finished narrating her story, Deke had decided that he would never let her go again, but he needed to give her a chance to make up her mind.
Nhamo Muchagumisa, Zimbabwe
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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