Mai Mwaita was exasperated by the indiscipline exhibited by Ginger, their dog. Afterall it was lying on its master’s mattress
Mrs Mwaita’s impending widow status could no longer be controverted, even by the faintest hope. The medical practitioners at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital had consigned her husband to home-based care. Mrs Mwaita carried out her nursing duties as religiously as she had spelt out her vows at their wedding ceremony.
The devoted wife did not waste time scanning what her future without a husband would be like. She would have to start living that life on the day her husband’s last breath surrendered him to his departed forebears, known and unknown.
The life she had shared with her husband, did not however spare her thoughts.
She had emotionally neglected him, although she had never denied him his bedroom rights.
Her biggest mistake was to think that the life of a relationship largely depended on spending nights together.
The children he had given her were hardly to blame for the decline in the intimacy of their relationship because he had employed two maids to help around the house once the second child was born.
Was it the house he had bought that stole her heart from him? But again the maids kept all the seven rooms clean except one.
Now Mwaita was dying in the tranquil environment of their house, the only place in which he and his wife were truly one. She remembered how she despised his idea that outdoor company was the best, asking her to go places with him. “Is it not wastage of fuel, my Dear. Am I less yours in this beautiful house than I would be out there?” she would say.
“Open air company will keep us young my dear,” he would say, but he finally gave up on it.
Wishing she could turn back the years, Mrs Mwaita allowed her tears to burn her pillow every night. She wondered how she had managed to organise women’s parties to uttermost perfection while she denied her husband the opportunity to love her the way he proposed.
Night time gave her a break from the visitors who regularly came to enquire about her husband’s condition. Apart from that, the night was to her an endless stressful journey.
Mwaita’s portrait on the wall became more and more alive as death hovered a few metres above his frail body.
Each time she lay in bed and her husband on the floor as the doctor had recommended, she always felt that there was more life in the bedroom than the lives of two people.
Even with the bedroom light off, the portrait on the wall seemed ominously alive. Taking it down was no option because she was not sure if the remainder of his life was not hanging on it.
On the other hand, the only sign of endurance in her husband was his laboured breath.
He was only able to speak at very distant intervals. Every night he only managed a good night through a lungful of excruciating pain which always sounded like a farewell message.
Having asked for indefinite leave from her employer to look after her husband, Mrs Mwaita had temporary severed her housemaid’s services. She could manage her house, husband and the three children on her own.
She had more access to his smartphone, paying bills through his Eco Cash account. One day as she went through his folders, she stumbled upon a safe folder that required a password to access the files. She just tried the year he was born, 1986 and a countless files stared her in the eye .
She did not know whether she should poison his porridge, scald him with boiling cooking oil, or smash his head with a concrete block. The folder was a narrative of his romantic relationship with one of her maids who had served her six years before. His love seemed to have transported her into another world.
The most nauseating of the photos was the one she seemed to have frozen in his arms, yet the smile on her face proclaimed how alive she was. Videos of the couple dancing to some baroque music in lower Vhumba Gardens also gave her a migraine headache.
How could she ask him while he was dying? It was unfair of him to die now and give her no chance to ask. He did not die, and his portrait on the wall made her nights more troublesome than thoughts of his clandestine relationship with Mable.
About a week after the discovery of his past depravity, she began to seriously consider conducting his kith and kin so that at least those who were free might come to share her burden.
Before she made the move, she decided to first give him his usual morning bath.
She had put a thin mattress on the verandah porch where she wanted him to have a breath of fresh air for half an before taking him back into the house.
As she led him by the arm back to the verandah porch, Mrs Mwaita was surprised with the precision with which his footfalls landed on the carpeted floor and the ease with which he seemed to be breathing. Was her husband regaining his health or she was merely dreaming?
Husband and wife passed the sitting room, exited the house and came to the verandah porch. Mrs Mwaita was exasperated by the indiscipline exhibited by Ginger, their dog. The pet was lying on his master’s mattress.
“Ginger!” Mrs Mwaita shouted, but the dog replied with groans of unprecedented agony.
As the dog was dying. Life seemed to be regaining root in Mwaita’s emaciated body.
The sick man could now stand without support, watching his dog dying. He said nothing until the dog died.
“Ginger was such a fine pet,” Mwaita finally said.
Mrs Mwaita was frightened. She did not know whether to rejoice or simply keep calm as the whole thing might be a dream. Mwaita sat on a chair and asked, “For how long had Ginger been sick?”
Mrs Mwaita did not answer. Was it her turn to reveal to him that she had discovered the obscenities of his secret life?
It was only five days down the line that she tried to access the files but the device shut down as she fumbled with the keys.
It could not recharge afterwards, and three technicians declared it a write off. Meanwhile, Mwaita was going to resume work in two weeks 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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