Checking endlessly on her WhatsApp account blew red pepper dust into his eyes
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
The deserted homestead felt more alive at sunset than in the afternoon. A replay of the life Manyadze had lived within the cheerless walls seemed to be going on in there, the intimacy of disembodied spirits in the ruins of wasted time.
Yes, Chengetai had crossed the Limpopo and left his children with her parents in the same village. She would rather be alone in a foreign land than in a family house. Or perhaps she was not alone anymore. Someone had assisted her to skip the border, possibly to start a new life with her.
Nobody had told him anything to that effect and asking would make him feel worse.
Manyadze had created a good reputation for himself and allowed it to swallow him up.
It all started when he had earned a building contract in Sabi Drift and the work of his hand had stolen the attention of those who wished to build new houses or to improve old ones.
He literally relocated from Mavangwe to Sabi Drift, where he gained contract after contract. His wife refused to come down with him to Sabi Drift because she would not leave her house falling to ruins while other people’s houses were going up.
Settling in Sabi Drift was not a problem for Manyadze. A family that lived in South Africa most of the times gave him accommodation for his benefit and for the safety of their movable property.
It was only the loneliness of living without his family that cast a dark shadow on the landscape of Manyadze’s building career.
Manyadze did not confine his physical well being to building houses. If anybody offered him a task that demanded the effort of his muscles, he never declined the offer. In addition to earning a quick dollar out of the tasks some people would consider ignoble, Manyadze endeared himself to the entire community for putting his body, mind and soul in whatever he did.
One morning, a woman who was settling in the village came to him, asking for his assistance in erecting a garden fence where she was staying.
“I have been referred to you by my new neighbour. I hope I am not disturbing,” the woman said.
Manyadze took a quick glance at the rising sun, a massive gold disk, floating an inch above an eastern mountain range. Next, he looked at the young woman before him and wondered if she was a daughter of the climbing sun!
“I need to check the size of the task first before I say yes,” Manyadze said, going back into the house to change into better clothes.
A voice deep within him encouraged him to be polite, then urged him to say no afterwards. An abrupt no was always unwelcome, but in the end Manyadze proved not only to be polite, but also kind and co-operative. His response was not only affirmative, but also determined. After all, the person who had recommended him had elected him out of many other eligible candidates.
The following day Manyadze went out to cut logs and tree branches to start building the fence. He was amazed when Mavis, the young woman, said she would help pulling the thorny branches to the garden site. Each time she rested, panting, Manyadze tried to look into the woman beneath the perspiring face. He needed to know the person beneath the heaving chest.
Each time he hefted a log onto his shoulder, he asked himself why the woman had come all the way from Dorowa to live alone in another family’s house.
In conclusion he said to himself, “Let me finish my job and forget everything. In life you meet people whose characters are shrouded in mystery, and you find yourself trying to dig into their personalities, yet you have not yet learnt how to answer questions about your own life.”
Before the fencing project was over, a relationship had developed between Manyadze and Mavis. All the desire to know more about Mavis shrank from Manyadze’s thoughts as something began to flourish in his heart, growing luxuriantly like a bush on a perennial waterway.
Lonely thoughts about Mavangwe vanished from his mind like beads of morning dew at the glare of the rising sun. Manyadze was now acting in praise of his own instincts. He was spending his life in Sabi Drift and there was nothing wrong in finding joy in the same environment.
Six months after his relationship with Mavis had struck the hottest spot within his heart, Manyadze got a lucrative building contract in a neighbouring village. He borrowed a bicycle from his friend and cycled to work everyday. One day, he returned home late and cycled straight to Mavis’ place.
He leaned his friend’s bicycle on the wall of the house and knocked at the door.
His bosom mate admitted him into her bedroom for a warm night’s rest. Unknown to Manyadze another man was on his way. He never knocked at the door, but on the morrow’s dawn, Manyadze realised that his friend’s bicycle had vanished.
The owner of the bicycle was not amused to hear about his bicycle’s disappearance. Manyadze offered to compensate him within two months.
It was when Manyadze’s friend had started learning how to be friendly again that with a suddenness, that stunned Manyadze, he pounced on him and pummelled him with clenched fists, and kicked him with booted feet.
“How dare you throw my bicycle into Save River?” his friend asked as he delivered the heavy blows.
Another villager who was a fisherman, who specialised in catching fish in deep water had come across the bicycle and brought it back.
Manyadze was convinced that the person who had taken the bicycle to the river was a rival who had hopes for Mavis’ attention. He could not explain that to his friend, who had to be restrained by a neighbour who came running to Manyadze’s place when he heard the commotion.
For five days Manyadze stayed indoors, only preparing a light meal at supper time.
Manyadze could not bear the congestion in his chest. Something, however seemed to tell him that he would not die until he had suffered the full embarrassment of his situation.
Mavis had opted to keep her silence, never enquiring how he felt after being assaulted by his own friend.
Checking endlessly on her WhatsApp account blew red pepper dust into his eyes. She was online most of the time but not a single thought of hers found his inbox, even that of sympathy.
But slowly, Manyadze recovered from the agony of the assault. As he found his way around the village he could not help visiting Mavis’s place. The neighbour who had referred her to him,for the garden fence project, told him that her husband had come to collect her, and indeed collected her.
A heavy lump formed on Manyadze’s throat, and after swallowing it, he realised that Mavis’ neighbour was saying something. “The two had been married for four years and after eight months of separation they decided to reconcile. It is a weird world indeed,” the elderly woman said.
“So Mavis was married,” Manyadze said more to himself than to the woman.
“Yes, it is said he came one night, about two weeks ago, and enquired with the Dopiros who directed him to where she was living, but nobody ever saw him the following day, until he came back two days ago with more confidence to collect his wife.”
Manyadze hated her for speaking as if she was congratulating Mavis and her husband. The only sensible thing for Manyadze to do was to return to Mavangwe, to his wife and family.
So it grew darker and darker and his main house became more and more alive.
Manyadze moved into the shed where he decided to spend his night. He would confront his empty house the following day. He had not yet established whom Chengetai had left the keys with. She had most probably left them with her own parents.
As the waking world faded before his eyes, strange sounds of interaction in his bedroom permeated his senses.
He felt very much alive in his drowsiness, yet something seemed to tell him that for the remainder of his life, he would have to share his space with his disembodied ghost, and possibly Chengetai’s.
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 +263771271478 Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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