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Touch Not The Sore Spot

So he walked away, never looking back, a deep  footprint foregrounded in his mind By Nhamo Muchagumisa The crumbling walls of the old homestead felt more alive than they used to when the place was in one piece. Chamada felt his attachment to the ruined place strike a deep and sore spot in his heart. He had come down from the city for a brief inspection of his old home, now that his parents had bought immovable property in a different rural location and relocated to his new farm homestead with the entire family. The debris from the ruined walls, the weeds that made a colony of the entire place and the rusty buckets, pots, broken china plates and cups, had turned the place to a site of archaeological interest, and he was the archaeologist. He had come down for a last view of his old home as he was getting into a new life.

So he walked away, never looking back, a deep  footprint foregrounded in his mind

By Nhamo Muchagumisa

The crumbling walls of the old homestead felt more alive than they used to when the place was in one piece.

Chamada felt his attachment to the ruined place strike a deep and sore spot in his heart.

He had come down from the city for a brief inspection of his old home, now that his parents had bought immovable property in a different rural location and relocated to his new farm homestead with the entire family.

The debris from the ruined walls, the weeds that made a colony of the entire place and the rusty buckets, pots, broken china plates and cups, had turned the place to a site of archaeological interest, and he was the archaeologist.

He had come down for a last view of his old home as he was getting into a new life. Chama continued his inspection, but he began to feel discouraged by the heat of the mid morning sun which was somehow on the severe side.

The young man raised his face to look at the naked sky, and a deep sense of vulnerability assailed his heart, how exposed he felt to the perils that normally awaited returnees like him, and to make him feel worse he realised that the prelude to all the possible blunders one could imagine was already in place.

 

 

“Time I should find my way back to the bus station,” Chama  told himself, but a sudden gust of wind   seemed to breathe more life into the piles of broken stones and bricks and into the cracks of the desolate walls.

Suddenly, he realised that he had not visited the pitch tree under which his little sisters would play house.

He walked the fifty metres towards the fruit tree whose top had turned into a colossal canopy of branches, twigs and green leaves.

The aroma of rotting pitches that littered the ground under the canopy of the tree sailed through his nostrils.

Nobody seemed to visit this place any more, but as he entered the shade of the pitch tree, a deep footprint under the tree met his eye.

Clearly marked in the caked earth, the footmark was the only evidence of human involvement within the vicinity of the wasteland of a deserted home.

 

 

Chama looked around for more footmarks, but there was no other footmark. What could this possibly mean.

Chama was most certainly hallucinating and it was time he should get the bus back to the city. So he walked away, never looking back, a deep  footprint foregrounded in his mind.

Chama had gone to study abroad and was back in his home country after spending three years in a foreign land.

It was on his return that he had to  embrace two irreversible changes, his family’s relocation, and Mectilda’s marriage to his old friend.

She had decided that she could not wait any longer for a man who had possibly decided to settle forever in a foreign land.

There is no sweetness that ends in sweetness. Mectilda had made Chama the centre of her personal universe.

Within the shadow of her young lover, she had had no horizons to watch because there was totally nothing of heart’s interest outside the confines of his shadow.

The memory of Mectilda holding on to him for thirty minutes, weeping on his shoulder on the day he took the flight became very much alive again in his memory as he walked away from the ruins.

 

 

His parents had been expecting him home that weekend, but he had decided to visit the home he had known.

His experience of the new family home upon his return and a few other weekends could not exactly be counted as a disappointment, but he needed to visit the old homestead to collect his heart and  possibly move on, but the sight of the footprint in the fringes of the broken homestead meant one new thing to him, that his attachment to the desolate homestead would hold on until he discovered whose footprint it was.

Was he not fantasising?

Anyone who knew nothing about his betrayal by Mectilda would consider him a lucky young man, getting a well paid job two months after his return from abroad, while other graduates forgot about their paper qualifications and turned to venting and gold panning.

Yet to Chama, his lucrative employment meant nothing without Mectilda’s love, without him being called the father of Mectilda’s children.

Sometimes when a return to soberness challenged his mind he would ask himself what emotional gain  could be obtained from holding on to Mectilda’s ghost while not even a shadow of his image still featured in Mectilda’s life.

 

 

A few metres away from the bus station, Chamada made a u-turn and started walking back to the ruins of his old home, oblivious of the declining sun.

He wanted to have a last look at the solitary footprint, take a photo of it and print a hard copy. “Am I not turning insane?” Chama asked himself as he increased his pace.

“Why are there no other footprints around the old homestead, despite there being a countless hoof marks and various other marks all around the ghost of his old home.

Back under the canopy of the pitch tree, Chama saw no footmark on the ground. All the other marks he had seen before were in place,  but he wondered what mysterious force had effaced the place of the footprint.

Now he was certain that he had been hallucinating. Then a gentle cough drew his attention towards the wreck of the old family house.

 

 

He walked slowly and discreetly towards the ruins of the old building, as if afraid that the person within the walls of the roofless structure might evaporate at the sound of the approach of an intruder.

Chama began an avid search for the person who had coughed, and for a moment there was a roof above him and he was in the comfort of his real home.

He continued his search, the mystery of the footprint temporarily forgotten.

The presence of the empty sky above his head returned to his senses as he entered his old bedroom. The figure of a young woman, staring through an opening where a window once was,  greeted his eye.

A sudden stiffness in his muscles brought  him to a sudden aching halt. The woman slowly turned to check who it was that had had the audacity to invade her privacy.

A familiar beautiful face met his. Although he could not immediately place a name to it, the face seemed to have registered an old familiarity in his own and on it sat an expression that seemed to say, “I have found you at last.”

A word formed on the young woman’s lips and, “Charmer,” the word came out. Only one person pronounced his name in that manner. “Monalissa,” Chama responded, almost involuntarily.

“What are you doing here?” Mona asked. “I should ask you the same,” Chama said.

 

 

Monalissa was a girl he had delighted in ignoring when he was in high school. While he and Mectilda were in the same stream, Mona was two streams behind them.

Mectilda had sat like a gigantic bush at the centre of his heart, choking Monalissa out despite all her efforts to draw his attention.

“My father has acquired this place from the village head and has decided to build a new home here, so that in his imminent retirement, he would relocate here and let the city house to tenants to augment his retirement benefits.”

“That makes sense,” Chama said, realising that his real home was lost forever. “I may not have the chance to enjoy the new place because… you are getting married,” Chama hazarded.

“Because I am taking up a new post at Firebrand Motors as a secretary this coming Monday, so most of my time will  be in the city,” explained Mona. “Firebrand Motors is very close to where I work. I am chief architect at SkyView  Constructions,” Chama said, excited.

 

 

They might easily have met in the city, but they had met here, the place that meant dusk to him and sunrise to her. A new road formed in Chama’s mind, but he could not easily say where it was talking him.

“I may never have the chance to say this if I don’t say it now, but if I say I love you, will you marry me?” Chama said, surprised by the sense of urgency in his voice.

“And if I don’t ask this question now, I may never ask it again. If you marry me, will you allow your past not to steal your attention from me?” Mona said. “I have no more past, only a future to think about.”

Chama and Mona fell into each other’s arms as the sun sank behind the western mountains.

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: muchagumisan@gmail.com

 

 

 

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