Be happy for me

I am in love
Don’t ask with who
It could be with your father
And you wouldn’t like it
So just be happy for me
That I am in love.

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Picking Old Wounds

Once in a while a song comes along

To undo the healing of this heart of mine

 

A song that tramples on the budding foliage of hope

Quashes the fragile roots of repair

 

A song that unpicks the scab from a healing heart ,

To leave it gashing with raw pain

 

A song that conspires with the Gods

To torment my soul

 

A song that exhumes the dead and buried from within

And cracks a whip across the heart

 

A song that cuts deep.to the memories buried

To lay bare the pain and betrayal

 

Oh what is life when the heart bleeds again

What is life when healing is in vain

Final conversation 

It is a Saturday morning and the washing needs to be done, the house needs cleaning too. It is something that has to happen every weekend after a long gruelling week at work. Since Sandy left I have to do it myself. I cannot afford to replace her. Today is one of those days when I wish I had a better job. I lie in bed thinking how different things might have been. My mind wanders and I allow it to float to a time and place when this house was a home. A time when cleaning was a joy, not the chore it is now. 
I need every excuse in the book to stay in bed. I have done this for months. The washing is piling up. The house has not been swept for weeks. The phone rings, interrupting my sojourn into a make-believe world. It is Lacey my friend for work. “Can I come over to pick my scarf later?” I quickly offer to drop it off on my way to see someone. “Are you sure, I am not putting you out of your way, am I?” “No …no it’s okay seriously.” I say this with convincing emphasis; she quickly thanks me and hangs up the phone. Of course I am not seeing anyone. I had no plans to see anyone. I have no plans to leave the house at all. In fact I have not left the house for 3 weekends in a row. I just do not want her to see the mess that I and my house are in.

I roll over to face away from the streaming daylight. It is shaping up to be a beautiful day. The sky is a blue with not a cloud in sight, but I do not really care. I slide my phone in its place under the pillow, not before turning down the volume. I am no expecting any calls today. I close my eyes and for the longest time allow myself to stop thinking. I ignore the images forming behind my closed eyes. I squeeze my eyes firmly shut until they hurt. The images go away only to be replaced by more. The laundry fleets by, so does the sink piled high with dishes and my clothes strewn all over the house like a hurricane had torn through the house. I am not fazed. Slowly I drift off to sleep. My last conscious act was to curl up like a foetus and cover myself head to toe under the 13tog quilt he bought for me.My last conscious act before the hauntingly familiar dream.

There is awkwardness between us today. You will not sit next to me. “I need to know.” You evasively ask me “What’s there to know? I am alright.” But that is a lie and I know it. You were always a bad liar. “Look at me and tell me you still love me.” I ask you. You walk to the window but say nothing. The air between us grows thicker by the second.
This dream I have had for weeks now. I seem to know it by heart. There is a pain that sears through my heart each time I dream. I cannot get you to say the words I need to hear. Can you not make up your mind? Is it so difficult to say “I have stopped loving you.” I can deal with that. It is strange that I want to hear such painful words. It’s the catharsis I guess. Sometimes the blood- letting heals the spirit. And that’s what I want.

Why can you not say it? Is it because you are afraid to close the door on us? Because you want to come back in, when it gets cold out there, like you have done so many times before? You take my heart for granted. I have always allowed you to woe me back, teased you a little while deep down I was so happy to see you back. I was secretly elated that you went away, you found the world impossible even hostile and cold without me so you came back! I felt indispensable and inside I gloated, when the girls you left me for cried into their pillows.
I do not love you as I used to. I just want you to admit it’s over. I want you to leave for good because I cannot trust myself not to open the door for you again if you wandered back. Just say the words. There is a bag under the bed. It won’t take long to pack your clothes. Just say the words. Damn…

There is a loud knock on my window. It startles me. I glance at the clock next to my bed. It is midday. With a groan I walk to the window, it’s my friend she came for her scarf after all. What could be so bloody special about a scarf! I am angry with her for interrupting my dream. I was nearly there. You nearly told me what I want to hear.
Damn her….!
 

Emma

She sat alone, cross-legged under the shade of the thatched hut, shielding herself from the searing mid-afternoon heat. She took her doek off and ran her fingers through her hair, scratching her dry scalp. A fine dust of dandruff wafted into the dry air. She patted her head to calm the itch and made a mental note to find time to wash her hair.The mid-summer sun – threatened to singe everything in its wake. The man with the smooth voice on radio said that it would rain soon. Her husband’s old grandmother did not think so. Emma was inclined to believe her. After all she was wise and had she not been right last year and the year before that? Emma gazed with squinted eyes into the distance and could see the sun’s rays shimmering in the distance. The scotched barren unyielding land stretching before her had long since stopped feeding her people. She longed for a cold coke to quench her thirst. She could not remember the last time she had a coke. She licked her chapped lips with longing. The air was dry and humid. The chickens wandering in the dirt felt the heat too. They fluffed their feathers in an attempt to cool themselves down. The two black emaciated Dobermans, her husband had been given by his brother for protection lay next to her, tongues lolling like rag dolls from the mouths. The once navy blue now grey- from too-many-washes top she wore was drenched in sweat. She could feel the sweat dripping down her back into the hem of her skirt.

She gazed down at her protruding belly. Her thin faded top stretched tightly over it. Soon she thought ruefully she would have to let the seams out. The brown skirt she wore matched the colour of the earth she sat on. It stopped just shy of her gnarled knees, exposing her legs, which desperately needed moisturising. Her eyes travelled down to her bare cracked feet. She had to walk bare foot around the house, to save the one pair of shoes she had for Church and for when she went to the hospital. Child number three was on its way. Not for the first time she felt the tears welling in the back of her eyes. She had told herself after the first two, ’Never again.’, yet here she was, pregnant again. How could she leave now? Who would have her with three children? Her late father’s brother would not have it. After all her husband had paid lobola and had not once laid a finger on her. What excuse would she give for leaving her marital home? Babamunini Tonde would send her right back.

Once upon a time she had dreams. She was in school. She was ‘a promising student.’ That is what the teachers wrote on her report card. She wanted to make her mother proud. Then her mother died, followed immediately by her father. They buried them next to each other, on a very wet stormy November afternoon. Numb and in shock she had watched as the coffins where lowered one after the other into waterlogged graves. With a handful of mud she had bid them both good – bye. It was all very surreal, but the whispers echoed in her ears. They said it was AIDS. People stopped talking when she approached and looked at her with sad pitiful eyes. Some wailed as if it was their mother and father that died,then sat down to eat ,laugh and drink like nothing had happened. The stream of mourners soon died down. For weeks after she could not enter her parents’ bedroom without breaking down. She missed them so much. Everyone departed except her Grandmother. Uncle Tonde made arrangements to vacate her late parents lodgings in the City and move Emma and her brother to the Rural home with Grandmother. She and her brother where enrolled at the old Missionary school 3km from home.

Three kilometres to and from school every day, come rain or shine. Her feet ached. Her shoes had holes. Her father’s terminal benefits never came. Grandmother did the best she could for them. Then she met him. It started with an offer of a lift to school. He was a teacher at the nearby Primary school. He seemed genuinely interested when she poured her heart out to him about her parents and her new not so enviable life in the rural area. He said, “I will look after you.”Then he put his hand on her knee, squeezed it gently in sympathy (or so she thought) and kept it there for the rest of the drive to school.

Things moved quickly from there and soon without even asking her he was driving off the dirt road that led to school, parking well away from the road, behind some bushes and fumbling hurriedly at her skirt in the back of his battered Mazda323. He lowered his trousers down to his bony ankles. He huffed and groaned while she struggled for air beneath his huge belly. She could feel the wires in the old seat poking her in the back. The old car rocked up and down as he pumped away mercilessly at her, with part of his naked body sticking outside the open back door. The whole business took less than two minutes. She knew this because the man with the smooth voice would still be giving the 5 minute weather report on the car radio when his body shuddered and stopped moving.

When he finished he would always smile down at her and rub his face in a mock kiss on the side of her face. She couldn’t help but notice what bad, yellow rotten teeth he had. He would crawl from on top of her, making sure not to hit his balding head on the roof of the car. Then he would turn away from her and quickly pull his trousers up before walking a few paces to a nearby bush to pee. He scratched his buttocks as he watched his own thin stream finally trickle onto his shoes. She would get up,pull her knickers up over her wet centre and rub down her crumpled skirt and wish she was somewhere else. It was like a ritual. He would put his jacket on top of his sweaty shirt, adjust his mis-matched tie and drive back to the dirt road. The rest of the drive to school was in silence. The mixture of his sweat, halitosis and sex odour made her sick and she would open the window slightly for some fresh air. She wanted to say no but the thought of walking three km to school and back was too much. She planned on dumping him once she finished her examinations.

Her thoughts drifted off to the day she told him she was pregnant. He nearly drove into an oncoming bus. The shock soon turned to rage. “It can’t be me.’’ he said. Emma packed her bags that night, left a note for her grandmother and presented herself at the teacher’s house a few villages away from her own. Not wanting to lose his job Remias had quickly and quietly married her during the school holidays. His wife just as quickly packed her bags and left. He was attentive and treated her like a Queen until she gave birth. Then Remias moved to another school far away. For three years now she has lived with Remias’s mother and Grandmother. Occasionally he comes home, mostly at the bidding of his mother. It was during these rare visits she has found herself pregnant two more times! She had been meaning to go to the clinic for some contraceptive pills. The rest is history as they say. A thin smile laced with self-pity creased her face.

While her friends sat for their last O –level paper she was pushing out her first child. Before they finished their A-Levels she was popping out another. That one nearly killed her. Breech, they said. The Doctor had looked at her and said, ‘No more children.’ while the sully midwife looked at her with disdain. Next year Rosemary, her one time best friend will be Twenty and at University while she would be twenty in the labour ward ….again.

Two large tears formed in her eyes and ran like a fast flowing river down her cheeks. Two large tears fell like huge rain drops onto the patched earth. Her body went into spasms as she cried and writhed in the dirt for what seemed like an eternity. The two Dobermans startled by her sobbing scurried away. It was then she made up her mind. ‘I am only 19, just n-i-n-e-t-e-e-n!’ She repeated to herself as if only realising for the first time how much time she still has left on earth if she lived to be as old as her Grandmother. It struck her with horror that she had started to sit in the dirt like her grandmother, walk with her arms crossed on her back like her grandmother and tie her doek like her grandmother! She even bathed once a week like her husband’s grandmother. With that her tears stopped and she got up abruptly from the dirt like she had been stung by a bee, dusted herself up and walked with a new found determination to her bedroom.

Emma packed her bags. Thankfully she didn’t have much. At dusk the next day she left a note for her mother-in –law. With one child on her back and another tittering next to her she hauled the one bag with her worldly possessions on her head and retraced her foot steps back to her Grandmother’s compound.

That was six years ago. Now three children later at 26, and studying to be a nurse, Remias and what he put her through a distant memory. Oh she has seen him a few times. He is old and crumbling like an old house. Emma is finally happy. Her Grandmother can’t help showing her off to her village folks. Emma looks up to the sky and smiles. ‘Thank you mom and dad. It was not easy but I am getting there’, she whispers the wind, before joining her three children as they play hide and seek around Grandmother’s compound.

 

 absent friends.

   
 
We grew up in an era when it was possible to dream of romance. We spent hours squatting behind the house basking in the sun imagining a Romeo, a big wedding and the happy patter of feet running around the yard. We all imagined a perfect house in a perfect neighbourhood. It was the era of a fledgling newly independent Zimbabwe. Independence had made it okay to dream.
Little did we know that in the horizon a slow burning fuse had been lit and soon the dynamite would explode right in the path of our dreams, decimating all that we ever dreamt of. Some said the Americans where to blame, others said ask Freddy Mercury and Gay people ,while others said the monkeys in the Congo did it.

First Fortu’s brother died. He didn’t just drop dead. His death was lingering. It plucked him like a chicken, said my father who loved figurative speech. The strapping heartthrob we lusted after while growing up was reduced to a bag of bones. His skin hang over his skeleton like the thin black cloth that covered the visible man in the biology laboratory at school. His face was gaunt and his teeth  appeared suddenly too big for his mouth. His pale haunted eyes hang loose in their sockets. He spent his last agonising days between hospital, where a gaggle of witches dressed as nurses “looked after” him, and the back room of his mother’s house curled up in ball like a helpless foetus. Sometimes his father carried him out to the veranda where he lay on a pile of blankets,Staring into space and surrounded by the stench of death and urine. 

A constant stream of visitors came to pray, or gauk . A few turned their noses up and whispered in hushed tones. Gilbert, Gidza to his friends, died early one summer evening after two years of humiliating pain. His mother emerged from the back room, her face contorted with pain. She didn’t cry, just crumpled in a heap at the door and groaned like a wounded animal. She was never the same. They had to prise his father from Gidza’s lifeless body . I remember  how there was not a dry eye in the yard. Word went round and people flocked. There was wailing, singing and one or two fainted.

 His burial was somber, a chilling precursor to many more trips to Bristol Road cemetery and others. I cried for days but bizzarely felt happy that he was gone and no longer in pain. He was not to be the last . His pain, the bouts of vomiting,diarrhoea and drastic weight loss was to be replicated like a fashion in many homes.

The scourge swept through the suburbs rich and poor buried young men and women. Little mounds of earth sprouted like anthills behind every homestead, with bodies of loved ones interred underneath. Graveyards filled up as parents buried their children, new mothers, young fathers, some fresh from the alter. Soon funerals were the rage. A new phenomenon spread like hurricane Katrina, parents buried their children, sometimes not one or two but four or five.  A time came when you couldn’t cough  or lose weight without someone telling everyone that your death was imminent.  Young Church women became a common sight  up and down the streets, as they moved from one household to the next collecting Chema, mealie meal and vegetables to feed mourners.  We travelled  from one rural area to another, places we never knew existed to bury a colleagues. Sometimes we buried babies too. This scourge was not sparing anyone. The heart skipped a beat when you heard your ex died.

There was no shortage of the occasional squabbles and fist fights that broke out between in-laws each wanting that fridge, stove or television like it would replace the dead child.  Some only started mourning the dead after stashing the deceased’ bank books in their pockets.  Accusations and counter accusations flew, “Your daughter killed my son.” Screamed a wailing parent. “Your mother bewitched my daughter.”  Yelled another snort and tears streaming down the cheeks. Families divided in their grief. Young parents left their children at the mercy of greedy relatives. Many lustful men moved right into the deceased brother’s home and marital bed on the pretext of looking after the new widow only to have their generousity rewarded by death.

As I sit here on the polished veranda I think of beautiful ,vivacious ,intelligent and funny friends, whose lives were cruelly snuffed. That virus snatched dreams from their hand like a thief. Fortu, Mavis, Manenji,  Tapiwa, Berlin, Peshi all gone in their prime. Peshi’s beautiful sister Teri, the one with the body of a model and their brother all died within one short year. Steve died too within a week of his wife despite spending his bonus on a new cure from Kenya.  The shock paralysed both teachers and students. We cried openly at assembly. Then the nightmares begun. I stopped counting. It was too distressing. Sometimes though I wonder what became of those two beautiful children Steve left behind. I wonder about a lot things but above all I wonder if you know how much  you are missed and loved. I wonder  when a cure will be found. I wonder…

You will live in my heart forever. 

My heroes 

Teenage Love

Yes I write too much about pain and loss

But it was not always like this

We laughed too

A lot

Remember the times we bunked school?

Yes we sat in the Park all day

Feeling very satisfied with our little show of rebellion

We relished the idea of riling the adults in our lives

The adults who sought to keep us apart.

I hated school

So did you.

All we wanted was to be together

We were in such a hurry

Like the world was ending tomorrow

We even had a name chosen for our first daughter chosen and ready!

We were so in love or so we thought

We spent time gazing speechlessly into each other’s yes

Like two rabbits caught in flash lights

Sometimes no words were needed

We carved our names in that big tree whose name we didn’t know

My breasts were only just budding

I showed them to you

Your eyes grew like saucers in an instant

And your mouth opened so wide we both laughed.

Then you slid your hand down my school uniform

That was  very naughty

Secretly I loved it

I felt like a princess in your arms.

Your hands were so soft and gentle on my face

And your voice was like music in my ears.

Those were fun times

I cherish forever