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My story of ASPERITY

By Thandeka Ruvimbo Chaka

“Gu, gu, gu, Rukudzo ndivhurirewo door.” That was the third knock on the backdoor but the only difference this time was that my name was being called out. I contemplated opening the door even though l could tell it was my uncle’s voice because no one had made an effort to acknowledge the previous knocks. I trudged my way to the door to let my uncle in so that l could at least peacefully go back to sleep. I was greeted by a cold wind slap to my face before l could even exchange pleasantries with him by the door. That made me question my uncle’s cold intolerance. But that aside, l had to let my uncle in before he turned into ice and l could rationalize about the cold later. The chemistry between us was magical, that’s why we both could not avoid the bickering though it was clearly too early to do that. Also considering the close proximity of the houses in my neighbourhood, it was a little rude to be making noise at dawn.

Our interaction was short-lived by my parents who came to the door, which l owed to the noise my uncle and l were making. My parents invited my uncle inside so that we could take our bickering inside. We all made our way to the dining room which technically was a lounge but that aside the main agenda was to get everyone to bed and provide a place to sleep to my uncle that had unexpectedly shown up at the door at dawn. My mom quickly grabbed a couple of blankets from her bedroom and we moved the sofas in the dining room to make enough space for my uncle to hurdle in. The next day l woke up to my daily routine which constituted regular chores in the house. My uncle had left way earlier before l had gotten out of bed and thus leaving me the responsibility to have a conversation with my parents which to be honest l was not looking forward too. That’s why it did not surprise me when l was called to the dining room by my dad for what he called “small talk.” On my way there, l was trying to formulate my best arguments that could justify my behaviour earlier this morning.

I took the seat furthest from my dad, not that he was scary or anything, but l knew how heated our argument could become given both of us were very opinionated. To my surprise, my dad was not really into having an argument today, that’s why he decided to walk me through my irrationality and make me reason with him “the Socrates way” according to him. My dad was a very strict person, so l was ready to receive an earful. However, he calmly introduced the discussion at hand by acknowledging that while he applauded my sincerity to welcome my dear uncle, he was a little taken aback by the abruptness associated with it as l did not care to check in with them. He told me that was a little risqué thing to do, just open the door at that time regardless of the person at the door. And he brought it back to particularly when it came to my uncle, it was not that they had any negative feelings against him, but they were worried about his episodes.

My uncle left for Botswana to look for work in the hard-economic condition in Zimbabwe, only to be deported back home because of mental illness. Rumours had it, evil spirits of the person he allegedly murdered while in the foreign land were haunting him, hence the madness. l had never had the courage of asking the exact cause of his condition since it was adult business and l was only a child. So that’s why l felt disarmed of all my arguments when my dad started with genuine concern of acknowledging my uncle`s condition. It will only be later in college during a psychology lesson when l would learn that my uncle might have suffered from schizophrenia due to two different phases he went through between being depressed and being a maniac. Together, my dad and l agreed that it was best if l practised caution when it came to my uncle. He also instructed me not to stop being affectionate towards him but just be careful when l did so. Additionally, he cautioned me never to open the door at dawn especially when they were adults at home. To say that l was confused when l walked away from my dad would be an understatement. All this was too hard for me to wrap my head around especially on the particular social script to be practised when it came to him. That is why part of me was relieved when l did not hear from my uncle for a week after the incident. However, l started getting worried when we reached a three-week mark without any trace of him.

Not that he would come by our home every time, but it was very unlike him to stay that long without coming to check on me. I was very excited the day he came by, a month later with a huge packet of lollipops for my sweet tooth. However, we only conversed by the gate as he said he was in a hurry and had decided to check on me since he was in the area for an errand. My parents were not home, but that was not a problem since he looked pretty normal to me. Little did l know that this was our goodbye to each other, as later on that week we received news that he had passed away in a car crash. The thing is he did not own a car and when l incurred more about the details around his death, the only answer l got from my parents was that “Atsikwa nemota. Hanzi anga akarara pakati peroad and the driver did not see him hence the fatal accident.” The conversation loosely translate to, “a car had run over him while he was sleeping
in the middle of the road and the driver had failed to see him.” So many scenarios of the condition in which his body had been found ran in my head. The graphic horrific images of my now-dead uncle were too vivid for me, and l did not know who to talk to about it. My suspicions about the severity of the accident were confirmed when there was nobody viewing or night memorial where the body of the deceased is in the house for a night while relatives and friends celebrated his life. The most of my parents could do was secure a place for him to be laid to rest, and everyone was scheduled to attend the burial during the weekend.

On the weekend when he was laid to rest, the children were instructed to remain back home. I was a little older, so l was expected to help around the kitchen with the refreshments when people came back from the graveyard. I wondered what last parting words the people had said about my uncle as they laid him to rest. Would they remember his life as a hardworking man that was willing to travel to a foreign land to secure a life for himself or the intellectually challenged being he had transformed into? I wondered if there was more we could have done to prevent the accident like putting him in a mental institute. I also could not get over the guilt over my last encounter with him. Maybe he had sensed my hesitancy to let him in which may be why he had given an excuse of being busy and felt compelled to sleep in the middle of the road because he did not have anyone to go to. That reality hit harder than l had expected and l
felt my cheeks get wet from the tears trickling down. But l could not differentiate the source of the tears between the onions l was cutting and the grief over my dead uncle….