The garden was a boundless field of red blossoms, stretching as far as Zvameso’s eyes could see, blinding the stars of the night sky with its splendour. A woman’s face emerged from among the red roses, rising like the morning sun. The radiant face was like a bundle of magical beauty. For a moment, the disembodied face seemed to float just a few centimetres above the roses, like a mother of all the flowers.
The owner of the face finally rose from the shelter of the blossoms. She stood knee-deep among the flowers. Mrs Musiumwe walked a few steps towards Zvameso, then paused, as if to assess his reaction. He made a few calculated steps towards her as if a sudden coyness within him was telling him to think twice. He could not tell how he found himself in her arms and she in his. There was a sudden surge in his loins as his lips found the woman’s. Half a litre of his male fertility poured into his underpants.
Suddenly, the man was back from paradise. He was lying on his back, alone in his bedroom. He felt depleted. All his muscles were aching and his body was swimming in the wetness of his sweat. He was breathing spasmodically as if he had been contesting in an extensive race. He summoned the little energy left in his body and kicked the blankets off his perspiring body. The sticky wetness in his underpants was a source of discomfort, but he let it seep through his body.
The presence of Mrs Musiumwe in his dreams had become a sweet discomfort. He no longer wanted her in his dreams. His time with her was over, yet his relationship with her had rejuvenated in his dreams. Musiumwe had caught wind of his wife’s relationship with Zvameso from a villager who had seen the culprit stealing Musiumwe’s conjugal rights in his garden on the banks of Odzi River.
Zvameso had never imagined that somebody had discovered his sweet secret, someone who would take it upon himself as a moral obligation to inform the woman’s husband about his wife’s side nest. Then one night, as he lay bundled in the same bed sheets with his wife, there was a violent knock on the door of his bedroom hut.
“Who is out there?” he had shouted sleepily.
“I am Musiumwe. Please open up.”
A tight knot formed in the pit of Zvameso’s stomach. He did not dare open the door. His stomach was burning as if he had swallowed a ball of molten iron. Before a plan found its way into his tortured thoughts, Musiumwe broke the silence. He described what he knew about Zvameso’s adulterous escapades with his wife and then demanded compensation.
“I know everything that happens behind my back, but I do not know how many times you have done it with her,” said the man of a fiery temper. “I just want to do the same thing only once with your wife.”
Zvameso did not move. He prayed that the man standing at the door would not torch his hut. “Just open the door and let me in,” Musiumwe continued, “Isn’t your wife in there with you? We will just do it once and it will be over.”
“But she does not consent to it. Isn’t there a way of settling the matter without involving my wife?” Zvameso protested from inside his hut. Mrs Zvameso’s body had frozen on the reed mat bed. The unfairness of what Musiumwe was demanding was unimaginable, yet there was no assurance that Musiumwe did not desire it. She silently cursed her husband for dragging her into mire deaths.
“Why don’t we involve the traditional chiefs?” Zvameso begged, “I will pay you anything, but we will have to leave my wife out of the bargain.”
“It’s your life that I had hoped to save,” said Musiumwe, “for if I am intimate with my wife before I am intimate with yours, that will be the end of your life. It was all harmless before I knew.”
Mrs Zvameso took a deep breath as she heard the angry man’s retreating footfalls. He was leaving. She was out of danger now, but was it over yet? What could prevent Musiumwe from stalking her on her way to the river, to the grinding mill or to the garden?
After the incident, Zvameso expected to be summoned to the headman’s court, but that did not happen. When Musiumwe’s time to return to South Africa where he worked on contractual bases arrived, he left, leaving his wife and family behind as usual. Zvameso wished Musiumwe had taken his wife away with him. What if the cheating mother of four wanted to continue with the sordid affair? He had failed to resist her deliberate efforts to lure him into the intimate embrace of her arms. Would he be able to just play safe and let the wind blow the chaff away?
Before he found the answers to the questions that nagged his mind, his wife left him.
“I am going away to start a new life,” she said, “I cannot continue to live at the mercy of a man whose perception of justice is absurd. Yet it is not my fault that my husband stole the treasures of another man’s bedroom. Maybe you are invulnerable to the curse that you have brought upon us, but I cannot stand it.”
“Where do you think you are going? Are you not out of danger, now that Musi is now in South Africa?” Zvameso begged.
“Maybe I am safe,” she said. “Maybe he will never return home again, but guess what? His wife is very much available for you, going down to the garden as usual while her husband is hundreds and hundreds of kilometres away. I will not retract my decision.”
The woman left her husband, taking with her their two daughters, aged six and three. Zvameso remained in the village, earning his living through weaving reed mats and baskets. He was gifted at this trade, and his clientele had not declined because of what the entire village knew he had done.
His nights were never to be the same again. Sometimes, he would sense the fragrance of a woman’s body as he lay alone in his bedroom hut. Sometimes he would actually feel the solid touch of a woman’s body next to him, wrapped in the same bed sheets with him, only to realise that he was alone when he lit the lamp. He started having nocturnal emissions, a mysterious and upsetting return to adolescence.
As if these mysteries had not unsettled him enough, Musiumwe’s wife started appearing in his dreams. The pleasure of holding her voluptuous body next to his was indescribable, and so was the pain that agonised his loins when he woke up. Her vegetable garden became a boundless rose garden in his dreams. Dreams of her became sweeter and sweeter with every night, but the subsequent pain became more and more excruciating. His body gradually succumbed to the pain caused by his dreams. He became incredibly emaciated, as if something within the marrow of his bones was sucking his body inwards.
Now, after yet another night with Mrs Musiumwe, and almost paralysed by the explosive ejaculation that he had at the climax of the encounter, he resolved he had to do something to rid his life of the ghost of his affair with her, like consulting a spiritual healer or a prophet. Getting into a relationship with another woman, as long as she was not another man’s wife, might also rescue him from Mrs Musiumwe’s relentless nocturnal visits.
Although his soul told him that something needed to be done, urgently so, he felt too frail to rise from his bed. His eyelids slowly slopped again. He was in Musiumwe’s garden once again, and in the intimate hold of her arms once more. He said nothing to her, neither did she say anything to him. Another half litre of his male fecundity poured out of his body before his own sigh awakened him. This time there was no pain. His body felt very light, as if he was floating on still water.
The light of the risen sun was seeping into his hut through a triangular opening on the wall. Then the light slowly started to wane, even though his eyes were wide open, until he could no longer see anything. And then he sensed the presence of a woman’s body by his side. Then he felt nothing afterwards.
It was quite a painless death.