They Never Come Back - Book Excerpt
With the introduction of a new currency in our country, I saw myself going back to school in 2009. I had my ‘O’ level exams that year. The year went by fast. I was a bit reckless during the final days and I spent all the money I had on me, including the bus fare. So as usual I called mummy and told her of my ‘problem’. She told me to “grow up and make a plan”. I never made one. So I went in to write the biology exam … my last one. Being the smart kid I am I finished about 15 minutes before the set end time. I began making my plan then. I decided to ask my friend’s folks to give me a ride.
The first thing I saw on my way out of that exam room was my sister, my mother then … my BROTHER! I jumped on to him and hugged him like I’d do to a long lost lover. After four years I saw my brother. Happy does not describe adequately how I felt. However, part of me was meeting a stranger. We had two weeks of bonding. We had meals as a family. As in the old days we shared my room. My brother had a beard now. He was trying to catch up with the colloquial language now. He still called me by my childhood nickname but I was 16 then. My brother only stayed home for two weeks and returned to the Diaspora. My aunt hardly called by then. She had been gone for 9 years now and never came back … Same with her friend Tariro. Her father’s ride was parked now most of the time. He washed the car everyday but it was always breaking down on the road – if it wasn’t the computer box it was the ball joints – he even struggled to oil the car engine now. The Peugeot 406 now sounded like a jet. You could hear it roaring a kilometre away. Mr Rimuka and assumed he was a single lonely old guy. His wife came back at most twice a year. Dan had been gone for more than a year now. His wife was now working the night shift at some nightclub to make ends meet. Mr Rimuka was not happy about his daughter in law working at a club and doing the night shift as well but at least she paid school fees for the kids and clothed them proper. Dan came back home that year. He brought home some groceries and the cell phones as usual. No Christian would buy those cell phones. He told his wife to quit that job. He was visibly a druggie by now – all the signs … black lips, red eyes, yellow fingers and he bit his nails. After a while he was broke again and his wife would have to hustle to find money for Broncho or else he would fall sick. Dan now resorted to stealing gadgets in town to earn money for drugs. He returned back to SA as Zimbabwe life got harder
Two years down the line we had social media sites, Facebook and whatsapp. Communication was easier and cheaper now. Look at how technology modernized family life … we had a family group on Facebook and even on whatsapp! That year my aunt said she was coming back home. Everyone was like ‘okay, we’ve heard it before’. After so many years, no one believed it. She did come back though. I didn’t know what to feel when she came back. I was at school that November and for 3 weeks. I waited for her visit but alas! she was rather unavailable for me. It all came back to me, the promises and all but she didn’t come to see me. My final exams were only weeks away but I went home that weekend to see my aunt. She was away with her boyfriend when I got home. I only got to see her on Sunday and I had to get back to school that day. I had waited for this moment 10 years. It’s a moment I don’t remember clearly, we hardly spent 30 minutes together and she had to leave for some braai and I had to get back to school. With every ticking second I failed to salvage that childhood fantasy of being reunited … a hopeless venture on my part. It’s not that the conversation was one sided, no. It’s just that I wasn’t the kid that used to wear matching clothes with Prince. I wasn’t sure she missed me as much as I missed her. She wasn’t looking forward to rekindle the flame when she planned to come back. This reunion suffocated any trace of what used to be. That day confirmed it! THEY NEVER COME BACK.
Tariro never returned home. Her father’s ride was now a monument. I guess the only reason he kept it was that it reminded him of his daughter. They had pictures of Tariro all over their house now, like inscriptions on tombstones to remind you of the loved ones long lost. They even had pictures of her children on the walls as well. They kept her pictures, but they had lost Tariro. Prince was now addicted to marijuana. His mother tried to stop him but perhaps she came back too late for him. Mrs Rimuka was never home as well. Apparently Dan was in prison again. This time rumour had it he would be in for a span. His wife was doing the night again. She had to feed the kids. We all wondered if he would ever come back.