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Talent Madhuku | The Video Recordings

She can’t sleep. It must be the worry, seasoned by a little bit of pride and excitement. Silently, she slides out of bed. Her husband is sound asleep. He shifts slightly and mumbles something unintelligible. A car passes by outside. At one of the houses down the street, the stereo booms. She slowly limps into the living room and opens the film cabinet. The tape she’s looking for is on the top of the eighties movie pile. She picks it up and gently wipes off the thin film of dust. Compiled video recordings of days gone by. It’s been a while since she last saw the tape.

Memories are profoundly peculiar. It seems like yesterday when her husband was playfully holding the camera, recording random events in their lives. In the kitchen the old freezer hums. On the wall the clock ticks softly, seamlessly tracking the time on a warm summer night.

She slides the tape into the VCR, gently presses the play button and with a hum, she’s transported back in time. Back when he wanted to taste everything within reach. Back when he was still learning to trust his legs. In the video recording she’s feeding him porridge and he’s being difficult, spitting most of it on the floor.

“It’s yummy Simba. Eat, it’s good.” She’s saying. But he isn’t buying it.

“Maybe he wants kaka.” Her husband, who’s holding the camera says.

She frowns. Kaka, he means milk. She does not like the word. She gives the child another spoonful of porridge, but again, he spits most of it on the floor. In the background, her husband laughs. Simba chuckles and swings his small arms.

“You are enjoying this, aren’t you?” She says playfully, wiping his chest and his small hands which are now smeared with porridge.

“He wants kaka,” her husband says again.

“I can’t keep giving him milk only. The doctor said he should start taking complementary food,” she says.

Simba turns and looks at the camera.

“Look at me, look at mom,” she says. He turns and looks at her with his lively eyes. They sparkle under the bright electric light, like the tranquil surface of a clear pond on a cool spring morning.

Faces invoke many emotions. Some invoke terror, some invoke sorrow and some invoke joy. But as faces grow older the associate actions alter. A face which used to invoke joy can end up invoking terror. The curse of life choices. She feels fortunate, she’s grateful. In all these years his face hasn’t changed. It continues to calm her soul. To think she endured a lot of pain before she was blessed with him. She loves him deeply. Her son, her only child.

It’s a privilege, bringing forth another life into the world. It’s an even greater privilege to watch this life grow. Providing it sustenance, protecting and nurturing it so that it can mature and stand on its own. But only a woman who has endured childbirth and sacrificed much for her child knows how hard it is to let go. After eighteen years of watching over him, loving and protecting him, he’s now leaving home. For her the worst part is that he’s going to a foreign land. If it were up to her he would further his studies at a local university, where she would be able to visit and check on him. How will the foreign land receive him? Will they honour him? Will they give him the respect he deserves? She’s reluctant to let him go but she knows she has to. No longer is he her sweet little boy, he has grown into an informed and aspiring young man.

She looks at the video recordings until she feels calm and assured to fall asleep. She falls asleep on the couch. Falling asleep: being vulnerable and letting go. One surrendering oneself to the realm of unconsciousness trusting that one would rise again, rested and reinvigorated.

The next morning she’s awakened by her husband’s footsteps. He’s looking for something, as he usually does every morning. He picks up the remote and shuts off the VCR.

“You don’t have to worry about him. He will be fine,” he says. She smiles and remains silent. Men have in their possession a repertoire of assurances, and they role-play them whenever the need arises. But is her husband right? Is their son going to be okay? She wonders.

Most of the preparations for the trip were done yesterday. What’s left is for the father and the son to eat breakfast and hit the road. When Simba enters the living room his eyes are as lively as they were all those years ago, when he spat most of the porridge she gave him on the floor. This is a dream come true for him. He’s over the moon.

 It’s been quite an interesting journey for him to get where he’s today. From wetting the bed till he was twelve, to being suspended from school for parodying the headmistress, to brooding for a month when he was heartbroken by a girl. All these experiences are gentle strokes on his canvas of life. And what an incredible painting that’s slowly emerging. It’s one that’s likely to be gazed upon with pride by his scions for years to come.

 In the kitchen she hovers close while he eats making sure he finishes his breakfast. When he’s about to leave the house she readjusts his collar as if it needs readjusting.

“Don’t forget to carry your inhaler, Simba,” she says.

He looks on the floor shyly. ‘I won’t,” he says.

“And call when you arrive.”

“I will mom.”

“And please be safe. Call us immediately if you get into any trouble. Okay?”

“Okay mom,” he says.

She limps to the car and helps with the loading of bags. Before the car drives off, Simba smiles and waves at her. She smiles and waves back. If not for her injured leg she would have gone with him to the airport. Will he be okay? She wonders. The car drives off and disappears down the street. Her son. She recites a short prayer for safe passage on his behalf. A young girl on a bicycle passes by on the street, her purple ribbons flying. It’s a warm morning. She slowly limps back into the house.


Image: AfricanWriter.com

Talent Madhuku
Talent Madhuku
Talent Madhuku is a writer from Zimbabwe. His work has been published by Brittle paper, Impspired, Kalahari review and Idle ink. X: @madhukutalent

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