I am just a Tree (Part 3)

There were many nights where the whole city was shrouded in darkness, no sound could be heard from the radios or the televisions. Load shedding, they called it, the authorities had cut off the electric supply purposely, as there was not enough to go around. A tiny fraction of the city will have been illuminated whilst the rest lay in darkness. And when it was dark the family would sit around a fire in the evenings and cook, their pots becoming black with soot. Christine’s eyes stinging with smoke as she blew at the embers to get the fires going, with Iris standing close by, watching and learning.

The family stopped watering the gardens and all the trees. They would say to themselves “let the rain take care of these plants, if the rain comes at all”
The days of taps running dry had also come. No water. No electricity. Misery would grip the whole nation as people spent hours in queues waiting for bread, for maize meal, for cooking oil, for the most basic of goods. And if the food did come, it was gone in an instant; people would rush forward grabbing a loaf here, a bag of sugar there, and shoving the next person with an elbow so they can surge forward and grab the next item.  No matter what the store keeper tried orderliness would not come, and some even used canes to beat the crowds forcing people to walk and not run, commanding people to enter the stores 10 people at a time, limiting the number of items each can buy to 5. Those that were left at the back of the queues for there was always a number of people who would be turned away when the food ran out, were left bewildered and frustrated knowing that their hunger and their lack would continue for another week to come.

I could hear talks in the household of moving abroad, whispered conversations in the artificial darkness of faraway places, like the United Kingdom, Canada or Botswana or South Africa. Then one day a car was sold and then the second was traded in for a functional but old model car. No longer would top of the range German and Japanese cars be driven in this household. Only saving, and more saving for that precious thing, the visa to salvation.

The whispered conversations around visas continued. I had no idea what a visa was, but each time it was mentioned I felt the ground beneath me give way. I knew change was coming, that I was to be left behind, but I was just a tree, rooted to one spot, watching the changes of the seasons, watching the family I had so loved abandon their home for a better life in faraway places.

It was Catherine and the children who left first. The house grew silent. Reuben would walk around the house looking forlorn, a pint of Lion larger dangling between his fingers when he ventured to sit under the shade. He would read the newspaper loaded with terrifying images of people carting around wheelbarrow loads of money and equally terrifying headlines. He would shake his head, take a sip of his larger and continue reading muttering expletives about the failing politicians.

And then one day, he too came and picked a piece of fruit, the ripest of mangoes. I spotted a car waiting outside for him, and a young boy loading a suitcase into it. He lingered for a while and gazed longingly at the house, at all the fruit trees and the vegetables in the garden.  He looked at the mango in his hand and sighed.  I had never seen it before but that was the sad look of a man who was to leave his home, to leave his country as his country could no longer provide for him, his wife nor their children. With one final sorry shake of his head Reuben turned and closed the gate quietly, and entered the car which drove him away.

But I, just a tree remained where I was planted.

, the authorities had cut off the electric supply purposely, as there was not enough to go around. A tiny fraction of the city will have been illuminated whilst the rest lay in darkness. And when it was dark the family would sit around a fire in the evenings and cook, their pots becoming black with soot. Christine’s eyes stinging with smoke as she blew at the embers to get the fires going, with Iris standing close by, watching and learning.

The family stopped watering the gardens and all the trees. They would say to themselves “let the rain take care of these plants, if the rain comes at all”
The days of taps running dry had also come. No water. No electricity. Misery would grip the whole nation as people spent hours in queues waiting for bread, for maize meal, for cooking oil, for the most basic of goods. And if the food did come, it was gone in an instant; people would rush forward grabbing a loaf here, a bag of sugar there, and shoving the next person with an elbow so they can surge forward and grab the next item.  No matter what the store keeper tried orderliness would not come, and some even used canes to beat the crowds forcing people to walk and not run, commanding people to enter the stores 10 people at a time, limiting the number of items each can buy to 5. Those that were left at the back of the queues for there was always a number of people who would be turned away when the food ran out, were left bewildered and frustrated knowing that their hunger and their lack would continue for another week to come.

I could hear talks in the household of moving abroad, whispered conversations in the artificial darkness of faraway places, like the United Kingdom, Canada or Botswana or South Africa. Then one day a car was sold and then the second was traded in for a functional but old model car. No longer would top of the range German and Japanese cars be driven in this household. Only saving, and more saving for that precious thing, the visa to salvation.

The whispered conversations around visas continued. I had no idea what a visa was, but each time it was mentioned I felt the ground beneath me give way. I knew change was coming, that I was to be left behind, but I was just a tree, rooted to one spot, watching the changes of the seasons, watching the family I had so loved abandon their home for a better life in faraway places.

It was Catherine and the children who left first. The house grew silent. Reuben would walk around the house looking forlorn, a pint of Lion larger dangling between his fingers when he ventured to sit under the shade. He would read the newspaper loaded with terrifying images of people carting around wheelbarrow loads of money and equally terrifying headlines. He would shake his head, take a sip of his larger and continue reading muttering expletives about the failing politicians.

Zimbabwe_Hyperinflation_2008_notes

And then one day, he too came and picked a piece of fruit, the ripest of mangoes. I spotted a car waiting outside for him, and a young boy loading a suitcase into it. He lingered for a while and gazed longingly at the house, at all the fruit trees and the vegetables in the garden.  He looked at the mango in his hand and sighed.  I had never seen it before but that was the sad look of a man who was to leave his home, to leave his country as his country could no longer provide for him, his wife nor their children. With one final sorry shake of his head Reuben turned and closed the gate quietly, and entered the car which drove him away.

But I, just a tree remained where I was planted.

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