Fiction

In Pursuit of Agape

By: Thabi Moeketsi

The dancing mango leaves have suddenly changed into Goliaths. Minutes before Pontso had laughed and played, peace all around. She looks up and screams,
“HELP ME LORD.” 

It’s breakfast time but Pontso  Modike is miles away from home, soaking in the pouring rain, dangling  on a tree and seeing all sorts. Today she has sat on her swing from six – three hours to be exact. 

 After another, ” HELP ME LORD,” Pontso alights from the tree and wastes no time.

Mukwa Road. Struthers Avenue. Mopani Drive.

Her huge uninterrupted strides suck no strength from her. In no time she goes past the public swimming pool, the meandering rivulets that have taken over Baobab Close, her unlocked gate and straight past her front door.

Inside, a dim light shines in one corner, the room numb.The settees, empty thrones.  Old newspapers scatter all over the lounge. The carpet, barely visible. The glass coffee table, covered with tea, bread crumbs and cornflake bits. In the kitchen, it’s easy to see what Pontso has eaten over the weeks. Derere and sadza – okra seeds plastered on her pots, pans and plates. Not one but three Lacto packs soak in the dishes, white milky lumps waltzing in oily water. When Pontso looks at this three week old mess, she smiles, a twinkle in one eye and in a sing song way says,

“Too much work. Too little time!”

Once upon a time, Pontso Modike wore neat relaxed hair and not the uneven thorns now   sticking out of her head. She loved high heels and imported fragrances from Grasse. Yet nowadays she walks around in black plastic pumps or dirty tattered boots sweating and puffing, disregarding the weather. If Pontso is not in her faded black tracksuit, she chooses the leopard skin coat, right in the middle of a sulphurous October sun. Her daily walk around the sugar cane fields starts as early as 5am. A farmer’s wife – strangers say when they watch her surveying the tracts of land filled with cane. Sometimes Pontso sneaks into the deeper parts of the vegetation finds a place to rest and escapes into the world she has created for herself over the years. She has spent a night or two in the fields only to be woken up by workers cutting sugar cane. Her favourite spot is the mango tree on the edge of the field. The cane pickers now do not stop to ask if she needs help. They exchange whispers and avoid Pontso.

“Sad indeed.”

 ” Hush. Hush.”

‘She should never be reminded of the heart attack that shocked this community in 2005.”

“Sibaya? Sibaya please help me. The Goliaths are back!”  Pontso calls out the moment she enters her house.

She pokes her head in each room .                                                                                                                                          

“Sibayaaaaa?”

After doing the walkabout  and almost losing her voice in the process Pontso drops on one of her settees, her firm bossom peeping from her coat. She has spent yet another day moving around, breasts exposed. Down below, her pear shaped flawless fair bottom reveals she has no underwear. Pontso is no aspiring porn artist. Those who see all this shake their heads in empathy.

“Will you marry me, Pontso Modike? “ Sibaya said years before  the Goliaths became a part of Pontso’s life.

Sibaya; Pontso’s dream come true. Tall with dark eyes. He

indulged in FCUK-HIM and she loved smelling him.

.

 Instead of saying, Yes, I will marry you my love, Pontso clung onto Sibaya and cried tears of joy. The two had dated for one year. Their dates, mainly phone calls because Triangle General Hospital kept Sibaya busy and Pontso read Greek at the University of Limpompo. The two love birds separated by  hundreds of kilometres made their relationship work.

“A match made in heaven,” Pontso said whenever her friends quizzed her about the long distance relationship.

That match had differences. Sibaya;  the serious and busy one. Pontso; the free bird and dreamer who loved to wander around in her grandmother’s orchard in Limpopo picking mangoes, guavas, peaches and ripe naartijie. Come summer,  she basked under Gogo’s mopani tree. She would playfully prick a mopani worm lightly on its back and watch it roll in search of protection. While her cousins gathered the worms for food, Pontso enjoyed their company. These times alone in Gogo’s orchard were a world away from Pretoria where her family jostled between work and home each day. Papa, a teacher at Attridgeville High. Mme, a nurse at the Pretoria Academic hospital. Since childhood, Pontso had never enjoyed Pretoria. She chose to live with Gogo. When Sibaya came along, she welcomed him with open arms knowing that, come marriage, Gogo’s vitamin rich orchard would not be too far away.

“Zimbabwe? “ Pontso’s father questioned, a visible frown on his head.

“Yes Papa. Zimbabwe.”

“In Zimbabwe banks have no cash. People there queue for money for days,” Papa warned Pontso. ‘You will starve to death in Zimbabwe!”  Mr Modike lamented to his daughter.

“There are lots of fine young men at Heal the World Church,” Mme interjected. ” You are the youth leader and must have met some elligible young bachelors from our church over the years Pontso.”

Pontso had interacted with many fine young men but never found them interesting. She turned down teachers, lawyers and even pastors. Her mind was made up. During the few times they dated, Pontso and Sibaya watched movies in Musina, the darkness of the movie house distracting them from seeing each other, let alone talking about their plans. Ponsto did not even mention that her parents were against this cross border relationship. So relieved was Pontso when the dates ended abruptly after Sibaya asked for her hand in marriage.

“But you hardly know this man,” Mme said.

“We will know each other with time,” Ponsto argued.

Despite her parents’ reservations, a visit to Zimbabwe was arranged and Pontso met Sibaya’s Uncles in Beitbridge before returning home the same day.

Twenty cows, five double blankets and five thousand rands worth of groceries later, Pontso became Mrs Sibaya. She was happy to be with her first love, one whose lips had been the first to touch hers for, she knew no other man. Sibaya would be hers till death did them part, she told herself.

“My precious jewel. You are mine for life,” Sibaya often said, the gentle caress of his hands warming her face.

Pontso immediately settled down as Mrs Sibaya or Doctor Sibaya’s wife as they all addressed her. To her, Richard was Sibaya. Pontso knew that calling him by his surname pleased him. He craved for titles, authority and power.

“Next you will be the MP,” she teased her husband.

At home, Sibaya exercised his authority from the day they moved in together. He wanted his meat well done, his tea warm, his toast golden brown. He ate carefully, leaving no crumbs on the table. His clothes had to be neatly ironed, his white shirts whiter than white. The pleats on his trousers crisp. Everything perfect.

“She is not doing them right,” Sibaya said, six months into the marriage.

The issue was about Jestina the new maid after Lucinda, Precious and Rosina. Not one of the maids could iron Sibaya’s shirts. His vegetables were either raw or burnt. Pontso’s husband had a different complaint every day – about the food, clothing or even the air around him. He never stopped murmuring. Overdone. Underdone. Tasteless. Cold. Too hot. Dirty. Damp . Shabby. Sibaya had the right words to express his displeasure. The home helps could not sweep the floor or scrub it thoroughly. Sibaya’s eyes picked up a little droplet of tea metres away and he  immediately reported his findings.

“That floor’s not clean,” he grumbled, eyebrows raised.

Tired of his complaints, Pontso got rid of the maid and chose to clean the house on her own. If Sibaya passed his embarassing remarks there would be no witnesses. It was better that way.

As Triangle Hospital’s chief Surgeon, Sibaya could afford just about everything from the local shops. Triangle is a small town hundreds of miles away from Harare but not too far from South Africa’s Musina. Once or twice a month, Pontso and Sibaya went on spending sprees down south.  Yet after nearly emptying the shelves at Woolworth’s there was never enough time to visit Gogo.

“We will see her next time my love. Remember I have work tomorrow,” Sibaya said.

Gogo’s homestead was not too far off the main road. A few minutes at Gogo’s caused no major delays, However, Pontso decided to give her marriage some time. Besides, she hoped to get  her driver’s licence and one day drive to South Africa alone. A trip back home would give her ideal time to show off Sibaya’s latest Jeep. The hospital had given Sibaya the biggest house with the most spacious swimming pool, surrounded by the greenest grass and thick rose bushes. The mansion, with its scenic views of the sugar cane plantations and Triangle’s giant mango trees was everyone’s envy. Pontso imagined herself parking theirJeep outside Gogo’s yard one day. She would also gather enough courage to travel from Zimbabwe to Pretoria alone and bring her family to Triangle to see her new life.

In the preceding years Pontso and Sibaya did their fair bit of globetrotting all under the guise of Sibaya’s career development. Britain, Sweden and Belgium were frequent destinations on their roster. Venice they visited, as well as Paris and Dublin. Sometimes Pontso wished these holidays would make Sibaya see less of the dirt and be oblivious to the inaccuracies that only he spotted. If he could focus on the lighter side of life. Smile a little. Roll up his sleeves and relax.

But, after the holidays, it would be back to square one in their game of hop scotch. In fact, the holidays made Sibaya worse. Upon arriving from their sojourns, Sibaya  pointed out that the rose bushes had to be evenly trimmed right away, not one shoot up above the rest. To top it, he had every excuse to postpone the trip to Gogo’s.

“We will go my sweetness. I have to catch up on my work.”

He then changed the topic and said, arms around Pontso,

 “You look perfect darling.”

What Sibaya meant was that Pontso had to sparkle all the time. No walking outside in Trainers. No going to the shopping mall with her hair in a mess. And what would she be doing at the shopping mall in the first place? The good wife stayed indoors ensuring the house remained squeaky clean, he argued. Apart from the hefty life cover Sibaya had taken for both of them, he had also smuggled the contents of the hospital dispensary home in case either of them fell sick. All this meant there really was no need for Pontso to go past their mansion gates.

“I have already done all the cleaning!” Pontso objected as she tried to justify her going out for long walks daily.

 Sibaya had instant answers.

“You are not the neighbourhood gypsy!“

“And what about Gogo in Limpopo? I have not seen her in years. I miss Papa and Mme too,” Pontso burst out one day.

She yearned for Gogo’s orchard. The pleasures and luxuries Sibaya provided could not take away her longing for home. Khumbula Ekhaya on SABC TV  made Pontso cry. She silently watched Sibaya paying no attention to her. Him pursuing his so called perfect life filled with conditions, demands, rules and no hint of Agape; a type of love she had studied as part of her Greek 004 Course.

Agape; unconditional love. No strings attached. Simple yet perfect. True.

“That’s all I need from my husband,” Pontso often prayed.

Valentine’s Day 2005

As usual, Sibaya bought Pontso a dozen red roses, boxes of Belgian chocolates and imported perfumes. What he said next did not shock Pontso.

“We will not be going to Gogo’s, my love.”

That day Pontso was determined to speak out. She had figured out that maybe Sibaya had no clue she was unhappy, lonely and tired of the status quo. A close friend from her university days had advised her to confront Sibaya and spill it all out.

“Richard there is nothing to do here. I eat and sleep all day!”

“You are lazy, Pontso, and that’s why you sleep, eat and go to the toilet all day!”

“I am not lazy! I am lonely and tired of sitting at home and sleeping. You can’t even allow me to work!”

It was after Pontso mentioned the children that Sibaya went berserk.

This, they had not talked about. Never.

“I want children or just one child. We should get checked,” Pontso explained in between sobs.

Sibaya responded chop chop. His hands got busy.

“Don’t you dare disrespect me Pontso Modike!”

He tossed and turned everything from the book shelf. He pulled the cushions and threw them in the air. The coffee table missed Pontso by an inch. Several wine glasses flew from one end of the room to the other, Pontso playing hide and seek with them, her hands covering her face.

“VOETSEK!” Richard Sibaya shouted.

“I was only…..”

Pontso’s could not talk further.

“VOETSEK! VOETSEK! YOU UNGRATEFUL WOMAN! I SAID GO! GET OUT.”

Pontso failed to explain that she had meant no harm. That she missed her family. She quickly put her clothes in a suitcase, one eye on the ferocious bulldog pursuing her.

“VOETSEK. GOOOO.”

Sibaya reached her and then unpacked her bag.

“He is out of control,” Pontso thought.

She needed a phone so she could call the police. She was in dire need of help.

Sibaya had sunk deeper into some rage.

The bulldog’s at it’s worst; Pontso concluded.

Sibaya took her Beautiful talcum powder and tossed the contents onto her shirts and trousers. He rushed to the kitchen came back, kettle in hand and poured water on everything.

“You are going nowhere with my things,” he barked as he turned her suitcase upside down. “You did not come here with Esteer Lauder, Gucci and Elizabeth Arden. You will leave with nothing!”

 After baptising Pontso’s wardrobe Sibaya opened her handbag, took all her legal documents and shredded them to bits with his teeth before flushing them down the toilet.

“You can now go to Limpopo, “ he said afterwards, teeth clenched.

Pontso stood speechless as Sibaya rambled on and on.

 “GO TO LIMPOMPO! I SAID GO! OUT! OUT OF MY HOUSE!”

He charged at Pontso, hands trembling, not letting go. His muscled body pressed onto her small lean frame. She gasped for air and not his FCUK. Sibaya did not stop but roared.

“TALK TO ME YOU UNGRATEFUL WHORE. TELL ME YOU WANT A CHILD. ADMIT THAT  YOU WANT TO GO AND SEE YOUR BOYFRIENDS IN LIMPOMPO.”

When Pontso clapped her hands to signal that she was pleading for forgiveness, Sibaya took no notice. He slapped her cheek not once but several times.

“TALK, YOU FOOL!”

Pontso went  on her knees and repeated his lines, “I won’t go if that makes you unhappy. I am all yours! I am your precious jewel darling. I am yours for life.”

Pontso’s whole body had goose bumps. The hair on her head stood up while down below urine trickled her legs. When Sibaya moved closer, his fists tight, she held onto him and wept until he calmed down.

Supper time.

 Sibaya’s hand reached Pontso’s from across the table. His voice had softened. A fresh dozen of red roses sat in the middle of the table between two red candles.

“You’re wonderful, my darling,” Sibaya said softly.

He had turned into a new man, the angry dangerous bulldog now gone.

” I will never do it again my love, ” he said.

Pontso nodded and munched air because her mouth now the size of a tennis ball, could not take in anything.

“Of course he will do it again and again,” Pontso thought.

She then remembered Gogo and her wise words.

” A man needs something to calm him down. To soften him the same way Sta Soft does to fabric.”

That night, after supper Pontso made Sibaya his favourite thick Cappuccino and added Gogo’s love portion into the drink. Gogo had assured her that the love portion would work wonders and save even the worst marriage in the whole of Southern Africa. A pinch or two daily, Gogo had advised. At first Pontso put two tablespoons, enough to make up for the years she had disregarded the love portion.

“More sugar please. I need some extra energy!” Sibaya hollered from the bedroom.

 He had brushed and flossed his teeth. Every night Sibaya religiously attended to his perfectly shaped white teeth before sipping  his Cuppaccino while reading Stephen King or Dick Francis. The extra energy was needed, not to create babies but to give him the urge to finish reading the big books.

“A book a day keeps the doctor away,” he often joked.

“Don’t forget my Anadin, dear!”

That  order came from the bedroom loud and clear.

Sibaya and Anadin were inseparable. He often took Anadin to help him sleep better. Without pain killers, Sibaya moved around irritable and restless, his antics, unbearable. Pontso had been to the bathroom and collected the pills. Everything was set.

“My Anadin, dear,” Sibaya repeated.

“I will, dear.” 

 The love portion had to settle in the drink. Pontso rushed to the bathroom. She loudly opened and shut the first aid box so Sibaya could hear that he had been obeyed. The house phone was off. Sibaya obviously paid attention to every sound she made and so she spoke in her mind.

Two, three, four spoonfulls of magic!

Pontso added in moreof  Gogo’s love portion.

“Richard  will  certainly sleep while the portion works on him,” she muttered.

As she gently stirred the mixture, Pontso saw it all- peace, freedom and total bliss. She patiently held the spoon while turning the drink round and round and round…

After the love portion there would be Agape. She envisioned Sibaya embracing unconditional love. His face all smiles. Laughter bubbling out of his thick lips. She living happily ever after with her only love Richard Sibaya till death did them part. No demands, no complaints, love all around.

Round and round and round and round….

The concoction danced with the milk until everything turned white and frothy.

“Ready. Set. Go.“ Pontso whispered, tray in hand.

Categories: Fiction

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