She sat on the veranda next to the man she had known for so many years. They had known each other into marriage. Known each other into children. Known each other into building a home deep in Matebeleland. Close enough to ko Bulawayo but far enough to notice that the toilets did not flush here.
My great grandfather often sat there, smile on his face whilst she fried liver on the two plate stove. The smell hitting our tastebuds and the pang of jealousy in our hearts because we knew that was the only taste of that perfectly fried liver that we were getting. Unless you were the lucky one that got called up to come and clear the remnants. You slowly turned the corner. Made sure you were out of sight and shoved the left overs in your mouth. Then pretend there was nothing left when you got to the others.
They knew each other into grand children and great grandchildren. They sat on the veranda until he could sit no more and she knew him to his death. Alone on the veranda she still fried the liver but the left overs were too much. The game was not fun anymore. The others got to taste the remnants. It lost it’s appeal.
She knew he was gone for many years. She knew the spot next to hers where he had lain until his last breath was now an empty corpse. She knew that he had built this home and he had bought the cows and the goats outside. She knew how she had enjoyed chatting to him whilst the liver sizzled in the oil and some of it strayed and painfully landed on her hand.
Then one day she woke up after a long journey from her birthplace of South Africa. She crossed the border into Zimbabwe and it was as though she had left all her knowing across the border.
At first we found humour in her unknowing. It is when our faces became those of strangers that our humour did not want to understand anymore. The whispers said the witch who lived down the road had been seen entering her room and stealing parts of her memory at night. The brave mountain worshippers came with holy water and offered to cast the demon that was holding her once knowing brain hostage.
She now sat on the veranda and ate the liver she once cooked. When she, the woman who was once so careful. So meticulous in the nursing of her lover, was now a danger to herself. It is not inherent in my people to send one who knew their young nakedness to be looked after in nursing homes. The burden to care is never passed on. She now sat in verandas in Bulawayo. Away from the seclusion of the village. She would sometimes pick up her bag and ask to be taken to her home. In those moments it was as if she had suddenly started knowing again. As though somewhere in her vacant eyes there was some recognition but she would then say “who are you?”
Some memories stayed. I presume liver still tasted familiar on her tongue. How she liked her tea. Her favourite spot on the veranda. But some were like words that had been written on paper without a pen. They were never seen again.
She died in her unknowing. Confusion riddled most Interactions. Who are you? Her eyes looked empty. It could have been wishful thinking but I knew her heart never stopped knowing what her mind slowly erased. A battle. I like to think she won. Because our hearts are where we keep the important stuff.