Themba was a deeply worried man. The day that he had looked forward to had completely turned out to be a nightmare. As he drove to the city, his mind was turning like a carousel. He was not sure what to do next. But one thing was for sure: nothing was going to break his love for Jane. He was confident that she felt the same about him.
He felt a like a Romeo. Although he had fallen in love before, it had been nothing as great as what he felt now when he thought about Jane, her radiant smile, her warm heart, her …
Although he had earlier dismissed the idea of seeking counsel about his affair with Jane from his uncle Bhebhe, he felt that he had no choice if he was to seek sound advice. Friends would only give him wrong advice.
He was not sure whether he would be able to get sound advice from his uncle because he was confident that his uncle would have never come across such a unique problem.
Bhebhe’s house was in Burnside, a leafy suburb where Themba also stayed with his parents. When he drove through the remote controlled gate, a barefoot white man in a tattered overall clutching a partially devoured loaf of bread waved at him from the side of the graveled driveway. His dirty, haggard face was covered with a graying, unkempt beard.
Themba parked his car next to his uncle’s gleaming Mercedes-Benz.
He found his uncle, a short, tough, bearded man, and his bubbly chubby wife having dinner. Although having been married for more than twenty years, the couple did not have children.
They invited him for dinner, but he flatly declined, jokingly telling them that the way he was feeling, he envied someone who was hungry.
“Who is that white man outside?” he asked his uncle who was hungrily wolfeing down the remains of the food from his plate.
“That’s Mr. Thompson.”
“I thought he looked like a … a vagabond.”
“You’re right, he was a vagabond until I employed him just a couple of days ago,” said Bhebhe, washing his hands in a small dish that was on the table. “He is now my garden boy. Things have really changed, son. Who would have thought that one day I would be able to employ a white man? Me, the son of Mbembeswana? Not only employ the white man, but also make him my gardener. Me?” He burst into laughter.
Themba said, “Where did you get him from? Is he not a squatter who might give you problems like stealing if you let him roam the place like that?”
His uncle picked a toothpick and started poking his teeth. He spat out a morsel of meat that had been lodged between his teeth and said, “Son, Mr. Thompson was a commercial farmer, a respectable one. I don’t think he can steal a piece of bread, even if he were starving. He is such an honest man.
“So when he came to me and said he was looking for a job, I looked at his qualifications and found that he was the right man to look after my garden and tend my flowers and lawn. He has only been employed for about a week, and I tell you, the greens seem to have become greener.”
His uncle, a lecturer at the local university, then went about the political situation in the country. How some people were being used by the former colonial masters to topple the government and how the West was keen in supporting their puppets so that they remained with influence on the black majority.
“White people treated us so badly, oppressing our fathers and those before them until we decided to go to war. They did not allow us to buy from the same shops or even to drink the same type of beer. At least we do not oppress them as they did us,” said Bhebhe.
Themba was hardly listening. He was thinking about Jane, how much he loved her and how much he wished they could just be together forever.
When his aunt cleared the table and went to the kitchen, Themba seized the moment and told his uncle about his purpose for the visit.
“Ah, at last you have decided to show us your future wife. That’s growing up, son. So when is she coming to see us?”
“I don’t know. Malume, there is a bit of a problem. Jane is white.”
His uncle’s face fell; the small, piercing eyes immediately lost their sparkle as he slowly nodded his small round head. “Oh, I see.” He pulled at his short beard, then said, “I’ll tell you something, son, your father is not going to like this at all. But to me, a woman is a woman, whether she is black, white, yellow or colored. I wish your father could understand that, but the way I know his convictions and philosophies, he is not going to like this at all.”
Although Themba had known all along that his father would not like his affair with Jane, hearing it coming from his uncle was a big blow. This combined with the hostility that he had witnessed from Jane’s father hit him a glancing blow and he winced mentally. He felt his grasp on Jane slipping away. But when he imagined her in his arms, her long hair brushing against his cheeks, his despair swiftly translated itself into certain willpower, a glimmer of hope.
His uncle’s wife found the two men deep in thought: one thinking about his love while the other one seemingly grappling with his conscience, figuring out the best solution to Themba’s problem.
Bhebhe said, “MaTshuma, Themba wants to introduce us to his bride-to-be.”
“Really, that’s good. At least we will have someone who will cook isitshwala for us.”
Bhebhe laughed. “I doubt if she can cook isitshwala. She is white,” he said.
Chris Gande is a Zimbabwean journalist who was a senior reporter with the Daily News, a private newspaper that was shut down by the government of Robert Mugabe in 2003. In his fourteen years as a journalist, Gande has written news stories for a number of international news media organizations using the pseudonym Silas Dube. Section Eight is his first novel to be published, but he has published dozens of fiction short stories locally and internationally since the age of thirteen. Gande, who trained in both print and broadcast journalism, is now based in the United States, where he is working as a broadcaster for the Voice of America’s Studio Seven.