The adventures of puberty and love letters at Poshai Primary

We enjoyed ourselves whilst growing up at Poshayi Primary School in rural Shurugwi. We played a game which we called “rounders” at Mudhara Pande’s homestead.

We converted a tennis ball into a soccer ball and used it to play endless soccer games in the valley between Mulingwa’s homestead and Poshayi Primary School.

The skin on our toes was peeled off and torn as we scraped the bare ground with our feet like hockey players, searching and striking the tiny tennis-soccer ball with our skilled cracked bare feet in bloody soccer matches where Julius Mulingwa earned the
nickname Mpetegwa for his skill in bending his foot and striking the tiny tennis-soccer ball with the top part of his foot, while the tiny tennis-soccer ball rolled on the rough ground.

It required great skill and courage.

We stole mangoes and guavas from Mudhara Kaurai Ziwakaya’s orchard and stuffed ourselves until our stomachs stuck out a mile. But if the the truth be told, it was not all rosy, growing up at Poshayi Primary School had its own fair share of woes.
We were tormented by Smith’s soldiers and Dzakutsaku during the day, and cooked for the Comrades during the night.

At the material time, water was a scarce resource. We woke up before dawn to fill our buckets at the small well which was just
outside the school, and if you failed to wake up early enough, you’d find the tiny well dry. This is because Kiwa Cheya from Mai
Mazonde’s, Gloria Tsopotsa from Teacher Mwedzi’s, Bonnie Makakayi from behind the skool, and Stella Mutsvanga from Teacher
Chihwewete’s, would have long wiped the tiny well clean.

You’d then have to forget about having a cup of tea before dashing off to skool, and you’d have to spend the whole day without taking a bath, which was more often than not.

Firewood was also a scarce commodity, and you had to use dry cow dung for cooking, or you’d use the dry crackles that fell off
the Jacaranda trees inside the school yard.

And you had to walk to skool from Chivi Village during the farming season, and walk back after skool, for my father insisted on a
full effort every farming season. It meant that you’d wake up at 2:00 am to enspan the oxen and plough the fields before dashing
off to skool at 7:00 am. You’d have to walk back to the village after skool to take care of any unfinished business from the morning, and prepare for the next day.

It was hectic.

But the physiological changes of growing up were even more difficult to handle. Puberty was setting in. When we were much younger, we used to swim with girls in Chiponise River and Mutorahuku River, and there was really nothing to it.

But when puberty set in, girls suddenly became attractive, and I no longer knew how to deal with them, they were no longer
ordinary friends and colleagues.

I started noticing, with alarm and embarrassment, that girls in my class were developing firm breasts, and I became scared of
them, as l didn’t know what to do with my attraction towards them.

One girl in my class threw me into total confusion. She was light in complexion and spoke in a deep husky voice and was extremely pretty, a real Brown Nut. I felt strongly that I should tell the Brown Nut how beautiful she was, but simply couldn’t muster sufficient courage to do so. It bothered me. It caused me great distress.

I finally came up with a workable plan, to write her a letter. I poured my heart out in the letter and described her physical attributes and how l felt about her. I looked critically and revised what I had written and was satisfied and relieved. I concluded that it would work. Ever since I learnt to read and write, l was convinced that the written word carried more power than anything else on earth.

But the letter stayed in my pockets for a whole two weeks, as l didn’t have the courage to deliver it. I walked into the grade 7 classroom one afternoon to collect my books, and found the Brown Nut packing her books into a plastic bag. She was all alone.
My heart stopped beating and it rose to my throat and closed my windpipe. I nearly spun around to flee had the Brown Nut’s husky voice not said; “Are we having extra lessons this afternoon? “

I tried to compose myself as much as I could, but my voice was shaking when I replied; “No we are not, Teacher Mwedzi has
left for Mabedzenge Primary School to visit his wife.”

I hated myself for the obvious stammer and tremor in my voice, and the fear in the pit of my stomach. But the Brown Nut was saying; “That’s good, l’m leaving for home right away.” I was thrown into further panick when I heard this. I had to do something before she left, but what? I suddenly remembered the letter which was literally rotting in my pocket and with great effort walked towards her desk and placed the letter on her desk, and in a tremulous and shivering voice, said; “Here is your letter.”

Before the Brown Nut could say anything, l turned around and fled from the classroom.

I ran and hid behind the classroom block, barely breathing. Oh my God! What had l done? She will surely report me to Teacher Mwedzi and I’d be humiliated in front of the whole class. But l couldn’t go back to the Grade 7 class to retrieve the letter, so l walked home miserably.

I started avoiding Brown Nut with an ingenious skill l didn’t know l possessed.

I swore to myself that she would never have a chance to speak with me. My strategy of evading Brown Nut was working well and went on for several weeks.

The tiny well which was just outside the school used to run out of water and you had to climb down to the bottom to scoop small amounts of water to fill up your container.

One day l went down to the bottom of the tiny well to fetch some water.

As l emerged at the surface, l came face to face to face with the Brown Nut. I shook like a reed in the middle of a flooded Musavezi River. My mouth went dry and l became drenched in sweat. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

It is the Brown Nut who broke the tense silence;

"May l have some of 

of your water?”

I handed her a small gallon which was cut open at the top and had a long rope attached to it. We used it to draw water from the well. She gulped neatly from it with smooth sensuous lips.

Why did God make such beautiful creatures which are so frightening at the same time? I wondered.

I suddenly got the courage to solve the mysteries of the world.

“Why didn’t you reply
the letter l left for you?”

I asked at last.

She looked at me with keen interest and said;

“I don’t read letters
whose authors l do
not know. I tore it to
pieces before I read it.
How did you know that
I didn’t reply it, did you
write it?”

The question hit me like a tonne of bricks. I lied instinctively;

“No l didn’t write it, l
swear l didn’t.
Someone you don’t
even know sent me
with it, but I won’t tell
you his name.”

It was a foolish lie which exposed my cowardice.

The Brown Nut stared blankly at me, and before walking away said in a calm voice;

“Good, that settles it
then. You are not the
author of the letter
which l didn’t read, and
you are not going to tell
me the name of the
person who wrote it. So
you and me don’t have
anything to discuss
about a letter, isn’t it
so? Thanks for the
water.”

I had no answer to such piercing logic.

I watched her walk away and wished l could throw myself to the ground and weep. Why at all, why at all does love have to bring so much misery and pain?

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