real life story

at sunrise today the third tenant died in the house next door – less than six months after i almost chose it, but chose, instead, the house next door. early in october 2016 i went house-hunting. first, i went into the house next door – beautiful, compact and innocent-looking house in redwood travertine face brick with manicured grounds and a swimming pool. but it felt cold and smelt like a disused morgue. i left and went into the house next door – spacious house in plastered walls, with well-groomed grounds but no swimming pool. it was new, smelt of fresh honey-suckle paint and had a certain airiness about it. i chose it without hesitation – love at first smell, if you like. i will, however, find out in early november why it looked new and smelt fresh – it had almost burnt down six months earlier. so, it was redone and repainted – mint but flint. i wished i had chosen the house next door. then the rains came, and i felt like i was in noah’s ark. growing up, i was told santa comes down chimneys. this november, grown up – victoria falls was coming down my chimney. in less than thirty minutes the first rains shut down the power in my house. called an electrician who went through the ceiling to check the wiring, a few minutes later he put his head through the hole in the ceiling he had gone through, “please come up, sir.” what i saw looked like a sooty disused classroom for bomb-making students who didn’t graduate. the electrician was surprised the house hadn’t gone up in flames again – “the rains saved your house, sir.” hearing that, i really wished i had taken the house next door. then, mid-november, the first death occurred. it started with a wail in the wee hours of the morning, and then the neighborhood dogs took over in sequence. i went outside and through the gates noticed the commotion building up in the compound of the house next door. i went to the house next door and saw the woman of the house wailing and writhing on the manicured lawn – she was inconsolable. she screamed in quick bursts like somebody was stabbing her repeatedly with a blunt knife. i thought they had been robbed – it was “christmas time” and this neighborhood was like the training academy for all thieves in the city. after what seemed an eternity, we managed to take the sobbing woman into the house. as we got into the house she pointed towards an inner room, and then collapsed onto a sofa – wailing and writhing. with some people tending the woman, the rest of us went into the room. her husband, with eyes open, was lying in bed – dead. even with so many people inside, the house felt cold and still smelt like a disused morgue. by november’s end the woman had moved out of the house. three weeks later a new couple moved into the house. a couple with a child who wasn’t walking yet, but could crawl. a week passed uneventfully. then one afternoon, as i was having lunch in late december, i heard wails from the house next door. i went across and found the couple by the swimming pool – the woman was wailing, the man, wet, looked like he had just seen a ghost. lying on the ground in front of them beside the swimming pool was the body of their child – wet and dead. by the first week of january the couple had moved out of the house. as february rolled in, a bachelor moved in. an international freelance photographer. he was hardly home. but i’ll find out today that he had a live-in maid. today, i returned home early from work because the students had gone on rampage, vandalized the campus, burnt one of the zebra sculptures in the circle by the university and burnt the national flag. as a result, the university was shut down. as i approached my house i noticed an unusual traffic in front of the house next door. this street wasn’t famous for parties. in fact, only one thing brought a crowd to any of the houses on this street. to one house, really. through the open gate, i could see the gardener gesticulating to a small crowd near him. there was human traffic all around. there was no wailing – just people walking in and out of the compound with somber expressions. when you’re used to death, you can tell when someone has seen death. “what’s going on?” the young woman i asked, was sitting in a car, door open and trying to control herself. she looked at me and barely spoke the words, “the maid.”

fkregie 2017.