30: The Heart
There was only the swish of the grass pushed aside by their legs and the soft crunch of the soil beneath boots to fill between the far off repetitive calls of a ring-necked dove and the soft chatter of a honey-guide.
The little bird trying to get their attention would have no luck today, the scout patrol was steadily moving south along the rivers margin. Stretched line abreast to increase the chance of detecting tracks, or finding snares they moved with purpose and in silence.
Not having to concentrate on following a track Moses walked slightly to the rear of the formation. His mind and soul bask in the pleasure of walking with the team and his thoughts.
He was at one with the world. He had spent his life moving with men. Mostly peacefully and uneventfully, but also sometimes with deliberate purposefull strides towards violent confrontation, when necessary. Moses hoped it would stay calm this time, but one never knew what would happen if they came upon a group of armed poachers.
Man is made in the image of God. Ever since Father Xavier showed him how to shelter in the shadow of that image, away from the heat of evil he felt comfortable dealing with those with whom he moved, carefully choosing some and rejecting others. The old priest taught him to be practical about his faith and service,. Sometimes it was necessary to slap back even while turning the other cheek. It was why he had spent his life as a private military contractor fighting, even killing to preserve the shades of Godly goodness.
As such he had not spent much time dealing with the affairs of women, definitely not dealing with how women can seep into and take over men’s hearts.
Yes he had married early, barely passed his teens. It had been arranged. A good loving choice made on his behalf. But, with his choosing to fight against those who opposed the way of God he had spent little time at home. The struggles had been far away in Angola, Sierra Leone and lately Nigeria. As such he never really knew his cherished wife with her womanly ways, before malaria took her spirit away, with all the sadness that goes with death and a daughter barely walking and a son still crawling towards his future. Luckily there had been grandparents to raise the children he hardly knew. At least the pay in his unusual career had been good, and the grandparents and his children benefitted from that abundance.
Now he was discovering a space in his heart, a wasteland for so long, being flooded to overflowing. How that overflow was affecting every facet of his life, with the unaccustomed elation of it had taken him completely by surprise.
He had always been driven to impress and prove himself to men. It had been in ways of strength, fortitude, resolve, courage or determination. Never had he sought the approval of a woman. So where did his compulsion to find favor in this woman’s eyes come from? Suddenly the approval of men was nothing compared to that of this girl. Her shy smile hinting at her interest in him. His pleasure at impressing her. At bringing her little gifts. A string of lucky beans, a bouquet of wild flowers.
It brought joy. Her glow was easily kindled. Like hers to him, his presence seemed to bring her happiness. Its sufficiency was triggered in the small things he said to her, the little favors he performed. Inviting her out to show her the insignificant trivia of the bush. To track a tortoise, show her an ant colony on the March, find her namesake, the beauty of a Narina Trojan in a thicket. Sometimes it was a focus on the flowers, show her where he had picked the flame lilies.
How was it that after tracking the mystery man all day, when otherwise he was filled with tiredness, his gait increased its alacrity. He was effused with pleasure knowing that before sunset she would appear. All evening they would sit side-by-side on the sandbar at the edge of the river with the fire at their feet, listening to the snort of the hippos, while talking about the meanderings of life.
He would tell her of Angola and Nigeria and of hidden Africa. He would even tell her snippets of some of the darker dealings. He went so far as to show her his wounds, pulling up his shirt to reveal the scars on belly and back.
This happiness was something completely new.
It had arrived suddenly, without warning, as he watched her come to him. He couldn’t remember, was it the second or third time she visited his campsite? It flooded forth as she approached. With her hips like bells, and the sensuous catlike way she walked making her long black hair sway so that it brushed her shoulders above the tightness of her clinging top. It opened the gates to his heart. It manifested itself as an awareness of her being,, when he realized her appearances meant she was interested in him as a man, not as a guide.
Blinkers were stripped from his mind’s eye. He saw her in a new light. Everything about her was beautiful.
He had fallen in love.
Strange. It felt so utterly good. That first time sitting before the fire, with their feet resting on a big log as they spoke and laughed. One foot slowly inching closer, until her toes touched his. He hadn’t drawn his foot away.
The flare of the heart had been immeasurably more intense than the flames of the fire they were staring at.
Later, with the speechless ease of a daydreamer, a drawn out sigh of submission had heralded his headlong plunge into the cradle of her creation.
Swirling with sweeps of passion reaching up like a ful moon poised to sprinkle its silver over the deficits of his splayed desire, he had attempted to haul on the lanyards of his billowing sails.
But to no avail.
He had tumbled into the ebb and flow of her tides, pushed and pulled by their sways, as his mind flowed between the moon and the sun, spilling over a surreal stage of unexpected chance.
With his imagination pointing its shivering way towards the heat of her magnet, he no longer drifted east or west with the tug of passing fancies.
Fabulously abandoning escape, his stretches into the future were accompanied by breathless pants of hope.
How could one even contemplate a plea for forgiveness with the perfection
of how she accepted him, as willingly and excitedly as he could ever dream.
The shadows of goodness are always dappled at the edges Father Xavier said, as long as one made sure there was enough sunlight for the flame lilies to flower.
Now, as he walked behind the scouts his mind was pulled back to the present as his eyes detected the familiar tracks of an old grey haired nganga.