14 February 2009

Naked by Nigel Jack

I was not used to losing but this time I had lost my heart to Tobi. My bones became painful with love. Thoughts of her never ceased to haunt me. But I could not tell her how much I longed for her affection. I was afraid of being rejected, for being rejected would mean losing two positive attributes of a man: heart and dignity. Furthermore, I just didn’t like the idea of having to stop loving her.

We both travelled to South Africa to attend a church conference. After the conference I would go back and Tobi would stay to begin her university studies. I was running out of time but I still was afraid to tell what I could not tell her while I was still in Zimbabwe. I remember the words of Stan, my high school literature teacher, ‘Have you ever wondered what things would be like if the moment you saw the possible love of your life, you slew the dragons of fear and talked to her? What is worse, to let opportunity slide through your fingers and regret it for the rest of your life, or to muster enough courage to say what your heart is screaming to say and to find out where you stand with her?’

So many people from different walks of life attended the conference that it was not easy to find anybody you were looking for. The closest person your eye could see was most probably a stranger who would probably leave still a stranger. Many times I would imagine coming face to face with Tobi but that never happened until a day before the end of the conference. It was in the afternoon when I had decided to have my lunch on the lawn just outside the dining hall. I felt hands covering my eyes and heard, ‘guess who?’

I would hardly have forgotten the voice that had echoed in my heart every night to deprive me of enough sleep.

“It’s you?”


“My dream.”

“E-e, Sean, how dare you call me your dream?”

“It’s Tobi.”


She removed her palms from my eyes and I once again saw her full figure. Her response when I told her she was my dream had completely disarmed me. I could not advance into her heart so we discussed petty issues. She told me she had been allocated an apartment at the University hostels and I told her I was happy for her. We were called back into the main auditorium for a seminar and I felt useless. Nevertheless I could not give up on her. I managed to ask for her cellphone number the following day and left the country with a speck of hope in my heart.

When we got back to Zimbabwe the Akinolas started preparing for their final departure to Nigeria. Their home was now incredibly boring without Tobi and for me there was no reason for them to continue living in my country. Two months before their journey my affluent uncle sent me to a communications company in South Africa to buy an ‘Adondo’ phone unit. I took the errand as an opportunity to see Tobi again. Once more I failed to confess my love for her. I travelled back a sad man cursing my cowardice. When I got home I looked for the essay that my high school literature teacher had written - and perused it with a profound gravity of passion and appreciation.*

It’s funny how people’s lives intersect for brief moments in eternity but they remain oblivious to the pieces of souls and different shades of history that come together for a while. There are those times, walking down a street, sitting in a bus, (a commuter omnibus) we see someone who captures our fancy but we’re too intimidated to do anything about it

On the streets, you brush past each other, the eyes perhaps looking for an instant, or you walk by, pretending not to have seen each other... but a few footsteps away, you can’t resist casting your hungry, yearning eyes over your shoulder for but one last glimpse.

In the bus (or commuter omnibus, perhaps) sitting next to each other, you stare straight-ahead neck stiff, but your entire body acutely conscious of her presence beside you. Her heat: the radiance of her beauty.

You cough, clear your throat, and dare yourself to speak to her but the words like rust congealed on your tongue. Fear wraps its tentacles around your heart and you convince yourself that she’d never talk to you. Fear paralyses your tongue, and all too soon she has gone.

But her spirit lingers on and haunts you for the rest of the day. You can smell her in your dreams, touch her in your thoughts. A slice of eternity is thus imprinted on the canvas of your mind and, no doubt, she carries traces of you whenever she goes.

Have you ever wondered what things would be like if the moment you saw the possible love of your life, you slew the dragons of fear and talked to her. What is worse, to let opportunity slide through your fingers and regret it for the rest of your life, or to muster up enough courage to say what your heart is screaming to say and find out where you stand with her?

The next time you let a woman, who caresses your soul with her beauty, walk away from you, still a stranger, ask yourself why? Was it because you were too terrified to speak? Were you afraid of being turned down and humiliated in public or you were more scared of her liking you too?

As a youth, are you capable of love? The truth of matter is that we all are - capable of love - regardless of how old we are. But alas, we are also capable of self delusion, and likewise liable to the danger of being in love with the concept of love itself, all-we see in women then, is nothing more than objects of our intangible, poorly defined desires. There are times when we mistake the tempest of our loins with passions in our hearts, especially in this age where Hollywood feeds us the myth that sex is love and empty soul and r’n’ b lyrics promote the lie that love is sex.

Sex without love is dehumanising and demeaning. It is nothing more than physical gratification of what are normally called basic, animal instincts. Meaningless R ‘n’ b lyrics generally operate on this level and act as nothing more than erotic auto-suggestive tools designed as levers of mental masturbation. As youths, our hormones make us highly curious about sex, and our bodies heavily tormented by desires and feelings we barely understand.

Hollywood and our taste in music seem to provide the answers, but do they? Or do they simply obscure our vision and fill us with unattainable dreams? In fact, in the end we do not have dreams of our own. Instead, we live second hand lives; speak hand-me-down language copied from substandard Hollywood films, spiritually sterile American music and wear condoms on our conscience, blissfully going about our lives as if there are no consequences for our actions.

For every action there is a reaction. Ideas without experience are sterile, while experience without ideas is blind. We have the freedom of choice, yes, but must be prepared to live with the consequences of our choices.

Whenever we speak of love, we use abbreviated language, and use highly reduced concepts, for language is grossly inadequate when it comes to capturing the essence of the emotion- if it is an emotion. Some words capture the reduced fractions of love namely the basic, the intellectual, and the spiritual, the categories are too neat, of course, for in real life- as with all things - they intermingle, intersect, and blur into one another. For simplicity’s sake, the base level is when love is motivated by purely materialistic reasons; what you can buy or what can be bought for you – the relationship is heavily influenced by financial questions and scaled by physical considerations.

When a couple attains the intellectual level, the base level becomes inadequate and they seek to fulfil each other, build one another on the level of ideas. They explore the territory of each other’s thoughts, seek out new possibilities of existence and search for new way of perception. Unlike a relationship limited to the base level, the relationship at this level moves away from selfish to selfless and is spiritually building experience. Growth is fundamental and difference is no obstacle but another gateway to a deeper, more meaningful relationship.

At this stage, you cannot demand sex so that you can boast about your prowess to your friends. That’d be too narrow minded, limiting, and infantile - a violation of not only your loved one but you too. You learn the art of respect. You grow to appreciate the worth of love and realise how sacred it can be.

At this stage you begin the transition to the spiritual level, where even the unspoken is audible. A place where dreams and thoughts have a name and a voice. At this stage you have become true soulmates “two souls through space until they come to rest and join to complete the universe”.

True love completes the individuals who share it, and unless we’ve found it, we wander through life, undefined, fragmented and incomplete. Who can hear the voice of our unspoken dreams but our soulmates? Phantoms of delight that light up our lives, and fill the universes of our soul with music.

It’s funny how our lives can touch but for a moment in eternity, but our lives are destined never to be the same again. A woman is a mystery to be solved, her heart hieroglyphics to be deciphered and ultimately there are only four pillars of life; the sacred, the beautiful, what is worth living for and what is worth dying for. Knowing the names and faces of these is finding the meaning of life, and the meaning of life is love. That is the only sacred thing in this life, which is worth living or dying for.

Have you really, really loved unless you are prepared to give up all you have, including your life for the sake of your loved one? What is to love but to be prepared to die in order to resurrect in the heart of your loved one. You must be prepared to lose everything in order to gain an empire, ready to lose an empire in order to gain love. But then all these are nothing more than mere oversimplifications, for ultimately the heart has no formulae­­­- and love knows no mathematics or boundaries. It transcends all limitations we place on it, above all it gives us a reason to wake up in the morning (or to sleep forever?)

After reading I felt my affection for Tobi had been elevated to a stage where it wouldn’t matter whether she could reciprocate it or not. I felt my love for her was safer without being confessed. Perhaps this was a sign of my weak testosterone. The inability to voice my love meant it would not grow and this sounds to be a vice but I took it for virtue in the sense that my love for her would remain virgin.

Naked was written by Nigel Jack and is an extract from his debut novel, Naked.

Copyright Nigel Jack 2008.

I’m -a budding yet prolific poet among my peers- a novelist and journalist who is now best known for my vivid portrayal of the contemporary ‘third world’ Zimbabwe in my debut novel, Naked.

My passionate, imaginative, seemingly simple yet intellectually complex art is reminiscent of the unadulterated African lifestyle of the Shona people in Zimbabwe. I use coyness and mock modesty to address anomalies within the complexity of the race –my race– of which I’m so proud ‘and that which I love I chastise.’

Born in Mt Darwin on 16 November 1979, I began my primary education in 1986 at Dandamera Primary School in Concession. I attended four more primary schools, before reaching high school, during which time I experienced more than I comprehended.

I attended forms 1 to 6 at Oriel Boys’ High School where my mind and experiences fell prey to an indisputably well read English Literature teacher who had an unquenchable desire for intellectual supremacy. I Nigel, his ‘guinea pig’, innocently went through the process of intellectual revolution without conceiving any suspicion of its irreversibility.

My parents held my penmanship in sufficiently high esteem to send me to the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA) from which I emerged, in 2001, with a diploma in communication and journalism. During the two years I spent in college I developed the hobby of writing and reading poems to my classmates.

I later decided to gather all the poems together - and came up with a manuscript that I entitled; ‘Yet you love them and other poems.’ I lost this, my one and only manuscript, to a prominent writer whom I had asked to peruse the document pending its despatch to a publishing house.

In frustration I gave up poetry and seasoned my mind to concentrating on my journalism profession and, in January 2002, joined a Bulawayo based newspaper, The Chronicle, where I worked as a junior court reporter. In 2003 I joined the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, where I was employed as a scriptwriter and researcher.

While I was at ZBC I experienced deep pangs of poetic nostalgia but frustration would supersede the intransigent passion that had, some time ago, earned me nothing but repentance. However, art is not a job it is a calling - I eventually gave in to the passion but this time I would try prose.

Within a fortnight I completed a novel that I entitled ‘An apology for the life of Sean Quincy.’ I thought about my work and found it an incomplete history so I started writing another novel that I entitled ‘Trapped.’ Later I joined the two books and the work became ‘Naked’.

My first book, Naked, was tailored for the reader to discover the common intent of meaning. This I deliberately fashioned without expressions of personal purpose and I’m at liberty with my conscience to dearly pardon oneself and apologize to others if such is therein occasioned. However a common secret I wish to divulge that one's life is bedrock upon which all expressions and impressions are derived. Single or several of them may be disapproved, disaccorded or even discarded by the reader but the fact remains that art is a journey in self discovery and discovery of the world.

Today, the stories that I write are pieces of historical fiction that people will read rather for assortment of matter and for profit of profile, than precision of figures and meticulousness of dates and numbers. They are sincere compositions and substances of my responsibility to myself, and the reading society, above all they are mirror images of my unalloyed commitment to art.


Masimba Musodza said...

I would still like to get my hands on the rest of this, Nige. This is a landmark in Zimbabwean literature in English.

Ivor W. Hartmann said...

Simply Awesome Nigel. If this is what the rest of your book holds, I'll read it cover to cover in s single sitting. my best line was:

"Whenever we speak of love, we use abbreviated language, and use highly reduced concepts, for language is grossly inadequate when it comes to capturing the essence of the emotion"

You said it, and that is perhaps why people generally, and artists specifically, devote so much time trying to express the inexpressible.

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