10 January 2010

The Cell Phone by Nigel Jack

The first time he saw her, he had visited his barber for a haircut. From the mirror in front of him he could see her without her recognising she was being watched. He could see her contours and curves clearly like a farmer watching his wheat plantation from a glider. Her features were loud and her smile exuded a lot of confidence. The even pieces of ivory that decorated her full lipped mouth was her other major source of facial beauty besides her cat eyes that blinked slowly and graciously.

His heart screamed like a baby asking for a change of diaper. He could hear it throb like a sub-woofer. The central part of his physical manhood rose in anger. It was that kind of anger which is natural and unstoppable. He was lucky that he was wearing new pair of boxer shots inside, they were still tight and could not allow any misbehaviour, otherwise he was going to leave holding low the broadsheet newspaper that he had just bought from the street vendors.

When he got back to his office Samson tried to concentrate on a pile of papers that were on his desk but he failed. His heart was not in the office. The hairdresser had stolen the day. He took out his cell phone and dialled his barber’s number. He could hear the phone ringing but no response. He was cross - it was not easy to connect; almost everybody in the city had a cell phone and airtime was a thousand times more affordable and available than bread.

For a quarter of an hour his phone was giving him automated text messages like, ‘error in connection’, ‘wrong number’ or he could hear a fast computer voice telling him, ‘the number you have dialled is not reachable at the moment, please try again latter.’ When he was almost giving up he got through. But that was not enough; his barber was supposed to answer. Tension grew hairs on his skin and his front teeth sat heavily on his lower lip as he waited impatiently to hear a live voice.

“Hello boss,” Givemore responded. He called all his male clients by that title.

“Ah, Givy,” Samson was not amused, “why do you take time to answer when you know the network is drunk.”

“Sorry boss, the phone was on charge, away from my corner.”

“Ah...” Samson wanted to continue complaining but Givemore interjected.

“How can I help you Boss?”

“Okay listen, this is between you and me.”

“What is it boss you know I’m always at your service? I’m your most humble servant indeed. Say a word and it will be done.”

Givemore’s spontaneous responses and willingness to execute a duty he had not yet learnt of, gave Samson little creeps. But his fears were no greater than his passions. Fears could make him freeze for a moment but passions were capable of making him burst forever. He shut his eyes and paused for a moment.

“Givemore,” Samson enunciated.

Givemore had never before heard his name called with such gravity before. It was too solemn for a man of his disposition.

“Yes Boss,” this time his response was not rushed.

“Who is that girl I saw today wearing a yellow top and jeans.”

“Oh, wait Boss; let me move away a bit, just a minute.”

Samson could hear Givemore’s footsteps. He could not wait to hear what he was going to say. His blood was overflowing. There was one thing he was afraid of hearing. He was afraid of hearing that the girl was a wife, a mother or both. He had been in the dating business for long and he had not been lucky. In most of the cases he had been the one to call it quits because of his picky tendencies. He was always looking for the one and to him the one was Miss Right. Most of his dates would fall short on one or two qualities and he would not take that. He was looking for beauties, the outward and inward, he wanted both and there were no exceptions. And now at 27 the search was tense.

“Yes Boss, sorry the bird was just close to me that’s why I had to move away. I’m outside the shop at the moment. We can talk.”

“Tell me, what’s her name?”

“Diana, don’t tell me you don’t know Diana, she has been working with us here at She & He for almost three months now.”

“Then she blossomed rapidly in the three months, is she married?”

“No, ah no Boss, she is very much single. She has one or two male friends but they are not her boyfriends. I talk to her at times; I think she is not bad. Besides, she has the goods- I think you could see that she is loaded, a fertile potato farm ha.”

“No I’m not looking for that, do you have her number.”

“She has two; I’ll page them to you.”

“Great, please try and do it in the next five minutes,” Samson was happy with the information he had just gathered, “told you this is between you and me ha?”

“It’s between you and me Boss.”

That afternoon Samson commenced his betrothing on the phone. It was not that much of a hustle as he had anticipated nor was it a walk in the park, but somewhere in the range of careful talking. He enjoyed every minute that he was on the phone with her; to him it was pure entertainment. It was intriguing talking to someone for the first time on love, neither theorising nor abbreviating it, but confessing a desire to practice it. What was difficult was trying to capture the passion in words and on the phone where responses could be very liberal.

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

This was not an easy question for Samson. Saying he had never been in love would mean there was something wrong with him and he was not lovable. If he would say he had a girlfriend, then he was automatically confessing infidelity. And if he was to tell of a break-up, the reasons were supposed to be provided.

“We broke up,” Samson said knowing what was to be the follow-up question.


“I discovered she had been cheating on me so I decided to part with her. I’m afraid of the virus; I think you understand that nowadays you need one partner.”

“Did you use to have sex with her?”

“No,” it sounded foolish but there was no much of an option.

“Why?” she was inquisitive.

“Why, why what?” Samson had never heard such a question from a girl before, “I’m not immoral, I’m not the kind of person who sleeps around.”

“Have you ever had sex before?”

Samson felt like the earth was crushing down on him. He had no immediate answer for this question but it was expected from him so he stammered.


In a space of a week the contents of the humiliating first day cell phone conversation was spiked. Samson was on the driver’s seat, moderating the pace at which the affair was moving. He was beginning to wave off illusions to get the true picture. Diana was no special to any other full bodied girl. Her outward beauty was average only that it was enhanced by artificial attachments. She had a good choice on clothes and her light skin had a way of exaggerating her beauty.

In-fact it was very disappointing for Samson to discover that Diana was shallow in thought. Apart from clothes and hairdressing she knew virtually little. It appeared she had last read a book at high school and the only writing that she could do was on her cell phone. Samson knew the affair was not going to last but he had to hang on a bit, at least to hold on to something while searching for something better.

Many times Samson would find himself condescending to her level in order to communicate effectively. Little did he know that an understanding of that nature would bring her closer? One day Diana visited Samson at his office, and she perched herself on the desk. That could have been a problem if Sam was sharing an office with someone. The office was all his. He was a buyer for an uncle’s supermarket in the countryside. The supermarket had credit accounts with three network providers in the country and Samson was responsible for managing them. Thus he automatically got involved in the new street phenomenon called BACOSSI.

BACOSSI (Basic Commodities Supply Side Intervention) had been introduced by the illegitimate and beleaguered government of Zimbabwe as practical propaganda to safeguard its rural support base.

In fact it was reported in one weekly paper that, “Rampant inflation which the Reserve Bank this week said clocked 2,2 million% is set to hasten towards the 100 million% mark by year-end following government's launch of the "BACOSSI to the People" Project. The Reserve Bank has splashed millions of United States dollars in its latest quasi-fiscal undertaking, the National Basic Commodities Supply Enhancement Programme in which rural and urban dwellers will receive groceries at heavily subsidized prices.”

So the story read but no urban dweller received BACOSSI. They were called traitors and deserved to die of hunger. Everything went scarce and supermarkets had nothing to show but empty shelves. One business was thriving and it was selling money. Banks turned into halls of informal deals. People like Sam would receive a bank cheque of say 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars and use it to purchase cell phone recharge cards that they would sell for a total of say 5 billion cash money. The cash money could buy them a hundred United States dollars, which was an amount worth 40 trillion or 50 trillion the following day on the street market. When selling the United States dollars they needed electronic money transfers and it was usually done by big companies who were in desperate need of the foreign currency. The circle would go on and on until such an individual would have a substantive amount to buy a car, and some other basic commodities. Formal employees were getting it hard, they would receive their salaries through the bank and in most cases it was less than a billion Zimbabwe dollars. This means they had less than 10 American dollars for salary the whole month. This forced members of the police force to defect to street deals and there was confusion. The value for money was lost. The idea of selling goods at a ridiculously low price in order to get cash to exchange for hard currency was called BACOSSI by the streets. The term also meant getting whatever you need for free. It became synonymous to confusion.

Diana had learnt of all this, and she knew Samson was one of the key-holders of BACOSSI. She wanted him to go further. She wanted them to explore each other. She pulled up her skirts but Samson pretended not to have seen, he continued packing trillions of Zimbabwean dollars that he wanted to use to buy hard currency.

“So, how long are we going to continue like this?” Diana asked with anger written all over her face.

“Like what Baby?” Samson responded, and when he did not get an answer within the time he expected he turned his head to look straight into Diana’s eyes. They were shining with tears. His heart melted. He rose from the chair and held her tight in his arms.

“What is it?” he muttered into her ears.

“You told me that you love me,” she said and started sobbing.

“Yea, yea I did, is anything wrong with that?” he quickly let off the tight hug and held her on the shoulders looking her in the face, “Is there anything wrong with that baby?”



“Then why are you avoiding me?” she asked with her eyes fixed on his chest rather than his eyes or at least his face.

“Avoiding you, what do you mean?”

“I mean exactly that,” she raised her voice a bit.

“Okay, okay calm down. I am not avoiding you, I’m just doing my job. You know this is not a bed-room, besides I can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t? Are you not my boy-friend?”

“Yes I am, but I’m not your husband.”

Her phone started ringing. She took it out and answered. The conversation was precise and it was mainly about time.

“Who was that?” Samson asked nonchalantly.

“It’s one of my clients.”

“You told her five o’clock, will you still be in the salon by that time?”

“Sometimes we stay up to seven or eight depending on the hairstyle. Most of our clients go to work so we don’t have an option?”

“How do you go home around that time, I understand in most places the mini-bus operators would have knocked off.”

“My brother picks me up, most of the times”

“And when he doesn’t?”

“I look for my own means.”

“Okay, you said you stay in Borrowdale- I forgot to ask which part of Borrowdale?”

“The Brooke.”

“Wow in those hills, your brother must be filthy rich.”

As usual Samson called her girlfriend soon after supper. This call would last more than two hours. BACOSSI airtime was as affordable as free. What was difficult was to get connected and once connected the conversation about nothing in particular would last.

In the middle of the conversation Samson remembered he had just bought a new line for his other handset. A cell phone line was very expensive and hard to find, so Samson was very excited about it. He wanted to tell his tell his girlfriend then he decided to send her a text message on her other cell phone using the new line.

“Hi,” was the message.

“Hi, who is this,” she responded.

Samson found the response very funny so he thought of delaying to tell her who he was and decided to page a compliment, “I saw you in your salon today and I liked what I saw on you.”

“So what are you doing right now,” Samson asked on the voice conversation.

“I’m preparing my supper,” she responded.

Samson’s phone indicated a received text message and it was from Diana. It read,
“Ah, who is this, who gave you my number?”

Samson smiled and asked on the voice conversation, “Are you watching Television right now.”

“It was written on your mirror,” he responded on the text conversation.

“Hey, please hold on, I need to check my pot,” she said

“Okay, what is it that you saw on me and liked,” read her text on the other phone.

“Your king size hips, your full boobs, brown thighs, healthy hair and your soft hands,” the reply was inviting, just what a girl needed to hear in order to loosen up.

“My soft hands, who told you they are soft?” the response came shortly.

Samson was starting to get a mixed feeling of anger and excitement. He was angry to discover her girlfriend could still entertain separate and intimate conversations with some other males out there. He was excited to accidentally find himself in a position where he could learn more about her girlfriend without her getting to realize she was being spied on. He had never been in such a position before and he was learning to contain the mood. The opportunity had an effect too subtle to be defined or described by words. It was like ale - when you start drinking it, sweetness is distant but one sip leads you to another until the mind gives up the guard of reasoning.

“I saw them.”

“What is it that you saw that told you they are soft?” she was now hooked.

“Hello, hello,” she was back on the voice conversation.

“Yea, I can hear you,” he answered while busy typing something on the other phone.

“I saw them applying a chemical to a client’s hair, it was painful to watch,” is what he wrote and send.

“What was painful about that?”

“I wished that was me, being given those strokes on my back while leaning back on the hot boobs,” he explained without any misgivings, the platform called for that, besides his heart was starting to run out of moral reservations.

“Hey baby, how much I wish you were here with me,” he said on the voice conversation while waiting for a text message from her other phone, “I miss you so much during the nights that at times I feel like coming over there, just to hold you and hear you breathe. Do you feel the same way?”

“You’re so funny, do you have a girlfriend?” is what he read from the other phone.

“Of-course I do, you know I love you so much,” her voice was shaking so she didn’t have to say much.

“Not a serious one,” Samson responded to the hot question on the text conversation.

“I’m not surprised, so what do you want from me,” was the response.

“What about you. Do you have a boyfriend?” it was time to fire back.

“Not a serious one,” what goes around comes around was the inspiration behind the response.

A lot of sweet nothings were being muttered as the couple kept their fingers busy with typing secret questions and answers. Both their voices had lost natural flairs. But that wasn’t that important to them, the other conversation was.

“Perfect, do you go clubbing?”

“Not that much, my boyfriend doesn’t like it. I only go when he is out of town.”

“Who do you go with?”


“Can I come pick you up today?”

“Not that fast brother”

“Why not, after-all it’s just clubbing, nothing else. Can I come?”

“Hey Sam,” Diana said on the voice conversation, “I can’t continue talking to you right now. I need to sleep, last night I slept late doing my sister’s hair. I’m sorry darling, I’ll call you tomorrow morning or I’ll come to your office. Goodnight.”

“Its okay baby, dream about me. Goodnight.”

On the other phone the conversation was still on.

“That is if it’s okay for you.”

“What’s your address then?”

“Come to Warren Park One shops and call me when you get there. Our house is adjacent to the shops. What time do you think you can be there?”

“In 30 minutes, I’ll be there.”


Samson switched off his new phone and slept.

The Cell Phone was written by Nigel Jack.

Copyright © Nigel Jack 2010.

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...

No Harare male of our generation can read this and not smile, and not have a lingering suspicion that they may have shared too much of their life story with a stranger! I like the bit about coming down to earth and coming to terms with the fact that Diana, for all her curves, was a two-dimensional, shallow sort of person. That pretty much sums up a writer's love life.

Ozioma Izuora said...

Love this!! The twist is beautiful. Common place issues are often missed in the flow of creativity. When an artiste picks up on it, you excel 'oh that is possible'! Well done Nigel.

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