- Wole Soyinka
- "Telephone Conversation"
- The price seemed reasonable, location
- Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
- Off premises. Nothing remained
- But self-confession. "Madam," I warned,
- "I hate a wasted journey--I am African."
- Silence. Silenced transmission of
- Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
- Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled
- Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was foully.
- "HOW DARK?" . . . I had not misheard . . . "ARE
- OR VERY DARK?" Button B, Button A.*
- Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
- Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
- Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
- By ill-mannered silence, surrender
- Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
- Considerate she was, varying the emphasis--
- "ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?" Revelation came.
- "You mean--like plain or milk chocolate?"
- Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
- Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
- I chose. "West African sepia"--and as afterthought,
- "Down in my passport." Silence for spectroscopic
- Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
- Hard on the mouthpiece. "WHAT'S THAT?" conceding
- "DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS." "Like brunette."
- "THAT'S DARK, ISN'T IT?" "Not altogether.
- Facially, I am brunette, but, madam, you should see
- The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
- Are a peroxide blond. Friction, caused--
- Foolishly, madam--by sitting down, has turned
- My bottom raven black--One moment, madam!"--sensing
- Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
- About my ears--"Madam," I pleaded, "wouldn't
- See for yourself?"
Buttons to be pressed by caller who has inserted a coin into
an old type of British public pay phone.
- Return to ENGL 202