This One Time, 10

This one time I was on the phone with my mother, back in Ssese. She manages a small hotel there, and it is one of the perks of my job all day on the phones that we get to call anywhere we like and talk for half an hour on our lunch breaks. My shift is eleven AM to eight PM, to coincide mostly with work hours on the Pacific coast. Our offices are in a very expensive area of the city to be nearer the necessary infrastructure to carry our telephone traffic, but the offices are small and have no windows. They are decorated like dormitory rooms, mostly posters and toys brought in by my fellow workers.

I like my coworkers and get along well with them. Most of us met at university and took classes together. We do this job mostly because it is not too far from school and to practice our English and Spanish language skills. To be honest, it really does not matter to me how I earn money while taking my economics and pre-law curriculum. I like talking to people, even angry people, which is how I know I will enjoy being a lawyer, even if I am just a consulting lawyer for a business.

My family in Uganda is wealthy from the hotel business at the resort in Ssese. I send my mother pictures of people here in the city and she sends me clothes that will make me look beautiful and fit in with the people in the pictures. If the clothes are too nice I will sometimes trade them with friends for clothes that are more durable or sporty or warm. My mother has little grasp of the need for warm clothing. I keep telling her to pretend I live in a village in the mountains, and she tells me she sees no sign of mountains in the pictures I send. We joke that it is colder on the upper floors of tall buildings, and some times it even snows on the 50th floor.

She has a camera in her phone like mine and she sends me pictures of home for me to print and hang on the walls at my house and at work. So, when I am talking to her, she is interrupted by my cousin who I played with as a little girl. I ask her to take a picture of my cousin so I can see what he looks like now. She says he is handsome, and I joke that if I can make one of my friends fall in love with him, he can marry her and move here and visit me.

Her voice became quieter as she moved the phone away from her head and worked to activate the camera. I heard her laughing and him laughing and the sound the phone makes when it pretends to be a real camera. Then we talked some more and said goodbye and she said she would send the picture when she rang off.

I received the picture about ten minutes later. My mother had taken a picture of his face and shoulders. Her left hand was in the picture also, with her fingers around his throat like she was choking him. He had an enormous smile, showing all of his big white teeth. In the background was a boat dock and Lake Victoria, and it was all bright and beautiful.

Then I knew my mother had sent me a picture taken earlier in the day. When it is three-thirty PM in New York, it is eleven-thirty PM in Ssese. This picture was taken during the daytime.

I looked at the filename for the picture. It had the date of tomorrow in the filename, and the time next to it said eleven-thirty AM.

I am very good at math. I study economics and accounting and I am one of just a few of my classmates that actually understand the mathematics rather than just how to use the software. I never make mistakes about what timezone I am calling. This picture of my cousin was taken from the future twelve hours from now.

I called my mother back, even though I was not supposed to call her a second time in one day, and it took a while for her to answer. I asked her about what time her phone said it was and she said nearly midnight and told me what day it was too. I asked her about the picture of my cousin, and she told me she would remember to take one of him when he showed up in the morning.

I thanked her and rang off, not knowing how to explain the situation to her in either English or Bantu. Twelve hours later I received another copy of the same picture of my laughing cousin with my mother’s hand around his throat.


January 10, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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