By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
“Shock your wife!”
I am only reiterating the law handed down to me by Borojah, a rambunctious neighbour of mine who claims to be a poet though I’ve never come across a verse written by him.
I do not know if he can scan.
He only happens to be famous as the neighbourhood king of boys, leading endless delegations of his multiform friends to many a Lagos beer hall.
Variously known as Obi of Ikate, Poet, Nna-anyi, Noisemaker, Agbero, Norman the Gambler, Maximum Trouble or whatever, he is in my book the man with the least respect for money or social status or sartorial elegance.
He just happens to be himself, an ebullient rascal whose capacity for friendship is truly astounding.
In the two years of knowing him he shared his seedy two-bedroom apartment with all classes and races and sexes.
He once brought the great South African poet, Dennis Brutus, to his dump.
Just the other day, I read in the papers that Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka ran into the rascal at Poet Odia Ofeimun’s birthday party and asked him where he had been all these years only for Borojah to reply that he had all along been in Nigeria “managing Nigerian poverty!”
An unredeemable lout, he is the exception to every rule.
His friends say he drank only beer and whisky at the university with the Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek, author of Song of Lawino.
His presence at any gathering was sure to be a rabblerousing affair; he is always teeming with raucous songs like Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirates in Treasure Island.
It is a wonder how such a disagreeable thug manages to win the admiration of so many people – including my wife.
That is the story.
Missis actually disliked Borojah when he packed in some two-odd years before, always referring to him as “that mad bunkum”.
Borojah on his part never missed any opportunity to annoy Missis, brazenly calling her “Mgbeke”, an Igbo name he had turned into an ideogram for “bush woman”.
In no time what I read to be mutual loathing started to don the toga of symbiotic affection as Missis would spend endless hours talking to the loafer on topics spanning the mundane and the ethereal.
Missis: Borojah, what is even the meaning of this your name?
Borojah: Borrow Jah!
Missis: The Poet, when, if ever, will you get married?
Borojah: When I find a lady poet – like you!
Their exchanges always had her rolling with mirth. Let me give this man his due: he could make a stone dissolve into happy laughter.
And my wife happens to be a stone of sorts. Five years into our marriage, the kids are yet to start tumbling forth.
Our unspeakable yearning for new life increasingly found expression in frequent physical sallies. Every neighbour now knew us as “the fighting couple”.
It was as though she was dying to have pregnancy and commonsense knocked into her.
The lingering deterioration of our marriage became matched by the blossom of the uncanny Borojah-and-Missis affair.
Jealousy steadily ate away at my entrails though Borojah took out time to advertise the fact that there was nothing sexual in the matter.
Missis would rather I believed she was having a no-holds-barred affair; she made a splendid ceremony of this her meeting with a real man as opposed to the ungainly wimp she was sharing her life with.
She took to entering Borojah’s place at will, and jealousy impelled me to climb up the ceiling, listening to their conversations while waiting for the sex act to commence so that I can burst in like an atom bomb of war!
“Stop oppressing your husband, woman!” Borojah blurted out, and I could not believe what I heard.
“Ah!” gasped Missis, deeply wounded. “Why are you hurting me?”
It was on wobbly legs that Missis departed Borojah’s place. I was shaking badly up there in the ceiling; it’s a miracle I did not come crashing down.
As if to compound the woes of Missis, a white lady moved into Borojah’s place that evening, a sunny Friday.
Missis shed torrents of tears throughout the weekend. She could not be consoled as she charged at me for a fight.
It was inside Borojah’s bedroom that I ended my run, surprising him and his white girlfriend as I ducked in like a scared rat chancing on a hole.
Missis would have come right after me but for the sharp reflexes of Borojah who masterfully threw her out and she abruptly sat on the edge of the gutter, stunned.
Back inside our room, Missis handed an order to me: “Hit Borojah for me!”
For Missis, a punch on the jaw of Borojah was the ultimate proof of manhood, and as if to compound matters, Borojah walked into my place to hand down his law: “Shock your wife!”
“How dare you enter my house without a knock on the door?” screamed Missis, seizing Borojah by the shirt collar.
Time freezes into the present tense as two suns fall from the skies and crash to pieces on the windowpane.
I am in a jiffy in front of Borojah, punching. Missis is behind him, also punching. Borojah parries my salvo of punches, his eyes darting back and forth like a surprised ram.
Then loading on my right hand I deliver a haymaker. Borojah shifts his fat head out of its flight and the punch lands smack on the jaw of Missis.
Down goes Missis with a horrible cry.
In the frenzy Missis is wrapped in a white shawl and rushed to Seyanzu Hospital.
She comes to in the small hours.
Borojah is by my side, kneeling, praying fervently, and chanting throttled incantations.
The svelte doctor, in her all-white apparel, is muttering something about keeping Missis longer to save her from a miscarriage or some other gibberish to that effect.