Chai. Gone are the days when all it took to cater to the needs of a multi-wife family was to point out to each woman, a ridiculously small piece of land behind the very round, ill-ventilated, thatched roof hut you built for her and instruct her in a gruff voice to “plant her vegetables and cocoyam there” and “make sure she does not disturb your peace”. Those were the days when you simply lounged in the cool of your spacious obi while the wife whose turn it was to prepare your breakfast, advanced with trembling legs, bearing her offering. She would wonder in her heart whether you were going to look her in the eyes with rare tenderness while you ate from the bowl of pounded yam and steaming egusi soup she had just set down or bark at her to disappear with the cow-dung she was carrying before Amadioha sealed her anus for her permanently. The reaction each wife got depended on how well she had satisfied your animal desires the previous night, how little she had whined to you about her needs and of course how recently you had paid her bride price. The younger the wife, the likelier it was that she would get a pat on the back instead of a well-worded cussing out. However, the aforementioned Amadioha-wrought anal obliteration would still take place if her mother had failed to teach her the rudiments of yam-pounding and soup-making. Egbeelu would strike her dumb if you felt any lumps in your pounded yam and Kitikpa’s itch would afflict her in unmentionable places if the vegetables in the soup got overcooked.
Aah. In those days, you went to the farm whistling and worked your muscles raw, knowing that the woman whose job it was to take care of you for the evening was already gearing up for the detailed massage that would follow your evening wash. You set out in the wee hours of the morning to get some work done before the sun’s heat began to bake you into a different kind of Negro. When the sun’s heat became unbearable, you’d retire to the makeshift shed you had erected at a far corner of your farmland and un-wrap the roast yam and ukpaka sauce one of your wives had wrapped in banana leaves for you. Whilst you ate the yam and drank water, you thought of all the different ways the gods had blessed you-the large yam barn, your sons and daughters and the women that were your wives. The women who trembled when you spoke and would rather be struck dumb than bear witness to the deep frown that furrowed your brows and the uncontrollable fit of stuttering you lapsed into before the culprit got a beating. On such days, you ate your meal, finished your farming and headed home to a sumptuous lunch and some pampering.
On some days, however, you thought about the things you had been cursed with. You thought of your sons, all three of them. The first, Obinna, was a first-rate womanizer. It was even rumoured that his case was so severe that he walked around the village with a permanent erection. His loincloth always looked awkward and he had a lop-sided grin fixed on his face. He had singlehandedly become the reason why virgins were getting scarcer and scarcer in the village. No girl seemed able to resist his charms and those who did resist, he ambushed on their way to the stream and raped. You had gone to the Ezemmuo and had been told that the spirit of the young woman who had taken her own life after you raped and got her pregnant, has possessed your son. Obinna, as muscular and well-built as he was, never went to the farm with you. He despised any form of work and would rather spend time drinking with his akalogoli (ne’er-do-well) friends than look for a way to make an honest living.
Then there was Obiora. Obiora was a weakling. He had a feminine aura around him and was always brooding. He had always been good with raffia. He made mats, baskets and hats. You could not even bear to look at him. In your eyes he was a failure. A man who could not farm, hunt, wrestle or tap palm wine was just that – a failure.
Amandianeze, your third son, was the worst off them all. In fact, you had gone to the Ezemmuo and also to the priestess of Ani to inquire concerning the part you played (or did not play) in the conception of the imbecile called Amandi. Babbling like a baby, Amandi could barely say his own name. He always drooled and walked with a waddling gait that would put an old mother-duck to shame. He was a total write-off.
On days like that, suddenly realizing that you had slipped out of the farming mood, you would gather your things and head for Mama Ngozi’s shack where you intended to drink your troubles away and always, always, you would meet Obinna there with his friends, plotting their next escapade. You would bark at him to go home and sometimes, he would obey. Other times, he would simply ignore you. You would sit and order a full keg of palm wine and drink until the chickens went to roost. Then you would stagger home and beat the snot out of the first wife who was unfortunate enough to bid you welcome.