Fight! An Academic in Africa

Africa by Jyoti Bindu

The Joy and Julius soap opera continues apace, although I’m not finding it very entertaining at the moment.

Last week, a couple of days after I got back, Julius came to see me in my office.  Which is fairly unusual.  He had a long story to tell me about how Joy had been phoning David (the Registrar, and Julius’ boss) and “telling tales” on him.  He said that “Joy was crazy” with him, “always fighting”, that she said that the flat (ie. their quarters) was hers not his, and that she had tried to kick him out.  The clear indication being that this was all for no reason, other than typical female hysteria.  Because of all the hassle, David had docked his salary for one month and told him to sort it out.

typical female hysteria

He then launched into a long tirade that I did not really understand about how he owed N20,000 to some sort of workers’ co-op on campus.  I got that he had to pay in N20,000 a month for six months, and that he’d already contributed five of these.  But when I asked what the money was for, or why the six of them banded together he couldn’t explain to me – or I couldn’t understand, either way.  He did say that he bought the flat screen TV in their room using this co-op’s money (which was good, as I was starting to fear that if they’d skimmed enough money from me for major household items, then I was clearly not just a soft touch but an out and out idiot), and that he had to pay.

you should never get involved in a boy and girl fight

I thought this meant that he wanted money from me, which I wasn’t going to give him.  But he seemed quite annoyed by that idea, and told me that all he wanted was for me to talk to Joy for him. So I did.  Not with much relish, I have to say.  As William Burroughs says, you should never get involved in a boy and girl fight, never mind interfere in the marriage of two Christian Nigerians who proudly display their allegiance to the “Church of Ultimate Enlargement” (which sounds like a euphemism to me).  But, if I wanted a quiet life, I didn’t really have a choice.

Joy’s story was, predictably, somewhat different.  She said that he had been using my car whilst I was away to go clubbing and drinking, to bring friends (including girls) back to the flat, and that one night he had locked her and her sister out until 2am.  This is why she had called David, and this is why he had docked his salary etc., etc.

I told her that I didn’t want to get involved in their personal lives, but that any problems she should bring to me rather than to David.  I also told her that as far as I was concerned the flat here was hers because she worked for me, and that if she wanted Julius out that was fine, but it was between them.

crying, gesticulating and telling me that Julius was crazy again

Problem solved.  Until 8am on Saturday morning when I was awoken from a properly eyes-gummed-shut, sleeping-like-the-dead moment to find Joy in my room crying, gesticulating and telling me that Julius was crazy again, that she couldn’t cope with it and he had to go.  I have no idea what I said other than “later”, but she went away.  Later, I did nothing.

Five days have passed, and Joy seems to have forgiven Julius, or at least stopped actively agitating to have him evicted.  I’m going to have another chat with her at some point, but for now I’m just glad that my impromptu marriage counselling role is suspended.  Julius was even having to cook for himself last week, and the sight of him trying to boil an egg was one of the most pitiful things I’ve ever seen.  For a man who is usually so self-assured he looked utterly lost and alone, and completely impotent.

Unfortunately I wasn’t very sympathetic because he’d also filled the whole house with smoke that smelt like a cross between burning plastic and a rubbish bin.

Honestly, all I wanted was a maid.

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