was fairly early in Abdoulaye’s first weeks with us, in the fall of
’05, when he told us that in Mali a man may have up to four wives, but
that he has to declare, when he marries the first one, whether he plans
to be monogamous or polygamous. No springing surprises on the first
wife when things go sour.
“And what do you want to do, Abdoulaye?” my husband asked. “How many wives do you want?”
Abdoulaye rolled his eyes. “One is enough, I think.”
acted suitably outraged at the implication that even one wife was a
heavy burden, then scrambled around to offer praise for his support of
monogamy. Abdoulaye, watching this elaborate if poorly choreographed
dance of political correctness, shook his head and dissolved into
A few days later, I was relating this latest interesting fact about Mali to a friend, when Abdoulaye walked in.
Feeling more than a bit self-conscious, I said, “Isn’t that right, Abdoulaye, that in Mali polygamy is legal?”
“But–you told us that in Mali a man could have up to four wives.”
“In the United States, yes. President Bush announced this morning.”
“I will be finding new wives for Stephen. He needs four. One to do cooking, one for cleaning, one for laundry, and one for love.” He lingered over the last word, drawing it out.
This time I rolled my eyes. “Okay, fine. As long as I’m the one for lo-ove.”
“No. You will sleep in the garage.”
“Me! All right, Abdoulaye, that’s it. You’ll be sleeping in the garage!”
It’s probably at that point that I knew we’d be friends for life.
has become one of those jokes that doesn’t die, because we won’t let
it. In his e-mails before arriving two weeks ago, Abdoulaye said to
clean out the garage (for myself), as he’d be bringing a new wife for
Steve from Mali. I replied that he’d best bring warm clothes (for
himself), as the garage was unheated and night temperatures often
dropped below zero, and we were talking Fahrenheit here, not
At the airport, after the initial hugs and
exclamations of delight, we were about to move off when Abdoulaye
checked us: glancing back at the arrival door, he said, “Wait a
minute–someone else is coming.” Then he looked at me, and I got it.
“You cleaned the garage, yes?” he asked. More eye rolling on my part,
while Abdoulaye slapped his leg and laughed.
So there you have
it: how it is that Abdoulaye and I are endlessly threatening to make
the other sleep in the garage. As for Steve, he asks now and then when
he’ll get this new, promised wife, but he doesn’t seem to have much
hope that she will materialize.