Italian Borga was the name given Kofi Kwakye when he first traveled to Italy and came back 5 years later in 2013. The title “Borga” earned him a lot of respect and privileges among his peers and community. He was cheered by his friends and wooed by the many women in his community who threw themselves at him. He was the real lady’s man as every woman wanted to be around him. He was the successful role model many children in community were taught to look up to. He was the envy of many men because he was the ideal example wives use to insult their husbands who were seemingly not doing well in life.
Despite the many privileges that came with being a “Borga”, Kofi Kwakye hated it. Anytime he returned to Ghana from Italy, family and friends will troop to his house for money and gifts from abroad. Some family members will even stay at his house for days and eat for free till they’re ready to go back to wherever they came from. During these periods, extended family sprouted like weeds around him, those he knew and those distant extended family members who tag along as ‘I am your mother’s second cousin from our grandmothers’ side, you don’t remember me? I carried you on my laps when you were little’.
Over the years he came up with a plan to avoid these unnecessary gift sharing and money exploiting schemes his family and friends came up with whenever he came back from Italy. He rented an apartment for one of his girlfriends and always stays with her after spending a week in his own house whenever he was in Ghana, just to avoid the many responsibilities family and friends pushed on him. He got used to changing his phone number whenever he got back to Italy since family and friends won’t stop bugging him for money the least chance they got, and they never stopped asking for money even when he sent them some, they kept asking for more.
Italian Borga was 42 years with 3 children from 3 different women. His fourth(4th) child will be born in a few months with his fourth girlfriend. Kofi Kwakye never felt the need to get married since women were always throwing themselves at him, marriage never crossed his mind. He was a full-time security guard at a hospital in Milan. His work wasn’t easy, he worked 6 days a week with one day off. Despite working for almost 5 years at the hospital, his hourly pay wasn’t much, since he didn’t have proper documents to be living in the country. But that wasn’t as bad as the vocal abuse and racist chants he deals with from people at work everyday.
Overnight, Italy’s confirmed coronavirus cases doubled, all the hospitals were full, including where he worked, lots of sick patients kept coming in ambulances or private cars. One day, some security guards were asked to help the doctors and nurses on duty since they were overwhelmed by the number of sick people coming in, with no more than a nose mask to protect themselves since the hospital was short on PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment). His work place got scary and for fear of catching the virus, he filed for a month’s leave and booked a flight to Ghana to escape the harsh reality of the virus in Italy.
Before coming to Ghana, he went shopping for gifts for his mother, sisters, friends, neighbors, children, girlfriends etc, which was a norm. Just two days after touching down in Ghana, the president closed Ghana’s airports and borders to curb the spread of virus when Ghana reported 12 cases. Kofi Kwakye felt happy, because if he had delayed a day or two he would have been stuck in Italy.
When news got around that Italian Borga is back in town, everyone stopped passing by his house. His neighbors all locked their doors, even the lady who sold noodles in front of his house every night stopped coming. The provision store next to his house where he bought coffee from also stopped opening. His younger sister who took care of his house in his absence also left without notice.
He called his sister to find out where she was, she told him their mother was sick so she had to leave to take care of her. Kofi Kwakye expressed his dissatisfaction at his sister’s sudden departure without notice and for failing to tell him their mother was sick, he argued that he could have driven her there and also use the opportunity to see the mother but his sister said there was no need. He tried calling his mother and other family members from his hometown to find out if his mother’s health was a little better, but no one answered his calls.
He decided to quarantine himself for 14 days as it was a directive to all travelers who came into the country before Ghana’s border’s were closed. After the 14 days, he decided to step outside to greet his friends and admirers but soon as he opened his gate he heard “Oba oo” (there he comes). Then he heard running feet. He was barely outside his gate when he realized the whole place was quiet and empty, not a single soul was seen on the street or near his house. Shocked but unfazed, he decided to go and greet and share gifts he bought for his friends in the neighborhood.
“agoo wɔ fie ha?” (Knock…knock)
“Who is it?” A voiced responded through the window.
“It is me, Italian Borga haha, is Akwasi there?”
“He’s sick and I’m taking care of him”, Akwasi’s wife responded.
“Oh whats wrong with him? Is he okay? Can I see him please”, Kofi Kwakye pleaded.
“No ooh he’s gone to a funeral, when he comes back I’ll tell him you passed by”
“But you just said he’s there but he’s sick?” shocked.
“I forgot he’s gone for a funeral when I said he was sick”
Italian Borga was still trying to make meaning out of what was happening right now. Akwasi’s wife wouldn’t come out to take the gifts he brought them, instead he was told to leave it outside and that they’ll come and pick them later.
He went to the next house and after they got to know he was the one knocking on their door, no one responded to his voice. The other houses ignored him as well although he heard a baby crying and someone hushing the baby to keep quiet from inside the house. The other houses had circulated the information that Italian Borga was in the area hoping to share his “corona”. All of a sudden he felt alone, sad and rejected.
He called one of his girlfriends that he was coming over to spend some quality time together in the apartment he rented with his own money, that safe haven he rented to get some privacy from his family and friends, but when she answered, she told him she had traveled and would be back next year. He called the other 3 girlfriends and they all rejected him. He was shocked people were rejecting him after he self-quarantined for 14 days and showed no symptoms of the virus.
With a heavy heart he drove to town to a pub where most expatriates hang out. He ordered a bottle of Kasapreko dry gin to drink alone and forget his anxieties. Moments later, a woman who was also in the pub looking for a place to sit spotted Italian Borga sitting alone and asked if she could join him, he nodded.
The lady started a conversation, “I came back from China about a month ago, I haven’t been here before, a friend recommended it and I’m here out of boredom. After my quarantine my own family and friends don’t want to see or meet me. They claim I may be having the coronavirus. These people I’ve helped over the years, now reject my gifts, spread lies about me and run away when they see me coming. Life is like a chameleon, it changes all the time. The good thing is that, it shows you the colours at a time and you learn from them. I look on the brighter side, after all this is over, no one can ask me for money or gifts. I can save up on my money and enjoy my life with those I care about” she ended by adding her name, Martha.
Italian Borga smiled and asked her if he could buy her a drink. He suddenly felt good about himself. He introduced himself as Kofi Kwakye for the first time in years in Ghana and he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders. This could be a blessing in disguise, he thought to himself.