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PSYCHOSIS: The Story Of An Unmarried Man

I read this piece penned by Kingsley Okechukwu and originally published on kingkingsley.wordpress.com, and I felt compelled to share it here. The protagonist talked about in the story is the writer’s uncle, and the writer details how, for years, his uncle had defied the societal standard of marriage.

Check on it below.

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Uncle Chukwuka is the most famous character in our entire family circle. His popularity is stretched by his refusal to adhere to the normal fabric of life, and coloured by some of the weirdest attitudes that have shocked, amused and infuriated his kinsfolk. I have been trying to write a story about Uncle Chukwuka for six years now. Each time I picked up my pen, the words came out in small, turgid mounds so that after few paragraphs, I would conclude that I have been writing nonsense, that these strange words weren’t describing my uncle; these words were in fact dishonouring him. Then I would tear off the paper from my workbook, squeeze it into a ball and hurl it out of the window. And forget about my uncle for a month.

No, I never forgot about my uncle. I only tried to force him out of my mind, succeeding only in pinning him to the backmost part of my mind were he never remained for long, though I pretend to the contrary. These past few days Uncle C, as we fondly call him, has been looming immensely in my mind. Thoughts of him have become like a bad omen which would never go away until the worst happens. And the worst is writing this story. I still feel I am writing lies about my uncle, but my conscience is nearly convinced that, though the truth would not be told by these words, but that the truth would seem to have been told. And with little luck, you might be able to construct a viable picture about my great uncle. Or just enjoy the story.

Uncle Chukwuka is actually my cousin, but his advancement in age was so much that we had to call him – not Brother Chukwuka, no he had exceeded that level – Uncle Chukwuka. I have been hearing about my uncle for many years before I finally met him. He was the first among my father’s sister’s family of five sons, and was at home for one of his brother’s wedding, he himself unmarried, a major ulcer in his widowed mother’s heart. He had little excuse for not marrying for he was what my people would call ‘stinking rich’. My people believe that if you can feed a woman and send her kids to school, you are ripe for marriage.

Since his youth, Uncle Chukwuka could feed six women and send seventy children to school, but he didn’t marry. He said he hadn’t found his taste. Although he was uneducated, dropped out of secondary school months to WAEC, he had been linked with the most beautiful and educated women in my village; he had, in few whispered occasions, sampled these girls in bed before deciding they weren’t what he wanted. She has stretch marks. Her mother is a world-class troublemaker. Bad luck runs in that family. She has body odour. She has long-throat. And one million other excuses. These excuses ate at his parents’ hearts, mostly his mother’s.

His mother had first called him when she decided he could feed a woman and support a family and told him, ‘My son, look around Ogbunka and get yourself a beautiful, well-behaved girl. Please let it be Ogbunka; your father and I won’t want you to go far.’

Uncle Chukwuka said yes, Ogbunka was the best place to get a wife, and he met with an assortment of women, slept with few (they said), flirted with all, and met one or two pairs of parents. Then he returned to Kaduna, saying he would return at Easter (this was Christmas) and finalize the wedding. No one saw him in Ogbunka for two years. In fact he only came home to attend his younger brother’s wedding. It is largely normal for younger sisters to get married before their older ones. But this isn’t normal for brothers. The order of marriage for men is age. And for a first son to be bypassed by his younger one and exercise his conjugal rights is considered a near-taboo, painting the son as weak-willed at best, or the ultimate woman at worst.

Uncle Chukwuka was indifferent. He was the first son, yes, he had given his brother the go-ahead, yes; he was pursuing something and would marry as soon as he settled that in two or three months’ time. Of course, no one believed him, but such was his parents’ anxious hope that they auctioned their doubt for the comfort of his half-truths. Before he returned to Kaduna, his mother called him aside and said, ‘Ogbunka is not the only good place to get a wife. The entire Orumba area is not bad. Not as far as Nanka and Awgbu, of course. Women from Umunze are proud, but girls from Umuchukwu, Ezira and Ufuma will make great wives.’

He was in a hurry to return to Kaduna to tie up some business venture, Uncle Chukwuka told his mother, but he would return during August Meeting just to take a wife from around Ogbunka. Uncle Chukwuka didn’t come home till December. By now, his second younger brother was dropping serious matrimonial hints and the rumour mills were working overtime. People said Chukwuka was a member of an occult and was under oath against taking a wife; they even said he had sold his manhood—no, not really manhood—but his right to manhood to the devil who gave him riches. Some said he was too miserly to get a wife, that money was a trophy he was more interested in heaping than in putting into valuable use. And that the expensiveness of our traditional marriage rites would leave a big hole in his heart and pocket, forever.

The last rumour was nearer to the truth than we might want to accept. My cousin was indeed a great magnet of money. He would quarrel and curse over 50 thousand naira contribution to bury a dead aunty or uncle. His younger ones suffered in school because he queried every request they made, agreed to render only half of them, and then give a quarter of the requested amount. In one or two occasions, his mother had to call him on phone and cried before he sent his brother money to pay for his accommodation.

There were even those who claimed that Uncle Chukwuka worshipped money. This was almost true. After the post-election violence of 2011 forced my parents to leave north, I began to spend short holidays in my big cousin’s house. There were two other cousins (Uche and Nono) who lived with him. Chukwuka owned the house—the entire house was made up of four two-bedroom flats, and he lived in one and rented out the other three. His sitting room had just the plasma TV set, the sound system and a table. No furniture for sitting. When he had visitors, they sat on the floor like Arabic scholars or at the veranda, or, if the visitor were female, he took her to the bedroom. He had no plates. When Uche or Nono finished cooking, they went to the tenants to borrow plates. He had only one pot, so there was no talk of cooking rice and stew or something that required two pots—every meal was a cook-all. The boys, Nono and Uche sold cooking oil on retail, which Chukwuka supplied to them. And even though he got half of the profit, he required them to pay the shop rent to him, and the two lads took turns to contribute for meals.

Chukwuka hardly used the bank. He usually carried his money in a rucksack while he moved around in the market place. When he was ready to go home, he would lock the money in his boot. At home, he would put it under his bed and lock his door. If he made out to get something from the shop across the road, he would carry his fortune with him. He wouldn’t leave it in his bedroom lest Nono or Uche or I, or all of us, broke down the door and carted away with his treasure. One time, rain beat him and his money, drenching the notes badly. Chukwuka had to spread all the notes on the sitting room tiles. That night, we boys didn’t sleep in the house. ‘I hope you little criminals know you won’t sleep in this house tonight,’ was how he dismissed us.

In appearance, my uncle was imposingly tall and well-fed, almost overfed. His neck is fleshy and his cheeks full, as though he carried a permanent piece of meat in each cheek. His face was fair and clean-shaven and his cunning teeth shone like the inside of a coconut. I holidayed thrice or so in Uncle Chukwuka’s house and nearly every time, he wore a T-shirt that had been worn in respect for some dead uncle with the inscription ‘Adieu Papa’ on the back, over some whitewashed jeans and matching boots. His head was always in a flat cap, even when he slept, I suspected. A cap so old it now took the appearance of a battered motorcycle seat. I couldn’t see what he spent his money on, so I refused to dismiss strongly the claim that he worshipped money or belonged to an occult group were marriage was a taboo, and spending money attracted harsh penalties.

When Chukwuka’s second brother wedded, Chukwuka didn’t even bother coming home. He only returned when news repeatedly reached him that his father was ill, and he was sure it was true and not just a ploy to get him home and rope a wife around his neck. When he got home, he met his father in a stroke. The old man said he was going home; indeed most of his age grade members had gone, but he wanted to see his grandchildren from his first son before he left. He might not carry them, but would his first son deny his fading sight this honour? And Uncle Chukwuka wept.

Then the search for a wife for my kinsman became a worldwide hunt, and names poured in from the four corners of the world. Women, well-educated, refined, well-cultured, even retired society ladies were mentioned. Every friend and relation had one or two candidates for Prince Chukwuka. A prankster, perhaps an outright idiot or someone who spoke on behalf of gallons of sour palm wine, actually suggested Tonto Dike.

Long lists were drawn. Then a shortlist. Then a master list. These were discarded and redrawn. His mother was anxious, and before His Majesty returned to Kaduna to tie up that thing he had always been tying up, and probably would tie up forever, she pleaded with him. ‘Any Anambra girl would do. Apart from those girls from Onitsha and Nnewi who don’t stay at home, any girl from a decent home would do. Don’t forget, a Catholic.’

Our hero returned to Kaduna. And he forgot everything. Then his father died. The words in the lips of everyone in Ogbunka were that Chukwuka had killed his father. Oh, what a kind-hearted innocent man, so unlucky to have a walking evil as son; now that he was dead, the wayward son would never settle down. What a wicked generation!

His mother wailed at him, ‘Give me babies before I join your father. Give me children; I want to lay hands on my grandchildren’s heads.’

And Chukwuka shook with tears of regret and conciliation. Chukwuka told his mother he would be bringing a woman home during his father’s funeral.

‘Any girl will do!’ she told him as he got into his car. ‘Any Igbo girl will do!’ she added as he shut the door. ‘Real Igbo girl. Please no girl from Rivers or Delta o!’

And Chukwuka said, ‘Okay,’ and returned to Kaduna.

Kaduna, the cemetery of his marital wills. He would come home, get charged with the fire of marriage, then go to Kaduna and this fire would die. It was like there was a group of people who lived in the entrance to Kaduna, on the ready, waiting for Chukwuka’s car to appear, blazing with a beacon of marriage. And they would throw a tank of water on it and quench it. Chukwuka didn’t come home with a woman for his father’s burial. He loved his father so much and marriage was the last thing in his mind, all he wanted to give the old man a befitting burial.

Before he returned to Kaduna, his mother sighed. ‘My son, they all say you have sold your manhood for money, why don’t you prove them wrong.’

Chukwuka laughed. ‘Do you believe any gossip you hear?’

‘It’s not for me, just prove them wrong.’ But she couldn’t resist adding, ‘Any girl will do, provided she is not Hausa. Any girl who prays to Jesus.’

‘What if she is Hausa and prays to Jesus?’ There was mirth in the corner of his mouth.

The woman shrugged. ‘Bring her home.’

Chukwuka’s mother had first hinted marriage to her son when he was twenty-seven, now he is forty-five. His three younger ones had married and the eldest of his nephews is now in secondary school. I was a boy when I first met my famous cousin, now I am grown, gone to the university, come out and almost finished my youth service. Uncle Chukwuka is still unmarried. Still ‘searching’.

Last month, I went to Zaria to get my transcript processed for my Masters and stopped by in Kaduna. He didn’t take me to his house, so I couldn’t tell if he now has furniture and utensils at home. Nono and Uche have since moved on; they now study in Nekede, I think. Some younger cousins are slaving away in Uncle Chukwuka’s house.

Chukwuka took me to a restaurant and we sat facing each other before the ambitious dishes.  ‘You are now a big boy,’ he said.

I smiled.

‘Very soon you will make money and start talking through the nose.’

I chuckled. ‘Thanks a lot. You contributed a lot to it.’

He waved me quiet. ‘It is my duty.’

As we exhausted the little avenue of conversation we shared, I asked him the question that had been burning me for more than one and half a decade. ‘Uncle C, when will you settle down?’

And he pushed his chair back and laughed so loud and uncontrollably that everyone stared at him like he had lost his mind. I strangled the embarrassment threatening to colour my face. ‘Now you sound like my mother!’ He brought out his hankie and wiped his tears. ‘Did my mother send you?’

I shook my head.

‘I will marry when I see the woman I like. Girls nowadays are so sharp eyed, looking for whom to devour.’

When he dropped me at Kawo Motorpark, I asked him if his mother still gave him specification of whom to marry. He opened his mouth wide and for a second I feared he would resort to his crazy hilarity, but he only chuckled and said, ‘The old woman ask me to bring anything home, any living thing of my choice.’ He was still laughing as he drove away.

What a man.

As my bus drove off, I felt the tell-tale signs of a major depression. I shut my eyes and refused to give this any power by thinking of it. I dozed off and dreamt that I was fifty years, unmarried and my people were in my house throwing my things out, saying that I have been excommunicated, that their town was a normal town, not for people who had sold their manhood for money. I woke up with a bad headache and a foul anger.

‘Marriage is not by force,’ I said aloud.

Every passenger turned to glare at me.

‘Nonsense,’ I spat.

Their look of ill-concealed astonishment lingered for a few long seconds, then everyone returned to their troubles and business. I shut my eyes but I fought to remain awake. The fear of facing my people’s resentment in dreamland was enough to send me clamouring for the joy of transit insomnia. I began to turn Uncle Chukwuka’s issue more carefully in my mind. Here I was, afraid to dream of being scorned for shunning marriage. But Uncle C had survived intense scorn for nearly twenty years. This really requires an overdose of guts. And Uncle C seems to have it. You may call my great cousin whatever you want, but one thing is clear, he is not a coward. And perhaps, for a few, he has earned the status of a hero.

 


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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33 comments

  1. I cried, I laughed, felt sorry for the parents,then I just didn’t know what to feel next tho am still crying. Laced with humour but seeming so real, this story touched the depths of me. I could visualize every scene. Thanks writer, I realy enjoyed your story. I hope uncle finds the wife he has been waiting for before mama dies.

  2. What is uncle C’s real excuse? Impotence? A pact with the devil? Stingyness? Paedophobia? Will Uncle C later regret this decision to stay unmarried? I guess no can really know the answers except him. Nicely written.

    • Impotence? A pact with the devil? Stingyness? Peadophilia…
      Are you serious? Those are the possible reasons anyone may not want to get married? All the reasons available have to be negative or bad?
      What about he simply doesn’t want to because he feels his happiness is in not sharing his life in matrimony? That couldn’t be a reason?

      • Dubem, isn’t it funny how you decided to draw inferences from a sentence I never made? Who says everyone needs marriage to be happy?….

        I gave those ‘possible’ reasons (which, of course, ain’t the only reasons) due to the pattern I noticed in Uncle C’s life: the way he treated his own blood brothers, the way he carried money around and his selfishness even towards himself….

        From what I read, I can safely conclude that Uncle C may actually want marriage but is too STINGY to get involved….

        But then, this is my opinion. Like I asked initially “Who really knows his real reason except him?”

    • Lol. Dubem, leave am. Ezeani chuks is showing himself to be part of that society that pressures one into marrying simply by the opinion that the alternative (singlehood) is evil. I’m married myself o, but I’ll be the first to admit that marriage isn’t and shouldn’t be for everyone.

  3. Enthralling piece. In my place, we have one or two versions of Uncle C. While I understand why a person would never want to go marital, I don’t understand the trading of one’s ‘right to manhood’ for wealth. Too gross!

  4. I recently turned 21 and my mum’s already discussing how I’ll “soon” have to settle down and have kids of my own…

    *bites nails*

  5. I love this story, beautifully written and well told but at the end, I seem to be grappling with the message. I get the impression the writer sees his uncle as his hero because he also does not plan to get married.
    If he does, I’ll advice he finds out the reason why his uncle does not want to get married, everybody ain’t cut from the same cloth and our hides are of different strength. His uncle could take it does not mean the young lad might.
    The community would gossip even if you get married, that’s a status quo and for that I commend the uncle for not caving in to the gossips.

  6. Do I have a Choice? in 4 or 5yrs I’ll be married off, note that I said married off

  7. This was well-written, entertaining and hilarious. Uncle C is indeed a hero. I totally understand the impulse to procreate and perhaps by so doing perpetuate self. It is an instinct of evolutionary origin that is obvious in the lowest of life forms. Man, however, is at the peak of evolution and has acquired the ability to imagine, abstract and reason. That is why I think that society’s extreme position on marriage and childbearing puts our intelligence to shame. Common sense should have taught us ny now that we are just not all the same. There are those who dream of marriage all their lives. And there are those who simply dread it. Does it really make sense to force anyone into marriage? People don’t really care whether you wanna get married. They don’t care why you don’t want to get married if you don’t want to get married. They don’t care why you haven’t still gotten married at your age. They may ask but they don’t care. No one cares how you’ll survive after the wedding. In fact, society would rather have you married and divorced than not married at all. Society simply cares more about the insitution of marriage than about you as a person. It’s current stance on marriage is simply bereft of a modicum of CLEAR CONSCIOUS THINKING or INTELLIGENCE. Life is short. Biko let people be…

    • Who is this manny and why am I suddenly in love with him? *applause* manny, abeg, if things don’t work out between me and my husband, would u consider marrying me? 😀 *shining thirty-two*

    • Manny, I’m in love with you.. Don’t care if you’re a man or woman

    • Ah, I can’t carry last here o. Please, I’m also loving this Manny. Are you single, o wise one? I hope you have no plans to remain single o…. Such wisdom must be passed on. It is your evolutionary responsibility. 😀 😛

  8. Kingsley, make ur mama catch you with that last paragraph.

  9. Vwy funny, emotional and funny again…Nice one Kingsley!!!! Walter where is family blues na

  10. The one that has me shaking with laughter is the mother.
    First it was:
    ‘My son, look around Ogbunka and get yourself a beautiful, well-behaved girl. Please let it be Ogbunka; your father and I won’t want you to go far.’

    And then:
    ‘Any Anambra girl would do. Apart from those girls from Onitsha and Nnewi who don’t stay at home, any girl from a decent home would do. Don’t forget, a Catholic.’

    And then:
    ‘Any girl will do! Any Igbo girl will do! Real Igbo girl. Please no girl from Rivers or Delta o!’

    And then:
    ‘Any girl will do, provided she is not Hausa. Any girl who prays to Jesus.’

    LMAO! With each year, the requests for a choice of wife depreciated. What desperation can cause. Chai! This Uncle Chukwuka strong o.

  11. Quite strange but this got me laughing “A prankster, perhaps an outright idiot or someone who spoke on behalf of gallons of sour palm wine, actually suggested Tonto Dike.”

    And his mothher thouh, maybe till she fuly stops being tribalistic. Lol

  12. Lol!! Mehn! Uncle may be gay o. In your face, society!! ^_^

  13. LOL. Speaking on behalf of gallons of sour palm wine? That’s new. Good story.

  14. I enjoyed reading this!

  15. uncle chuks is what I can confidently call a wise man..he was able to differentiate between what was good for himself and what was expected by society..Marriage is not necessarily the last word that completes the puzzle of happiness or success or of being a complete man or woman..until people are able to overcome the pressure of marrying for marriage sake, d rate of divorce and broken homes will continually be on the rise……..Manny, once more u have shown ur wit….

  16. Hahaha, wow!
    This writer keeps leaving me spell-bounded in awe after every piece of his. I really enjoyed this. The word play, the narration, the use of simple grammar to get the story motion. I commen uncle C, a wise and courageous man he really is, he knew what was best for him and grabbed it with both hands not falling for any societal expectations, because ,at the end of the day, its his life, and he alone knows how to live it best, so long as its causing no harm.

  17. Nothing more got me laughing than the thought of “bring anything home”

    Uncle C is totally not interested

  18. lool Uncle C I totally enjoyed this post

  19. Walter, you would like this story……

  20. While reading this, I felt I was actually reading about an uncle of mine. If not for the names and locations. Nicely written story

  21. Olutayo, Sorry to burst your bubbles; you’re WRONG.

    I don’t know how my statements above has shown that I believe not getting married is evil.

    There’s a difference between “WILL Uncle C later regret his decision to stay unmarried?” and “Uncle will regret his decision to stay unmarried.”

    The first is a question. The second is an assertion & apparently, I asked only asked a question.

    I ended it with “No one (not even me) really knows the answers except him.”

    Before throwing unnecessary tantrums on and drawing baseless conclusions about someone, I think it’s necessary to carefully read between the lines first. :/

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