When I brought Nwanyioma, a medical doctor from a neighbouring clan, Mama saw her and twisted her nose in disgust. “This one cannot be wifed.” She said, rising from her cane chair and starting to nowhere. “What now?” I asked. “She’s unfit considering her family where daughters are promiscuous and cannot be tamed.”
My earlier years were spent for her, living for her, pleasing her as if I do not have a life of my own. I was not just tied to her apron strings, I naturally lived in it. She appeared to like it. Her face showed it. She knew that I knew. But, I was not to worry. Even if I must worry, not complain. Her eyes were swift to take and to tell, just like the mother hen so that I found myself compelled to show gratitude for it.
I am her only son; only surviving child to this woman whom life had forced a dose of cruelty down her spine. Her breasts sagged, hair hung loosely in sullied fluffy strands that testified an overt taste of old age. Her gait appeared to tug her to a corner when she walked, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that she had a son to conquer the world with.
At twenty one, she had started itching for me to settle. When I asked what she meant, she pointed at a woman. “Plus she must please me or I find” she said. And that was all. She left. I would be daft, very daft to claim Mama’s message was unclear, for her best conversations were the ones she said nothing. Her wink meant a thing, I was nurtured to understand.
At twenty one, a thought of marriage was beside the point. I was just a university sophomore. When I tried to make Mama see it, Mama saw it. But, when I tried to make her consider it, she said it was an excuse too barren to consider. She wouldn’t bury her cravings for such stupid reason. No. She craved for a feminine touch, a female figure. She cried for a grandchild and often nagged me to tiredness about it. She nagged me to confusion too so that I became too confused to know what she really wanted; a feminine touch or a grandchild?
I was able to contrive and swerve my way to twenty eight without falling for Mama’s bidding. A mouth-watering pay and an endowed pocket was all I wanted to please Mama’s wish. And in lickety-split, her wish spiraled to the top when I got it. Then, she came again. This time with a supplementary wish that made me wonder what part of ‘settling me down’ they fitted into. “To complement your complexion,” Mama said with the first count of finger,” the woman has to be fair, but not too fair anyway.” She made sweet eyes at me, counting the second. “Tall but not too tall. I want her to be from our community or close by, you know how wonderful it could be when she prepares our local dishes for me and talks to me in our dialect? Very important.” As she buried her head in quiet thought, as though for more, I stifled a hiss, my face slowly folding in tight grimace. When she looked up, she made sweet eyes at me again.
If she took notice of my face, she didn’t show it. She just reached for my knee, tapped it and made a jumbled draw as if she was messing with a dirt on my trousers. “You know how bad my health is getting, a nurse or something close would make the perfect wife for us.” She said, drawing her words. “For us.” I said under my breath. There was an awkward silence between us as she drifted her face to the retiring chickens. I wanted to ask her how I was going to get all those in one woman, that she was asking for too much, that I was fed up with her selfishness and insensitivity. Instead, I found myself mumbling some confused word of agreement. Later, I would be sprawling on my bed, in deep stupor, submerged in thoughts about celibacy.
“It’s like something is wrong with your head?” Mama asked, the evening I arrived with Ijenwa. An intern at Parklane Teaching Hospital, Enugu. “Can’t you see that this one looks barren? If you think otherwise, then get her pregnant first before marriage rites are performed.” She said with a smile as though she was giving a piece offering. But, Ijenwa said the music was not the sort for her to dance to, so we chronicled her matter.
When I brought Nwanyioma, a medical doctor from a neighbouring clan, Mama saw her and twisted her nose in disgust. “This one cannot be wifed.” She said, rising from her cane chair and starting to nowhere. “What now?” I asked. “She’s unfit considering her family where daughters are promiscuous and cannot be tamed.” She left. The third was Regina. After making my considerations here and there, I decided to take her home. Mama saw her, liked her and said that she was good, but for people’s wares that get missing each time her mother walks past in the market place. Since she didn’t want us to dent our good name with raising kleptomaniacs, we let her off.
Because it’s been many years now, many years since we started walking down this rough path, Mama suddenly expects me to grab anything and bring it home as wife. But, somehow I have found myself checking into celibacy. Because this would be me taking a stand on something, anything, having a life of my own at least.