Just how mad are the men in Lagos? It’s a question Nigerian author and actor Damilare Kuku explores in 12 short stories in her first novel, Nearly All The Men In Lagos Are Mad. With relationship themes spanning infidelities, sexting and ‘situationships’ sons and mothers, serial bachelors (and married and engaged ones), to infertility and sexual assault, Kuku’s provocative debut is a brilliant, witty, punchy account of the messiness of relationships. From the young woman who tries to find her ‘oyibo’ soulmate on the streets of Lagos, the pastor’s wife who defends her husband from an allegation of adultery to the wife who threatens to cut off her husband’s penis, Nearly All The Men In Lagos Are Mad is told mainly through the eyes of Nigerian women who are all grappling with the perils of trying to find lasting love and companionship, and, for Kuku, at its core, is a “love letter to women.” “Each story is based on women’s experiences, women I know,” shares Kuku to Unbothered UK ahead of the novel’s release. “There’s so much we don’t talk about as women.”
Below is an excerpt from Nearly All The Men In Lagos Are Mad by Damilare Kuku. Published with the permission of Swift Press.
‘All the signs were there. The wardrobe was full of your clothes, shoes, bags; his side held five shirts, two pairs of trousers and one pair of shoes. Every time he ‘came home’, he brought along his toiletries and other effects in a bag and left with them again. Your home together was always a transit stop. It was where you lived, but Oddy had always been a guest.
In the two days before he had showed up at the house, you oscillated between disbelief and delusion. You told yourself that he must have been forced to marry the other woman for a reason you didn’t yet know. It must have been hard on him being in love with two women and he didn’t know how to handle it. You revisited those early days and wish you had agreed for him sooner, was that when someone else stepped in? Was she a business associate? She looked very old compared to you.
Because you spent all your time with him and had drifted apart from Ini, you courted this madness all by yourself. Your phone was full of people who would say, ‘I told you so.’ On this God’s green earth, you were the last to know that you were being taken for a fool.
When the doorbell rang you stayed still for several seconds. The Oddy that you knew had never used it before. He called your name and you managed to peel yourself from the sofa that you had been stuck in and walk to the door. The moment he appeared in the doorframe you knew that you had lost him.
He stepped into the room with the sobriety appropriate for a funeral. His hands in his pockets, the warm, rowdy persona you had so much loved tucked away from sight.
“I feel betrayed, Oddy,” you said. He was dressed in a crisp striped shirt and tailored pants. You hadn’t taken off your off-white t-shirt and Adidas joggers for two nights. You crossed your arms defensively against your chest, feeling vulnerable, knowing that the turmoil of the past forty-eight hours had been felt by you alone.
“Why? Wasn’t I good to you? Did I ever hit you or scream? Did I not take care of you?”
“You were lying to me the whole time.” You tried to keep the tears away from your voice but failed.
“I never lied because you never asked.”
“You asked me to date you. Married men don’t date other women!”
“Genny, come on. You knew the deal.”
“Deal? What deal?”
“Look. I was happy with this arrangement until you pulled that stunt two days ago. In public of all places. What if my wife had figured things out? And even now you’re showing no remorse.”
Those two words landed in your heart with the efficacy of gunshots fired by a skilled assassin.
“You are lucky I love you Genny because that nonsense could have ended this relationship,” Oddy continued. He gave you a cold stare. There was a bitter curl to the corner of his mouth.
“What do you mean?”
“How long have you been married, Oddy? From the beginning?”
He bristled with impatience, moved to the window, parted the curtains and looked outside.
Desperate for answers you followed him. “Just tell me the truth, please.”
“Genny, if we are to continue, I can’t talk about my wife or kids with you. I like to keep my private life separate.” He made a gesture with his hands cutting slices in the air.
As you stood face to face with him, everything fell into place and you started crying.
“Please stop. I have given you everything. I bought this house for you. What more do you want?”
You had cried until he left in irritation. You went into the bedroom, lay down and slept for nearly twelve hours. When you woke up, you started bargaining with yourself. You were thirty-two, without a job, or a plan. Shouldn’t you just stay in Oddy’s life even if it was on the side lines? How long and cold was this shadow of a wife and kids? If you truly loved him, wouldn’t you stay?
When you called him after a few days of reflection, you thought it was the network playing up when the robotic voice told you his number didn’t exist. He had no Facebook page or Twitter handle that you knew of. Searching for his name on the internet brought up many images and name combinations, but none were the Oddy that you knew, none could tell you where he lived, or why he was no longer answering his phone.
So today, after three months of trying to reach him, questioning if the last three years had been a figment of your imagination, you will sit in the corner of your living room and cry because a married Lagos man broke your heart’
Nearly All the Men In Lagos Are Mad by Damilare Kuku, published by Swift Press as a £12.99 paperback original.
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