It is true what they say about seeing your life flashing before your eyes thought Kola as he languidly pirouetted through the air. To the eyes of the startled onlookers the somersault had taken less than a minute, but to Kola himself, it had happened in slow motion. He saw Tomike his wife as she dressed up for her work as a company secretary that morning, looking as glamorous as always with her impeccable make-up and her mane of shoulder length imported hair. He saw the way her tailored suit accentuated her slim shapely figure, and just as he landed, an image of Iya Kudi had rudely shoved its way in. His breath left his body with a gasp as his large frame hit the road, his features wreathed into a large smile even as dust swirled around him like wraiths.
‘Ha! O ti ya were’ a concerned onlooker remarked, as she could find no occasion for mirth in the bizarre scenario that was being played out before her eyes.
Kola scrambled to his feet, dusted off his designer suit as best he could, and began to dash towards his car but he had only taken a couple of strides when he rose up into the air then proceeded to somersault again. This time in his mind’s eye, he was the mighty Sunday Mba celebrating the winning goal strike in the recently concluded African Cup of Nations, and he threw himself into the exuberance of the moment, turning an extra cartwheel for his enthralled audience well, just because he could. This time, he landed on a tray of oranges set out by a roadside seller, and the air was rent with her shrieking curses and wails as oranges rolled everywhere and she scrabbled furiously to gather them all up. The dust slowly settled to reveal Kola spreadeagled on his back as he gazed beatifically around him, like it was a usual occurrence for a well-dressed man to be sprawled at the side of a busy road.
‘Ki nse were le leyi o, magun lo mu’ said another onlooker, and those words galvanised the watching audience which had now swelled considerably.
As soon as he recovered his breath, Kola sat up and was about to rise to his feet when with an unspoken accord, six or seven men broke from the crowd and raced towards him, pinning him down to the ground. He could not understand why they were preventing him from fulfilling his destiny, he had only one more somersault to do before exiting the glorious stage called life, and he was determined to see things through. The smile on his face that had seemed etched in stone disappeared as he began to struggle maniacally with the men and before long, more of the crowd came to assist them in keeping him down.
His mind went back to Iya Kudi. She was the desire of his heart, the architect of his current misfortune. He had first noticed her as she walked past his office with the huge basin of rice on her head, and his eyes had followed the rhythmic movement of her backside under her wrapper long after she after had disappeared from view. He had kept a lookout for her, and the next time he had seen her, he had sent his messenger to call her so he could buy some rice. He was interested in her wares, but it was not the ofada rice and aya mase stew wrapped in leaves that had caught his fancy, tasty though it was. There was a raw earthiness about her that appealed to him, and despite the cheap perfume that she had on, her natural muskiness hit him in the back of his head, robbing him of all coherent thought. The bold, knowing way she had stared into his eyes had left him in no doubt that she knew the effect she had on him, and before long their relationship was in full bloom.
She had whispered to him after one of their trysts that even though Baba Kudi had a quiet demeanour he could be quite unpredictable, but he had assured her that there was no way their dalliance could be discovered, and they had carried on, for four languorous months. Physically, Iya Kudi was everything his wife was not. She had no idea what scales were, and she carried every one of her fat cells with pride, showing off her ample cleavage and rounded shoulders in tight, low cut, short sleeved ankara tops. She always tied wrappers, never wore skirts, and the thought of the delights that lay under her ample petticoats made Kola redouble his frantic efforts to escape his captors.
Baba Kudi stood a way off, staring dispassionately at the prone figure of Kola. He bore him no ill-will, and gazed at him with the curiosity of a lizard deciding whether or not to eat one more fly. He had known of his wife’s affair almost immediately after it started, but had been content to let it continue until his gods told him she was planning to run away with Kola. Even though he was a tailor by profession, he came from a long line of herbalists, and was fully versed in the ways of his fathers. There were always pieces of fabric lying around the house, and it had been very easy to put the red thread across Iya Kudi’s path.
He was jolted out of his reverie at the sight of Iya Kudi throwing herself on the floor beside Kola and holding out a bottle of dark yellow liquid towards him. He remembered how he had carefully filled the bottle with its frothing contents, and the detailed note he had left beside it.
Kola’s eyes bulged in disbelief as Iya Kudi remonstrated with him. He understood that the antidote lay within the bottle, but the thought of drinking it made him gag, literally. He shook his head violently from side to side as he insisted that he would rather die than drink the warm liquid she held so tightly. There was a slight commotion as a car drew up and Tomike stepped out. She dropped to her knees beside Kola as Iya Kudi babbled at her through her tears. Her eyes steeled with resolve as she reached for the bottle, and uttered a terse instruction. Kola felt his head being raised off the floor, even as a firm finger and thumb clamped his nostrils shut. He gasped for breath, and in a smooth motion, Tomike emptied the bottle down his throat, ignoring the way he spluttered and choked. The bottle emptied, she tossed it aside, handing a wad of cash to the men who held him as she got into her car and drove away.
The men let Kola go as they realised the antidote had been successfully administered. Iya Kudi backed away before turning on her heels and sprinting off into the distance at a speed that belied her girth. Kola got up, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as he tried to get rid of the acrid taste of the liquid, and then entered his car. His life as he knew it was in ruins, and yet as he remembered Iya Kudi, he smiled again and then started the engine.