Celebrating East African Writing!
The man was always to be found at the street corner, right under the traffic light, dressed in a dark suit and a yellowish tie.
The very first time I saw him I envied him. He was the picture of sophistication, and at the back of my mind there was a stirring of that strange emotion I had long forgotten, ambition. When I grew up I would have wanted to look just like him, and do whatever it was that he did that enabled him to dress so well.
I had forgotten all about him after that first time, until a while later while waiting for the traffic light to turn so that I could cross the road. I spotted him in that same position right under the traffic light. What struck me immediately was how easily I could recognize him. It was the attire. The same dark suit, and the yellowish tie.
For a month I took to looking out for him every time I walked down the street, and finally I mustered enough courage to pass near him and give him a quick once-over. Close-up, the suit actually looked frayed and unwashed, and the tie lost its sheen. The most striking feature, however, was his face. He had a forlorn look, not unlike the sky just before a very heavy downpour. There was something ominous about his demeanour, and this only served to increase my curiosity.
Today, however, something about him made me freeze in my tracks. The scene remains burnt into my memory- the cash machine at the street corner, the traffic light turning from red to amber; the smartly dressed crowd moving up and down the street, and finally, the two buses ferrying the city’s worker bees to their various destinations.
The downcast look was also gone, and he looked positively determined. I wondered whether something good had happened to turn his fortunes. I got my answer soon afterwards.
Hands in pockets, he slowly turned to look at the traffic lights. The pedestrian light remained red. He nodded his head, as if in receipt of a sudden revelation, and swiftly stepped onto the road. Just before he placed his foot on the tarmac, he looked to his right as if checking for oncoming traffic. He saw the fire engine hurtling down the road in an attempt to beat the red light.
He smiled, the first time I had seen him smile since I started observing him. His step quickened as if he had a date with destiny and was a few seconds late. There was a screech of tires as the truck driver suddenly realized the man’s intention. Metal crunched into flesh and bone, and the man was launched skyward, his body already unnaturally contorted.
Strangely, the smile never left his face, even as his body finally collided with the ground and was firmly plastered onto the tarmac by the truck’s skidding wheels.
©Dr Lukoye Atwoli www.lukoyeatwoli.com
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