The van I like. And why not, it was not only a Mercedes; it was new too. The colour was moss green which is okay. Lots of room for tired legs to stretch, video on board, the air conditioning was working fine, the sound system perfect, but the driver was not.
I thought he was around mid-twenties (which if he was I could give him some room and stretch my patience) but no, he is two years older than me, good-looking in a roguish kind of way and very cocky. We started off on a wrong foot right from the beginning; he called me by my first name the very first time we’ve met. I don’t like it.
I am not a hoity- toity madam, never been, never will be. But if a driver picks up a guest he never meet before from an exclusive resort, I don’t expect him to call her by her first name.
A Ma’am, Miss, whatever; is the least I expect. But not this guy, he called me by my first name, just like that. I disliked him instantly.
Okay he owned the van (I learned later that he acquired it by working few years abroad and it costs him his (they say) very beautiful-wife. Granted he was the best driver around, it took him only two hours and a half to reach the airport, which in any normal circumstances takes at least six hours to drive; but that didn’t give him an excuse to be so personal towards his customers. I wondered if he was like that with everyone. According to the owner of the resort (she was the one who recommended him to me) he was not.
There were so many things I didn’t like about him. His attitude towards me was too intimate and too familiar to be comforting. On our first journey together, he bought me pills for travel sickness just like that. He insisted I rode with him on the front saying it was better that way. He brought me to his favourite restaurant when I complained hunger and ordered me his favourite dish to try (because it was their specialty he said) without consulting me first. He fussed over me and so critical about everything I said at the same time. He annoyed me endlessly.
When I did not need him, I avoided him like a pest. But nothing could keep him away. He offered to take me to a flower festival in some city free of charge since he got customers going there anyway so I can come along if I want he said. I declined.
He knocked on my door if he didn’t see me around the resort. He sent text messages wishing me goodnight or good morning, or asking me to watch him play basketball. I remember the night I was walking on the bridge and he jumped on me, face covered saying: “Give me all your money!” He found it amusing while I was boiling mad inside trying not to let him know that he got into my nerves. I had the feeling that was what he was up to.
“You’re too uptight. You have to loosen up a bit.” He said.
“Why? So, you can get me in bed?”
“It’s a good idea, but are you not a little bit paranoid?” He teased.
“There is a thing called friendship, in case you did not hear about it yet.” He added.
“I heard about it alright, but with you it’s impossible to happen.”
“Why are you so scared?” He asked.
Scared? Me? I never see it that way. Am I?
He drove me to our class reunion and insisted he stayed, free of charge because according to him I needed a bodyguard. He flirted with one of my classmate the whole night and asked me if it was okay with me. What a nerve! They thought he was cute and he knew it. The guy was so sleek.
On the way back I asked him why he cannot be more like the resort’s caretaker, professional and minding his own business. He was scandalized:
“Who? That loser,”
They hated each other (but that’s for another post) I told him that loser didn’t mind me no matter what I do or wear, he didn’t even glance. I said:
“Bullshit! Looking like you do, I bet he looks but pretends not to. He’s a fake!”
So, I asked him directly:
“What do you want from me, money?” He didn’t even flinch.
“I can earn it.” He said solemnly.
Fair enough. After all, between the two of us, he was the one who got a brand-new mercs. Then he looks straight into my eyes and said:
“You have to give yourself more credit.”
The day before I left he asked me to stay. I said for what? He said let’s see and find out later. I said not for a moment longer.
The night of my departure he stayed till around midnight singing “Casablanca” and another song that was called: “One last song.” He dedicated them all to me. I looked up the lyrics afterwards. Interesting choices that could mean something or nothing. I chose not to dwell on it. I don’t want complication. Life is hard enough.
We agreed he will show up at 2:00 a.m. sharp because I have to be at the airport at 6:00. By 3:00 he was not there yet. Phoned off the hook, his mobile turned off, and no one at his house; we had no idea where he was. I was so agitated I could strangle him there and then. My classmates urged me to calm down for there was no use fighting with someone who was going to drive they said.
I vowed never to do business with him in the future.
He showed up quarter passed three and acted as if nothing was out of the ordinary and told me to relax. I said if I am not at the airport at six, I will not only sue him to high heaven but will personally kill him with my bare hands. He just looked at me with a mixture of understanding and tenderness. I choked
We arrived at my destination just over 5:30. He brought my luggage to the gate and refused the money for the trip. He said consider it as a gift. Not everything is for sale he said. Certainly not his heart, only his service, he added.
I forget to mention he almost become an engineer. Dropped out the last remaining year and went abroad. Bought a bakery when he came back, met his wife and gone away again. I remember meeting his 20 something year old son on the night of the basketball match. I asked him: “Where is your father?” the boy looked at me in disbelief. Then he disappeared and after a moment, his father was there. The boy left us alone. The father acted as if he just won a lottery. What a complex guy he was I thought.
I still remember what he said to me the day I left:” It’s up to you.” I don’t understand.
I still got his number. He doesn’t have mine…
feature image: fickr/mikebaird