Das Beste oder nichts was boldly written in gold on the enormous sliding glass door. It slides apart – each half of the door carrying two words each from the boldly written slogan into opposite directions. He stepped on the ash color glass tiles covering the floor in the beautiful vast space before him. The frontage of the magnificent building was white-painted Aquia Creek sandstone in the New Classical architecture built by the Griffin: an African architecture company well known for infusing African historical identifications into buildings and structures. The main part of the building from inside was an adaptation of Joseph Paxton‘s famous Crystal Palace. The words on the glass door were not twaddle. He silently did a prompt translation “the best or nothing.”
He looked in astonishment at the long rolls of cars parked behind the wired cast transparent glass, a barrier between himself and the beautiful wheels standing in their own space that seems like revered majesty in the magnificence of their own castle. As he strode through the aisle of about one thousand feet long building, with an interior height of one hundred feet made of cast-iron and paste-glass supported by pillars and the plinths with mortised stars he wondered how long and how much it must have cost to have the structure in place.
The sunlight tore through the glasses above from the ridged-and-furrow roof adorned with cherubs and discreet drawings of large mortised stars. The vast space beyond was well lit and deserted. The huge drawing of the mortised stars on the roof was replicated on the wired cast transparent glass, stretching through its lengths on both sides.
As he usurped on the vast space, the admiration of the beauties before him almost became confusion. The view was heartwarming and bewitching. “Look at these beauties!” He exclaimed.
He was now many metres into the aisle. He was on the edge of his seat. His bated breath eased upon beholding the rolls of beautiful cars. His soul was calm. His vein reflex on his fingers went calm too. He let loose his grip and soothing feel on an invisible steering wheel in his hands. His body was at peace with the placidity and the morgue like silence around him. Am I alone? He was worried.
Alas, a voice spoke, chillingly close “which do you prefer?”
He froze, turned his medium size body slowly. He removed his hands from the double-pocket fitted ash color pant that strung out to reach his ankle.
Only few metres away, walking towards him with his left hand in his trouser’s pocket was a slim tall - about six feet white man. He wore a clean dark double-breasted suit cut to fit that looked like it was his first time of wearing it. His shoes too were pure leather. The brand, although not visible but it shows obvious class and taste. He had a Rolex wrist watch on his left wrist. He carried himself with poise, with his not too broad shoulders standing upright and his smooth face with a clean shave. His irises were sky blue with dark red pupils. He radiates opulence.
The nice looking man stretched out his left hand towards Abu. His unwrinkled palm wrapped around his with a mild force and ardor “You can choose the one close to your heart.” His accent was easy to place. A German “Now, tell me which one?” He sought to know.
“Am not sure I can afford this…,” Abu stammered, looking abashed than before but the guilelessness was barefaced in his voice. “You just choose according to your desire. A wee troth can stir a peak.” The man stared at him, perfectly calm and assuring except for the fact that he was a stranger. “Is he mucking me?” He mused. “Then why are you here?” The man quizzed.
He felt his apprehension mounting. Why am I here? It sounded like someone was fooling around with him. “I got a call...”
“Someone called you.” The man interrupted. He took his eyes off the ground where they seems to have been staring at the pair of converse all-star in Abu’s legs “These are the latest Mercedes Benz cars manufactured here in your country by my company and available for sales. They are the best, for the best of people.”
Abu flashed back to the den…the call from the voice. A lady will call you any time soon. Just follow her instructions. The voice had said. Ten minutes later a call came in. Hello, we understand you love Mercedes Benz brand. Do you have a pen and paper nearby?” He had no idea how to respond. The voice said I was to follow all instructions. He thought silently. Please write this down. GGE 124 TF. Go outside and wait for the car, right now. Thank you. She hanged up before he could say a word.
As he stepped outside into the unwilted May air, a white Mercedes Benz W203 C-Class with plate number GGE 124 TF pulled over at his door step. An unassuming mountainous black man dressed in white suit stepped out of the driver’s side. Hello, he had said and then opened the back door, turned his face towards him and then slowly back to the opened door. I wonder! Abu had said to himself. I hope all these mysteries would stop soon.
Some minutes later, the driver pulled the car to a stop in front of the main entrance of a white-painted Aquia Creek sandstone magnificent building built in the New Classical style. He stepped out of the car and opened the door for him. He gave a reverse robotic facial gesture he did at the den. “Here we are.” The driver had said.
Bewildered, Abu heaved a sigh. He tried stretching his wrinkled Mudi hand woven shirt and climbed out of the car sluggishly. As he stood alone and watched the departing rear lights, He realized he could easily reconsider, cross to the other side of the road, grab a taxi and head home. To do what? He had asked himself.
“You have worked for the miracle.”
He felt a billowing surge of adrenaline. Who is he, a messiah of sort or a prophet?
“Do you agree having many of these cars in different showrooms in the five different regions of the country will boost the economy?” The man asked, nodding to the fore with his not too broad shoulders. Abu sighed. “Yes, it will do more.” And then he thought to himself. Why is he asking an obvious question?
“You yielded to the call of a strange voice. A stranger called you to walk and work with him and your found it a worthy course.” The man, now standing shoulder to shoulder with Abu placed his right hand on his left shoulder. “It was a duty you wanted to die for.”
Abu became speechless.
“Do you know the story of the Spartans and the Athens?” The man tilted his head, his eyes focused on him.
Dine with a stranger but save your love for your family. Abu grunted. “I am a human being first. I am a citizen of the world. Do you know the story of the Ibos, Zulus, Swahilis, Yorubas, Lubas, Oromos, Hutus, Hausas and Berbers?” He reeled off a list of tribes.
The man sighed. Too much in a haste to get out of the chilling atmosphere within the building, He was not ready for any further unsolicited reel off a list of tribes. “Those are the best of people that have ever walked the surface of the earth.” He uttered with such an affirmation cloaked more in humility than veracity of the fact.
Strike one. Abu sensed the stranger before him was western savant. He wondered if he had any idea he cared less about skin colors, dialects and land demarcations. The world to him is under one sky with one sun and moon shining over it, built on one soil and living organisms in it breathing in same air. It does not matter who you are. We are one.
Although he loved to be identified with his color and origin, that included stating them in references where necessary. There is nothing better than that.
“I know.” The stranger before him must have decided not to bring it up.
“In the case of Sparta, it was not armies of Athens that defeated it, but the Athenian money.” He looked right into Abu’s face as if trying to read his mind. “Money flows far and wide; it cannot be restrained, or made to fit a prescribed pattern. It is intrinsically anarchic. And in the long run, money made Athens the conqueror by infiltrating the Spartan system and corroding its protective armor.” He added. “This is for the Spartan. Many great people, organizations and even great countries of the world have these similar stories.”
“This story applies to this great country. – The oil boom has cracked the system. Making her rigid in her economic outlook.”
Abu looked at him with his widely opened eyes. His words enthralled him. He cannot but just agree with him. Money is sharper than sword. He thought silently.
“This is a country with the best of everything. Yet her people have less than the best.” Abu smiled at his conclusion smugly. “The people deserve it all.” As if he just got back from a trance. “The best or nothing.”
Abu recoiled. The best or nothing?
It cannot be! Abu spoke his next words carefully. He had waited for this moment. He had longed to meet the voice that has spoken to him severally in the last two years. The words from the voice always come like a command, but it was usually limpid suggestions. Thought usually with a fraught silence, yet explicit. He knew everything and he had always wondered how.
“Are you the voice…?”
“I am Karl Nimit. Chief Executive Officer Daimler AG, Germany automobile manufacturer.” He announced with such a strong confidence.
Mercedes Benz Manufacturer. Dazed, He looked at him with preying eyes. He looks familiar. He had seen him on television, in several newspapers and publications. He is…the voice…but this could be a trap. It was a mixture of confusion and excitement. “Millions of your people will forever be indebted to you.” The man thrust his left hand deep into the inner pocket of his jacket. “Although the battle is not over…You have done your bit.” He stretched his left hand towards him. In his hand were a black mass storage card and a car key. Slowly, the confusion began to ease.
“In the mass storage card is every bit of information you provided to me in the course of our relationship…” He paused. “Please!” He summons him to move with his right hand while at the same time handing over the contents in his left hand to him. He led the way towards the far end of the building. They walked through a door into a large parking space, where the air grew calm and sweet with the scent of blossoming jasmine on both sides of the well tarred with well mowed lawn, with traffic signs erected at different spots and marked with about fifteen white lines. The space in between each line was large enough to contain a car each. A lone black Mercedes Benz brand was parked in one of the space between the fourth and fifth line.
“The key in your hand is for that car… It is a Mercedes SL65 AMG.” He said with such a calm assuring voice “Abu,” He called out his name for the first time. His eyes and Karl’s eyes locked on. “You are a change agent for your country.” Karl added.
Abu remained motionless for a long moment. Mercedes SL65 AMG. This is black series… Excited. He paced to the car leaving him behind. Before he got to it, he pressed the unlock button on the remote key in his hand. It gave a great welcome beep. Its lights flashed.
Karl walked calmly towards him. As he got to where the car and Abu were, he said “My Company and I are grateful to you.” Then a fear came into Abu. Don’t be a fool. Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet. “Hope there is no tracker or special security or surveillance in the car?” He asked with a weary voice. Karl smirked calmly. As if to assure him, he opened the door at the rear right. “You know where to search for such device. You are a professional private spy now.”
Professional private spy “I don’t want a Greek gift.” Their eyes locked for the second time. Karl closed the door and turned to the other side of the car.
Abu scanned the car again, admiring its poise and sleekness. He ran his palm on its smooth body. From the right side, he started from the trunk to the front on the left side. He stopped at the driver’s side where Karl had been standing watching, leaving him to enjoy every minutes of the joyous moment. Abu imagined every bit of his feature moments in it.
“Can you take a ride? You have a full tank…and it is registered in your name. The documents are in the safe compartment. I am billed to leave soon.” Karl opened the door at the driver’s side for him. He slipped gently into it. He pressed the ignition button. Abu revved the engine, it roared to life. He smiled with the greatest satisfaction. Just exactly as he thought, Karl altered “Das Beste oder nichts.” “The best or nothing.” Abu replied with contentment.
“My good friend, all you did is between you and me.” He patted Abu on the back like a father after admonishing a good child who has done well. “Walk free and ride freely.” He closed the door of the car and started walking away toward the direction they had come.
“If you ever need me, you know how to get me.” He said with the obvious German accent. How? Abu thought. Not really sure he knows. One thing is sure he knows how to get me if he ever needed me. Abu thought silently. Does it really matter…would I need him…what for?
Now alone within the new car – something he had always called his love and beauty.
There and then Abu recalled that memory or was it a fantasy.
It was the night before his graduation ceremony. Ihu had asked probingly. “Which will be your preferred first car?” Of course he knew his preference. Mercedes Benz brand. Abu did not want any of his argument. They always argue on which is the best, fastest, finest, most gadget fitted, most electronic car etc. He had told him jokingly it was never going to be a Honda.
“Honda can run, I want something that will be at my pace.” Ihu was surprised at his silly answer. “That pace is in your feet, every car runs.” Ihu had replied.
Instead of naming a brand, what followed thereafter from Abu was a narration to his dear friend.
“It would cost a hole in my pocket. It was not leaking. The hole was necessary because my pocket did not have a mouth. I was in love with my taste. I have a high taste thou. As much as I get what I wanted, the cost did not matter. I was initially drippy but summoned the courage to ask her out. It was our first outing. I took her away from the comfort of her haven. She was all well wrapped up. Glittering in pure silver paint, her skin shined like diamond.
He ran his hand slowly imaginarily in the empty space. Her eyes bright like Owl’s. Her head stood like the Amazon’s. Her legs, hippy and blue. He made such dramatic demonstration with his fingers.
I grabbed her by the hand. His two hands were tight fisted and apart as if grabbing a stirring wheel. I led her into the long walk way. Long, with no visible end. Other users passed by. The winds hovered, whispering to passerby. I was lost in my new love. It was a thirty minutes dance on a well paved coated dark coal tar. The sun beamed directly on us. The space was large enough. Two of us twined. He grabbed an invisible gear. Moved his hand down as if changing the gear to drive. Controlling her hippy legs, they moved smoothly on the floor. We danced to an inaudible blues. At this point, He moved slowly from his standing spot motioning a moving car
I turned her waist, pulled her bosom. He turned his hands and bent his body from the waist as if turning the invisible stirring wheel to make a detour. It moved with her body. The wind stood still. We both danced. From the flat ground we dug it from the Tango, to Brazilian samba into African style. I kissed her lips. He tapped on the empty space as if he was honking the horn. Her eyes opened wide. Referring to the headlights. I saw the invisible end ahead through it.
I tapped her hairs gently with my fingers, twinkled her ears. He turned on the air conditioner. The music in her head came to life. He turned on the stereo. It busted through her heart. I pressed her guts. He increased the volume of the stereo. She screamed. The heavens came awake. I pressed it again. The earth went to sleep.
This is so sweet. I gasped. My soul shrunk. My spirit tempted.
We danced on and on. I held her tight. She was too smooth. Too gentle. Too clean. Well refined. The minutes faded off. Just ahead was a contra-flow. We drifted into it. Cutting every air that barged into her. We paced on. She took the fore as others trailed behind. My hands relaxed on her waist. My fingers were at ease. Her waist gave some twist like waves on the blues sea. Her skin greased my palm. The contriving to the signs. The sensation.
I took her in. A true love deserves a home. A gentle man who can drive her crazy without hurt. I showed her new haven- a room for two but solely for her.”
In his fantasy Ihu had looked on with amusement. May your dream come through. He must have wished him.
As if that narration and fantasy was about coming to reality, He tightens the seat belt and set her on his first solo ride. He sped off.