Absentee


I was working in the morning. I thought you were coming at one...

Mustafa

This interview took place on

It’s quite a distance to Mustafa’s from where I live. I cycle into the city and catch a train to [SUBURB REMOVED]. The ride lasts around an hour. From there it’s another half an hour to forty-minutes up a hill, past Asian spice stores and other small shops, turning into a street that winds a way through a low-to-middle-income neighbourhood. When I reach Mustafa’s address I’m surprised by the domesticity – so much so I wonder if it’s correct: there’s a car in the driveway and two pairs of runners and a pair of white sandals lying neatly on the welcome mat. The lawn’s scrappy and there are rose bushes either side of the path leading to the door. I try calling Mustafa but there’s no answer.

 

I contacted him earlier in the week, arranged a time, 10am, and  took down his address. Later, I had a bit of confusion because the street in [suburb removed] was spelled differently to what I’d written down.

I ring the bell and it chimes to the tune of ‘are you sleeping brother John’. No answer. I try calling again. Mustafa’s phone rings until I’m diverted to the message bank. I leave a message, saying I’m outside his house. I knock on the door again. Nothing. Surely someone’s home – the car and shoes seem to suggest it.

After around fifteen minutes of knocking and nursery rhyme tunes I hear movement inside the house. Someone shuffles up. The door opens just a crack and a man of Middle Eastern appearance with a sleepy, baffled look on his face peers out. Unfortunately he doesn’t speak much English and when I make inquiries he shakes his head. ‘I don’t know,’ he says.

‘Mustafa. Does he live here? Is this the wrong address?’

‘Yes,’ says the man, ‘wrong address.’

I speak slowly, carefully, trying to pronounce the name properly. ‘Mustafa. He told me to come here at ten.’

‘Mustafa, yes. One o’clock.’

‘So he does live here?’

‘Yes,’ the man says, closing the door.

The time’s around 10.30am and I’m not sure how I could kill two and a half hours on these empty streets. I don’t even know if I’m at the right place so I decide to head back home.

 

I

Working


I'll call you another time.

Mustafa

It’s late evening when I hear from Mustafa. Over the phone he sounds tired. ‘I was working in the morning,’ he says. ‘I thought you were coming at one.’

I think of making another appointment but Mustafa doesn’t sound up to it. ‘I’ll call you another time,’ he says and hangs up.

I’m not sure he’ll call back.

[Read about our first meeting with Mustafa in The Melancholic Carpenter]

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Rajith

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