He waddles through the front door bearing a rustic suitcase and treasure shaped box, most likely holding all of his life’s possessions. Mauritius, he says to me. I go Mauritius. I know, I say. You spoke to my colleague yesterday, I point away and make shapes with my hands that resemble my tiny colleague.

It took her two days, but the old cob finally understood the fifteen pages of terms and conditions for taking the flight as well as the need for a passport and which day was right to withdraw money from the bank. I’m organising all of his documents, stapling them together and highlighting the times and dates and even the airports. I say to him, If you have any trouble, you call this number here, okay? This number, he says. If have trouble? Yes, this number if need help, yeah? Okay.

He walks out and five minutes later walks back in, My key? I take his rustic suitcase and pops it open and there is no key. I take the treasure shaped chest from under his arm, not knowing what I should expect to see inside. Alas, there is a bank book, and his key, nothing else. Thank you, you are very kind, he says.

The next day he waddles in to the shop again, I smile and he says to me, In French, no English and shakes the itinerary I gave him yesterday in his hand. I send out a call around the two story building and luckily someone can not just speak, but write in French. The translation is in progress and I sit at my desk and wait, making small talk with this man. You speak French, he asks me. No. You speak Chinese, he asks. No. I speak Indonesian. He looks confused. Silence.

I tap away at my keyboard but it isn’t enough for this old cob. My wife, she die. Fifteen years ago. Oh no, I say, I’m sorry. She die, fifteen years ago. I still sad. That is sad, I say. I bet your wife was lovely, I say. Yes, very lovely. My kids, they all old, not live here. Oh, you never see them, I ask? No, never. I go to Mauritius, he states again. I hope you make it to the airport let alone on the bloody plane to Mauritius, I think.

This my last time to Mauritius, he says. Oh, no I don’t think so. You have to come back and see us here at the store, tell us about your trip. No, Last time I go to Mauritius. I don’t argue, there’s no point. My wife, she die, fifteen years ago. I’m sorry, I say, again. Then he points out the front to the road, my wife, walking and tram come. Then he makes gestures with his hand before saying, I watch her die. I’m sorry to hear that, it must have been very difficult for you. Yes, very difficult.

I go to Mauritius, last time. No family here. This old cob is stubborn and his itinerary is finished being translated so as I hand it to him I tell him, Jean, if you come back, please come and see us and say hello. He stares at me, scared. And if you don’t come back, at least Mauritius is a very beautiful place to stay in. He smiled and told me I was very, very kind. He waddles out the front, I watch him walk through the door and along the footpath. Goodbye, Jean, I think. You old cob.


This post was later edited for ABC radio.