Geelong, Victoria, 1992
Five days a week an evening meal was served up at our Pakington Street digs, so everyone lined up at 6pm sharp.
For the past three nights the mysterious dark-haired guy from the back bungalow had collected his plate, turned and dashed away.
The fourth night I called out, “Hey, where you going?” as he slipped out Ariston’s back door.
“I’ll ask him to sit with us tomorrow,” Arijana offered.
The fifth night I had my eye on him and went in for the kill before Arijana had the chance to make a more measured approach.
Me: “Why are you eating dinner in your room?”
Him: “It’s Ramadan.”
Me: “What’s Ramadan?”
Him: “A holy month of fasting.”
Me: “Won’t you starve?”
Him: “No, I’ll eat later.”
Arijana: “I know you want to be a journo, but give the guy a break, what’s your name?”
Fast forward a month or so and the three of us were eating dinner at the same table five nights a week.
By the end of the first night we’d extracted critical information. Mohammed was much older than us. It turns out he was a 23-year-old Volvo driver who also happened to be hilarious.
So much so that when he told us he was one of 11 children we were sure he was kidding.
Me: “How is that even possible?”
Him: “My mum was married at 13, so she had plenty of time”
Me: “That’s crazy… and more kids than we had in our entire rural school in Musk.”
Him: “How many were there?”
Me: “Seven at last count.”
Over the course of the year Arijana and I saved countless bus fares hitching a ride to uni in the green Volvo, chatting away, distracting the driver who ran the odd red light.
I entertained Mohammed with farm stories, including the time I was five and managed to land face first in a fresh cowpat helping Dad round up cows.
Arijana left me speechless when she said at about the same age she flew from Australia to Croatia on a plane with her younger brother, her uncle meeting them at the other end!
With Mohammed behind the wheel, on weekends we found ourselves wandering the You Yangs, stealing street signs and skinny dipping in Torquay.
One Saturday, just before final exams, we piled into the Volvo and wound our way along the Great Ocean Road towards Lorne.
Windows down, stereo blaring, wind whipping our cheeks, we nearly wiped ourselves out on a sharp bend.
It wasn’t a large drop to the ocean from where the Volvo precariously balanced, but by the way three guys flew out of their ute hollering “don’t open the doors” we gathered at any moment the balance may shift!
Looking out to sea as all four wheels were towed towards firm ground Died Pretty’s D.C. played on …
Today I’m godmother to Arijana’s son and she’s an honorary aunt to my three.
Somewhere along the line we lost touch with Mohammed, but we will never forget.
Stereo Story #616
Click here to read another story on Died Pretty. And a car accident.