I confess I wasn’t expecting much in my new boss. He was middle aged to slightly over the hill. He had thinning grey hair, was a little chubby with a round belly and wasn’t going to win any best groomed awards. He seemed quiet and thoroughly bored with the line of work in which he found himself. The revenue the business earned was good in the nights due to the pub traffic. In fact, the small shop was a veritable license to print money and Ray owned it and ran it with the help of his wife and her brother and various casual worker support like myself when needed.
After a few weeks of polite conversation, we had run out of most of the superficial topics to pass the time and I slowly uncovered more about the life of Ray before he arrived in Brisbane.
Ray was born in Iran and he was a Bahai, which meant he was an ethnic minority and one in which the Ayatollah was not overly fond of. He was a gifted student in sciences and mathematics and won a scholarship to study at a British college. When he finished his secondary education another scholarship was provided for him to study engineering at a prominent British university, so he stayed in the United Kingdom and didn’t go back to the troubled and politically unstable Iran. He achieved the highest honours in Engineering and was able to get a Visa to work for a British company and become a QC in Engineering.
However, things in Iran got more troubled and it was harder and harder to extend his Visa. Not wanting to go back to Iran, he changed careers and started working in diplomacy for the Libyan Embassy. The work was troubling. Until this point Ray had been able to shut off the need to think about the politics of his country or the religious and political tensions that fractured the world. He was a lad. Hanging out with other British lads. Boys who did Engineering and obsessed over football and enjoyed being young and free. In deference to his religion, he remained a non-drinker, but at this stage spiritualism and higher thinking were far from his mind.
Then came the coup.
Ray had noticed that the political situation with Gadafi was becoming increasingly more angst ridden and work at the Libyan Embassy was starting to take on long hours of preparations for complex negotiations that went from bad to worse.
One night there was a knock on his door. A man who Ray didn’t know who claimed to be from the Embassy told him to flee. Get on a plane. Get out of the country. Now. Maybe it was the unease from work, maybe the man’s demeanour, but Ray took him seriously. He took only a few treasured possessions, went to the airport, bought a ticket to Turkey and fled. When he arrived in Turkey he called back to friends in London, unsure of what to do next. His modest flat now had bullet holes from a semi-automatic rifle decorating the walls. If Ray had been in his flat he would have been dead.
He made the decision not to go back to London. He was through with the Libyans, though with the Iranians. He wanted somewhere peaceful to rest and live quietly. His health was poor and his stress levels were high.
Through his diplomatic contacts, he applied for asylum with the United Nations. He thought about going to Canada first. Ray met with the diplomatic representative from Canada, a middle aged woman with a loud nasal voice who asked him if he had killed anyone before. Because he was from Iran. Ray walked out of the meeting.
The meeting with the diplomatic representative from Australia went more smoothly and he became a resident of Brisbane. He used his savings to put a down payment on the cafe and a modest home, married an Iranian lady and had a daughter. Years later, we met.