I went into Aramex the other day, to pick up some packages. (Aramex is a service that gives me a post office box in the US and UK, I can order stuff and have it shipped here without disappearing, like both my birthday packages last year) I love going to Aramex because one of my favourite people in Abu Dhabi works there, Tariq. I am pretty sure I have written about him before: he darts around, doing seven things at once, sliding on his shoes across the floor to go faster. He is always happy and full of energy; he has a great smile and is an excellent mimic. In short, he is just about the world's best employee.
I knew he was heading back to India for a month to visit his wife and toddler, a little boy. I saw him a couple of days before he left and he was bursting to get there. So I waited to pick up my packages, thinking I could see him when he got back and ask how it went.
I walked in, oddly, the only customer there. Tariq was behind the counter, in his regular dress. It was like someone had yanked the light out of him. He'd just returned that morning, he said. Clearly a man with a heartache, he pulled out his mobile phone to show me a picture of his (much bigger) boy, the one he won't see now for another year.
"It's getting harder and harder," he said. "I see that they need me."