Stickman Readers' Submissions January 2nd, 2009

Battlefield Cyberspace – Cat’s Vale of Tears

This is the story of Cat, or rather, her online dating misfortunes. Cat has been a good friend for years. She’s a pretty girl in her late twenties, bright and articulate, who also happens to speak near flawless English with an impressive range of vocabulary. It’s been almost a decade now since she stepped in her older sister’s footsteps, left her parents’ home in Roi Et, and moved to Bangkok to pursue her studies at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), choosing English as her major.

During her sophomore year she met a guy who would eventually become her first boyfriend. He was Italian, two years older than her, and had come to Thailand to work for an NGO. They fell for each other head over heels, yet their bliss was not meant to last. Two years later, just a week before her graduation, the Italian who at that time happened to be away on an assignment in Southern Laos texted her that he had met somebody new and fallen in love, and would therefore end his relationship with Cat.

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Cat felt as if the whole world was falling apart. She had just lost her first real love, the man she had been hoping to marry and spend her life with. Drenched in tears she focused on her studies and successfully graduated from university the week after.

During the following years Cat worked a number of jobs in town, starting out as a concierge in one of Sukhumvit’s best hotels and other places where she had a chance to interact with foreigners and put her advanced English to the test. She met lots of foreign men who found her charming and beautiful alike and weren’t shy in letting her know this either. Many a times the attraction was mutual, but for one reason or other nothing ever came of those encounters bar friendly banter and casual flirting. Still, despite yet hurting from the huge disappointment of her Italian lover of two years leaving her, Cat felt like her future should lie with a foreign man, preferably of Western origin.

Having been told about the perceived merits of online dating by a friend she decided to set up a profile on Thailand’s best known and most popular dating website for Western men interested in meeting Thai women. This coincided well with her starting a comparably quiet office job. Cat was now the only Bangkok-based sales representative of an ecotravel agency offering adventure tours in Laos and Cambodia. She wrote to me…

“I just did something fun last week. Wait, don't even think negative yet 🙂 I told you in my last email that I have been so bored with my life lately and how I feel I should start something new. But how am I going to be able to get to know more people when my life is only in my office and in my home now? I had a marvellous idea shortly after that. I had a look at the website Thailandfriends and I decided to get a profile there, but then I changed my mind in the last minute because I had heard of its bad reputation before. I should better not take a risk. So I switched to another website eventually…”

Unsurprisingly so, the response to her profile that particularly stood out due to her proficiency in written English received a lot of attention. After only a very short time Cat found herself overwhelmed with contact requests from a wealth of men. She received so many, in fact, that she decided to put her profile offline again to catch up with all the correspondence. Somewhat naïve about the nature of this business still she replied to each and every last one of her cyberspace suitors, even if only to politely express her gratitude for their messages, bar the ones she considered too rude or even deliberately offensive in the first place. Next I heard from her she wrote…

“Now it comes to my dating story. You won’t believe that I have already found someone since the second day I posted my profile there. It was funny though. A lovely man (his name is Frank, from Canada) sent me a message and told me I got everything his best friend was looking for. He tried to persuade me to contact his friend but I said I wouldn’t. He then gave me his friend’s email and asked for mine. I did give him that. When I signed in my MSN messenger the following day I found Frank’s friend there asking to get added to my contact list. He introduced himself as Corky and explained both him and Frank live in Vancouver and have been best friends for ages. Corky and I have now gotten to know each other better on MSN and he has fallen for me after just a few chats. He calls me almost everyday now and we talk online everyday too…

His story is very interesting. He came here last year to meet a lady. They spent one week together and he even planned to marry her. But then he discovered accidentally that she had had men from all over the world come to see her and she slept with them all for money. I am very sensitive to this kind of stories, and I feel for him. This is one of the reasons why we have gotten this far pretty fast. I’m always cautious and remember how you told me to be very careful and not let myself get rushed into anything. I think I will know soon if this is real or not…”

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Reading these lines from Cat made me feel queasy, to say the least. Knowing her as a sensitive and sometimes quite starry-eyed person the last thing I thought would be good for her was to get involved with a divorced foreign man twenty years her senior who had already proven his own simple-heartedness and bad judgment in the past. This I also told Cat in no uncertain terms, while at the same time suggesting to her to maybe join other, not specifically Thailand focused, online social networks to meet new friends and possibly one or the other potential suitor too. One week later Cat got back to me again…

“Now I have an even funnier story to tell you. Two weeks ago I told you there was a guy who saw my profile and he knew his best friend would like me very much so I was introduced to him next. Now, he’s just realized he has made a wrong decision. To him, I am already more than just a friend. He told me he had to bite his tongue many times when chatting with me. He said to me how he shouldn’t have let me go by introducing me to Corky. And, finally he told me he dreamed about holding me in his arms, touching me, and making love to me. He said he would like me and Corky to be happy because I am good and Corky deserves a girl like me, but there is another hidden wish. He said he wishes he could see me and make love to me every single chance we have. He loves his friend more than anyone but he can’t resist my sex appeal either. As for me, I told Frank I think I get along with his friend Corky very well and we shall be a perfect couple, and that therefore all Frank and I could possibly be was friends. Even though, between you and I, I have to admit I find Frank desirable too…”

Cat continued her online affair with Corky who was already planning a trip to Thailand to see her, while still being in touch with Frank, who frequently resorted to sexy talk in expressing his desires for her. Cat admitted to me how she was amused and intrigued alike by Frank’s sexual innuendos without thinking too much of them. Until one morning…

“This morning I met Corky here on MSN as usual. He seemed quiet and asked me if I was busy. I said no. He then sent me an email and asked me to come back after finishing reading that. I could feel something was wrong here. And yes, he had discovered the whole thing including every single conversation I had talked with Frank on MSN. Corky could feel something was wrong with his friend and probably me too I am not sure, so he decided to log on Frank’s MSN using a password he thought that might work. Well, unfortunately it was correct. He opened all the messages Frank had sent to me. He even printed them out and read them all day waiting for me to come online. He was very upset…

Now you probably want to know why I had kept talking to Frank on the side in the first place. I kept asking Frank why me and not others, as there are thousands of sexy girls around. On the one hand I know it would have been better to have left the conversations. On the other hand I was just so very curious to find out what attracted Frank to me, what specifically was so interesting about me, and why he had to take this risk though he knew his friend would probably kill him if he found out. I wanted to discover more about a man’s mind and what’s called friendship between Frank and Corky. (I knew they love each other as friends, but still, sexuality is something irresistible and it seems he was completely overwhelmed by this.) Look, I am not proud of this at all. I planned to tell Frank to stop his day dreaming today but…I was too late, the conversations had been discovered by Corky last night. There is no secret in this world…”

Corky asked me why and I told him the truth that I wanted to know more about what Frank was really thinking. He said he felt very hurt because I was not supposed to talk about sexual matters with any man but my boyfriend. (But excuse me, are we lovers yet?) I said sorry to him. He then asked me why I desired another man but not him. (Which is not true!) He said the difficult part is that he loved me too much to leave me. He said he needed time to be completely all right again. He said it is like he had a bullet wound and it wouldn’t take over night to heal. And then he said it’s actually two wounds. Umm, you understand what he meant and so do I very well…

I begged Corky to give Frank a chance. He told me to stay away from this, how this was between them. I told him don’t let the friendship get damaged because of only one woman. He’s his friend but I am just nobody. Corky then asked me to do him a favor…never to talk to Frank again. I don’t know why, but I already promised him…

I have cried a lot already since morning. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t mean to hurt both of them and myself too. Things have developed so fast in a few weeks and it took me only a few weeks to have ruined the friendship they had built for years. Right now my head is spinning around and is filled with guilt. I cannot get any of them out of my head. I have never hurt anyone before in my life and I really feel it is really impossible for me to do that…”

I learned that Corky eventually accepted Cat’s reasoning and apology, but was still very angry at his friend Frank. In his fury Corky even told Frank to stay away from him and his grown-up children altogether, and also to never contact Cat again. He said Frank and him were done. He wouldn’t get another chance. Hoping to mend things between herself and Corky, as well as hopefully also between the two erstwhile friends, Cat said goodbye to Frank just as she had promised, and let Corky know of this too. In turn Corky made plans to visit Cat in Bangkok as early as he could get away, stating that he now felt overwhelmed with love for her and couldn’t wait any longer to see her.

And so it happened that only a few weeks later Corky arrived to the city and consequently spent two weeks with Cat, who had earlier asked her boss for unpaid leave in order to get away with him for a while on a romantic escape to a southern island. At some point I sent Cat an email asking how it was going, but didn’t receive an answer until weeks later…

“You know what? Frank had a serious accident and has been in a coma for a few days already. He wrecked his car, broke his leg and arms, and sustained injuries to his head and internal organs as well. The doctors say he might not be able to survive if they stop the machine that helps him breathe. Corky called me and to give me the news. He cried on the phone, and then so did I…”

As if this was not bad news enough, Corky also shared with Cat that he had recently been diagnosed with late stage pancreas cancer and would be hospitalized to undergo chemotherapy starting this week. Cat was shattered to hear this. Their two week vacation on Samui had gone reasonably well, with her developing real feelings for him, and now her love was possibly terminally ill.

During the following weeks Corky’s calls gradually became less and less frequent. His voice sounded weaker from one day to the next, which Cat attributed to the chemotherapy taking its toll on his vigor. One Sunday morning Cat picked up the phone, expecting yet another one of Corky’s calls, but the voice on the other side of the line wasn’t his. That morning Cat learned from Corky’s daughter that her father, Cat’s love, had passed away during the night…

Cat was devastated. In her despair she contacted Frank, who as Corky had previously informed her had almost miraculously recovered from his severe accident, and together they mourned the loss of a friend and lover. Trying to at least partly keep true to her word out of respect for Corky they only talked on chat, and even that only rarely. Even though it was never spoken out Frank never made an attempt at calling her, and neither did Cat. It seemed as if they had a quiet understanding.

This arrangement continued for a few months. Every other week or so Frank and Cat would chat while she was at work, consoling each other, and offering emotional support. Cat eventually started to feel better and life seemed to look bright again. Even though Frank had gradually become more and more bold in trying to get emotionally close to Cat again, she consistently rebutted his advances. To her Frank was a friend, someone who tied her to the person she thought she had loved and then tragically lost.

“Akulka…please…are you busy now…? Can you come and see me?!”

The shaking voice on the other end of the line is Cat’s. She’s sobbing nervously, clearly choked up about something.

Walking into her tiny office on Sukhumvit thirty minutes later I find her crouching behind her desk, her pretty face drenched in tears. After somewhat regaining her composure she tells me a story that beggars belief.

“This morning I went online with Frank again. We hadn’t talked for a week. Last time on MSN he was quite pushy and asked me to be his girlfriend again. I thought we had gotten past that. He wouldn’t stop, so I put an end to the conversation, begging him not to bring this topic up again in the future or else I wouldn’t be able to talk to him anymore at all. Today he asked to see me on cam. I was so surprised, as we hadn’t done that since him having his bad accident, even before Corky’s death. I asked why he suddenly wanted to see me on cam after all this time and he answered that he wanted to sincerely apologize, so I agreed and opened the connection. But when the window eventually opened it wasn’t Frank looking at me, but Corky.”

(Cat starts sobbing again with tears running down her cheeks.)

I was so shocked! I didn’t understand! Where was Frank? And Corky…how come he was alive?”

Corky explained himself. He had never gotten cancer, had never been hospitalized, had obviously never died. He made up all of that in a bizarre attempt to test Cat’s loyalty to him. Not only did he lie to Cat about all of this, even made his daughter call her untruly announcing his own demise, he also hid from her that it was in fact Frank who had passed away already months ago in consequence of his car accident. After Frank’s death Corky used his deceased friend’s MSN account to contact Cat, veiling his true identity, all along with the intention of finding out if Cat would be open to another man’s advances, even after his own alleged death.

After I was done shaking my head in disbelief and consoling Cat I offered her advice to cut all ties with this man and never allow him to contact her again. She agreed that this would be the best course of action. Unfortunately her determination in this matter didn’t last very long. After Corky called again the following day to apologize and offered a lengthy explanation for his – in my eyes absolutely wicked – behavior Cat has forgiven him. They remain in touch, much to my regret.

Stickman's thoughts:

What a fxxxed up individual that guy is. Complete and utter nutjob.

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