Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The most sensual kiss

December 2002

We went to get some tea, a Hong Kong version of English tea, served very strong and sweet. Then we walked for a while around the shops of Causeway Bay, before returning, in the early evening to the hotel.

Maggie had booked us a table in the Peninsular Hotel. We had a window seat on the 26th floor. The views across Hong Kong harbour we fantastic. It was a truly romantic setting for dinner. We ordered lobster, but struggled to eat it, as both our appetites were poor, it had already
been an incredible day.

Later we took our wine over to the dance floor. A live band was playing, and Maggie liked to dance. We stayed several hours; dancing, sitting and kissing. We were both very tired, but neither of us wanted to suggest leaving; this would be our first night together.

We didn't get back to the hotel until after 2am. Once back in the room we kissed for what seemed like hours before I let Maggie have her shower. This was my first glimpse of Maggie's night time ritual, a ritual I would share for the next two years, always a shower before bed. Bedtime became our time. I showered too, wanting to please her.

And then we climbed into bed, put out all but one of the lights and immediately started to kiss again. This time though, there was no stopping, the kissing turned to touching, and the touching became increasingly intimate. I removed her clothing and kissed her perfect breasts.

As her pleasure increased, so did her exclamation. And with this encouragement, my confidence grew, and I lowered my head for the most sensual kiss of them all.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You're not just having fun?

December 2002

We went to eat nearby, just some fish soup and noodles. Then we walked through North Point and Causeway Bay and into Victoria Park. It was such a hot day, I could feel my face burning as we walked hand in hand through the busy park.

We stopped several times to sit and talk and kiss. Then we would walk on again, never letting go of each other.

Finally sat opposite the sports area, our conversation became more serious. She told me of a past boyfriend, and how the relationship had ended when he asked her to move away from Hong Kong. Then she told me that other relationships had been just occasion dating only. She said she 'never had true love before'.

Then she said that more recently her sister had encouraged her to go to Montreal, in the hope that she might meet someone there.

My head was spinning. I didn't want to hear any of this. For a moment or two, I wanted to walk away and leave her where she sat.

Then she asked my intention, 'you're not just having fun?' she asked. It was a question that kept coming back.

Do we need to eat?

December 2002

So I did kiss her, and looking back, it seems like we hardly stopped kissing from that moment on. In the taxi, in the hotel, in the street, on park benches, in the club that night, we kissed and we kissed.

My company had booked me an executive room, in the City Garden Hotel, North Point. Once in the room, I went to freshen up whilst Maggie called her mother. I was surprised by the amount of time it took her to sort out a minor domestic issue. Having finished in the bathroom, I sat on the bed waiting for Maggie to conclude her call.

Finally Maggie switched off her phone, walked across the room and sat astride me, we kissed with tremendous passion. It was perhaps, our first truly sexual moment. We kissed and touched, not wanting to stop, both of us knowing that we only had a few days together; days that would change our lives forever.

And there we were, five weeks to the day, since we first met, two people who wanted nothing more than to be together, holding, touching, kissing; nothing else mattered. It was the moment, above all others, that I'd been waiting for.

And yet, at the same time, it seemed too soon, and after a while something made me ask, 'do we need to eat?'

Friday, May 26, 2006

You haven't kissed me yet

December 2002

It was a very early on the Saturday morning that I got into a taxi for Shanghai Pudong airport. It was heavy rain all the way, but fortunately, as it was so early, the traffic was light.

My difficult parting with Lucia the night before was all but forgotten, as my thoughts were of my eagerly anticipated meeting with Maggie. She was due to meet me at Hong Kong airport at 10am.

In my mind the whole journey was a worry that I might not meet her expectation. I didn't know her well enough at the time to know that in reality I already had.

I sent Maggie a text 'kiss you soon' Then my first disappointment; an hours delay on the flight. I sent Maggie a warning, although I knew she would check with the airport before leaving home.

It was near 11am when we landed, and it took another half an hour to get through all the normal airport procedures. At just before 11.30am, I walked through arrivals gate A, where we had arranged to meet. I took my time, walking slowly, so that I would more easily be able to pick Maggie out from the crowd, but she wasn't there.

I knew she was there though, as I'd spoken to her immediately upon landing. So, I dialed her number, and waited to hear her phone ring. 'Ah, there you are' I said.

As she turned around, my second disappointment, she was not as attractive as I'd remembered. My smile was weak; to this day, I don't know if she noticed. I didn't hold her, I just asked, 'which way?'

In the taxi, a few minutes later, as we headed toward Hong Kong, she said 'you haven't kissed me yet'

Bacardi breezer

December 2002

Each night I was in Shanghai followed a similar pattern; dinner with Lucia and other colleagues, then back to the hotel to call Maggie and after that, out into the night, alone.

When I was last in Shanghai, I'd been taken to the Moaming Road, a lively little area, full of bars and nightclubs. Young girls stand outside the bars to entice the men. Most of the men need little persuasion.

As you walk down the street, other women will approach, offering sexual services. These women are nearly always ugly.

This time, I came to Moaming Road alone. I didn't have a particular purpose, I just wanted to see if there was anything to tempt me. I have always had a fascination for this seedy kind of nightlife.

I chose a bar, and was escorted to a seat, by a young, fairly attractive girl, who took a seat at my side. I ordered a beer, the girl asked me to buy hr a drink, we sat and talked, although her English was not so good.

She stayed with me until I refused to buy her a second. Then she was replaced by another, who also asked for a drink. As she was ugly, I refused, and along came a third girl.

Each girl would touch me and flirt, but there was never any suggestion that they were offering more. Indeed, I didn't notice any of the girls leaving with the men. They just seemed to offer the pleasure of their company, in exchange for as many Bacardi breezers as you are willing to buy.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Making sure

December 2002

Maggie was trying to tell me how I could 'win her heart'. She said she likes a man to be a gentleman.

Then she explained to me exactly what her idea of a gentleman was.

She wanted somebody to take care of her when out, to hold the door open for her in restaurants. She said she would listen to the way I spoke to her and see if I held her hand as we walked down the street.

She gave me a complete outline of the behaviour she expected.

And in doing so, she made sure that only an idiot could get it wrong.

She was making sure I couldn't fail.

Maybe tomorrow

May 2006

David wrote to me again today, he wanted me to know how he learnt the art of attracting beautiful women. At the start, it seems, he was just like any other guy, then one day he made the decision that he was going to 'get this part of my life called "meeting women" handled'

So what did he do; well he spent several years it seems watching motivational videos, reading books and going to seminars. But his real breakthrough came when he started 'hanging out' with guys who were 'naturally successful with women'

It is from watching these guys in action that he was able to formulate ideas into a system. It is this system that has enabled him to date models and celebrities.

Every week he sends me free emails with tips on how to approach, talk to, and attract beautiful women. He uses something called the three minute email technique.

I plan to use it. I am always looking for an opportunity. At lunchtime, in Starbucks, in the supermarket, any time when I am on my own away from home. I might see a woman I like, and wait for the moment to approach. But then at the last minute I lose my nerve, find an excuse, and tell myself maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How do I do that?

December 2002

Our conversation continued in a similar vain, until it was time to say goodbye.

And then she asked 'Did you get my fax?'
'Oh yes, sorry, I meant to thank you'
'Why didn't you mention it before?'
'I just forgot, I'm rather jet lagged'
'Did you know my meaning?'
'Well, no not really'
'Oh' she sounded a little disappointed.

'What was your meaning?' I asked. I didn't know what else to say.
'Well I mean that I am making a commitment to you, by staying with you when you come to Hong Kong, so you have to prove that you have commitment to me too, is that fair?'

'And how do I do that?' I asked.

Kiss it

December 2002

The office was busier than when I'd last visited, with quite a number of commercial staff in town to negotiate contract terms with our one and only client.

Lucia was very happy to see me and we soon found ourselves a quiet corner to discuss her progress. I thought I could detect unhappiness in her voice, but decided to wait before I broached the subject.

She was staying in the same hotel as me, so we later caught a taxi back together and went to a local restaurant, with a few colleagues for dinner. The restaurant was very pleasant, and after a couple of beers, the conversation was fairly lively. Lucia seemed happy enough, so that I thought that maybe I'd been mistaken earlier.

The following morning we were to attend a seminar hosted by KPMG about foreign exchange restrictions China, so after we left the restaurant, I made my excuses, and went to my room to call Maggie.

It was great to talk to her, she was so happy and her talk became very playful. I mentioned that I had a huge bed to sleep in, and she referred to the fun we might have if she were there too.

I told her that she had excited me, hinting that I was a little erect, whereupon she asked 'would you like me to kiss it?'

The fax

December 2002

I arrived in Shanghai early the following afternoon, and having found my driver, headed for the Equatorial hotel.

The journey was a long won. Shanghai is a very congested city. As prosperity increases, so does car ownership. Add to this the bicycles, taxis, buses and commercial vehicles and you get one huge traffic jam, and the sound of a million horns.

There was a fax awaiting me, when I went to the check in desk. From Maggie saying 'Welcome to Shanghai honey, in 4 days we will meet, I have done what I can, now it is up to you'

I didn't understand, but had no time to think about it. I had to freshen up, and go over to the office. I was already a couple of hours late.

I called Maggie, to tell her my room number, I'd already text her on my arrival. We spoke briefly, but I didn't mention the fax.

I jumped in a taxi, and headed for the office to see Lucia.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

One month today

December 2002

I called Maggie from Heathrow airport having already checked in. My flight was delayed, so we had plenty of time to talk.

'Do you know what today is?' I asked.
'I do', she said, 'it's the 2nd'
'Yes, one month today'

It was such a happy conversation. I was on my way to Shanghai, and at the end of the week I would be flying to Hong Kong. We'd been talking about this for a couple of weeks, both of us excited about meeting again.

'Make sure you call to say you land safe' she said. 'and don't let anyone in your room, the girls in Shanghai can be tricky. But I know you won't, I know you can handle yourself well'

I didn't know it at the time, but this proved to be the first of several trips I made, over the coming months. My love life being funded by my company and all 5 star.

I asked if I would get to meet her mother. 'That is serious' she said. 'It means you are very serious to me, if you meet my mother'

'Perhaps we should leave it this time then' I said.
'No' she replied. 'I want you to meet my mother'

Too great

November 2002

Another day passed, it was Saturday and only two days until I would return to Shanghai. Maggie and I spoke earlier than usual, I took the opportunity to call her from football, unsure whether I would get another chance later in the day. In another week, we would be together.

That evening, I received an email from her saying:

'Honey, I only know you such short time, but I am so impressed by the way you are and how you keep our long distance relationship. I think this is life, a person takes half their life to find that perfect someone to spend the rest of the life with.

Although, I only spend a few hours with you, I know you are the one for me, this will be forever, no doubt. I never have this feeling before, it was love at the first eye sight. You are my sweet, sexy Steve, can't wait to start our life together'

I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I knew it from the start. And I knew too that it would be better to stop now, before I made things any worse. But how could I resist such words. At the time, for me, it was impossible. Not because, I didn't have the strength to resist, but because I didn't have the will.

It's simple really. The temptation was too great.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The end of next week

November 2003

It was several days before I got this from Ki:

'Why don't you write me like you said you would? Do you know how worried I am? Please write to me. I won't give you the pressure about our meeting. I will be patient. Just please let me know that we are ok'

So the pressure was off. She would be reluctant to start asking about meeting up again, at least for a while.

I wrote back after a couple of days 'don't worry, I am ok, just very busy at work, I have a lot to finish this week, as it has to be sent to the UK before the end of next week'

I didn't bother to mention that at the end of next week, I too would be going back to the UK, for personal reasons. I would be gone for about two weeks.

And I had a bit of a problem. I hadn't told Maggie that I was going back to the UK either.

You cannot make like

November 2002

The days passed quickly, with my afternoons dominated by my telephone call to Maggie. No matter where I was, it was a ritual, like daily prayer.

The next day, she asked me about exercise, and said rather cheekily, 'what is your favourite exercise?' I told her I like to cycle, walk, play football and even go to the gym or do aerobics. I mentioned everything, except what I thought she was looking for.

'But honey, what is the most fun way to keep fit?' she said

'I've told you everything I can think of' I said. 'What did you have in mind?'

'Ok' she said, 'you have a challenge, write to me of what you think will be the best way we can keep fit together'

So that evening, I wrote her an email, as was my normal habit. In it I described how we could use each of the methods above to stay healthy; 'for example we could cycle around the great parks of London'

My descriptions were long, and meant to infuriate her. Then, after my signature, I wrote what I believed she wanted me to say; 'of course when we have done all this, if you still need more exercise, we could always make love'

Her reply was as follows; 'yes honey, I believe that for us, making love will be the most wonderful exercise, it will be our only entertainment. But, honey, to make love, you need love, and you have not said you love, you only say you like me. You cannot make like'

Friday, May 19, 2006


May 2006

There is a guy called David who writes to me, and thousands of others, at least twice a week. He has been writing for a few months now. He writes because I let him.

He makes a claim. He says that he has the ability to 'double' my dating. With his techniques he says, it makes no difference whether I'm old, fat, ugly, poor, bald or even a bit smelly, I will still have the ability to enchant a supermodel.

Indeed, so confident is he of the power of his technique that he says that the supermodel will end up chasing me. I will have 'hot chicks eating out my hand'.

His emails are full of testimonials from guys who have successfully used his methods.

I must admit that in essence I agree with what he has to say. Although I am rather dubious that the average overweight middle aged business man could ever be a babe magnet.

When I think about David's advice, as I often do, I wonder how far my experience with Maggie, Ki, Sylvia and the others go to prove his theories.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rise from the dead

November 2002

It took me completely by surprise the next day when Maggie mentioned, for the first time, her (so called) admirers.

Who were these people? And why wait around, staying in every night, for someone half the world away, when you have eligible and eager young men on your doorstep?

It seemed like a strange thing to mention to a prospective boyfriend, to me anyway. At the time I didn't doubt what she said. I simply wondered why she said it.

Periodically, after that, they would creep into our conversation; never, at my instigation though. And there never seemed to be any reason why we should talk about them.

After the first time they were mentioned, I wrote her a short story, in which I was a valiant knight on a trusty steed. As I rode forth, drawing my mighty sword, I would slay every last one of them.

She wrote; 'as long as you treat me well, take care of me, you would always be my champion'

It wasn't enough to kill them once though, for these guys could rise from the dead.

Do you want that too?

November 2002

That night, I didn't mention Maggie's stated intention of staying with me on my arrival in Hong Kong.

I didn't want to give her the impression that my reason for seeing her again was in any way about sex, or that it was a particularly big deal to me, although in truth it was. And most importantly, I only wanted her to stay with me, if she chose to do so.

It became my principal, in this and subsequent relationships, that the lady made all the choices, without being influenced by me. I never tried to force anything, from when we met, where we went, what we did, when we made love. I just sat back, and waited.

The only choice I ever made was the final one.

And my anger, when I was angry, was simply because they didn't always make the right choices.

We talked for about an hour at the end of which Maggie asked, just as we were saying goodbye, 'you know I want to stay with you when you come to Hong Kong, do you want that too?'

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The frog and the papayas

November 2003

Meanwhile, I was also in communication with Lowan. After a few emails she sent me the software to download MSN Messenger onto my laptop. Once I set this up, we started using it to talk throughout the day.

Our conversation was mainly light hearted. I started a theme I have now used a few times since, where I was a frog and she was a princess, and then the frog would ask 'what must I do to get the princess to kiss me?'

As the story goes, a kiss from the princess and the frog becomes a prince.

She always ended by saying; how can the princess kiss the frog, when the frog is not in Hong Kong?

Other times she would joke about her large papayas, how sweet they were, how tasty. Often though, when our talk was of this nature, she would suddenly seem nervous, and then change the subject. Perhaps worried by the impression she might be giving.

And for a while we would talk of other things. Always returning eventually though to the frog or the papayas.

Not a hope

November 2003

I didn't give Ki a hope. Instead I wrote back saying that I would be in Hong Kong as soon as possible. I kept the note very brief, hoping that this would demonstrate my frustration. A little warning that she should not be pushing too hard.

It worked. Her reply was...

'I am sorry to be impatient, I am just so anxious to see you only, I am thinking of you always, don't you see what this means??, what you mean to me already??. But I will be patient, I don't want to angry you. Call me again soon, I want to talk to you'

It was becoming a game; an irresistible game. I had no expectation of ever seeing Ki. So why not just see where the game will take me. There was nothing to lose.

I didn't reply for several days, then wrote..

'Sorry, am very busy at the moment, working long hours, will write more in a few days. Take care'

Then I waited....

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Give me a hope

My first impression when speaking to Ki, was that I didn't like her voice, it was very monotone. Immediately, I felt that I had nothing to say to her. So the conversation felt strained and unnatural.

This made me nervous. Why? When I knew that I never need meet her or speak to her again.

So I found myself asking way too many questions. 'Do you like your job?' 'Do you like living in Hong Kong?' 'Where do you live?' And her answers were as bland as my questions. She seemed to have no interest in me at all.

I was glad when she said she had a lunch engagement with a friend and would have to go.

Leaving the office shortly after, I concluded that I need think about Ki no more. What did it matter? There was still Lowan and all the others. I went home to wake Maggie.

I didn't think about Ki again.

It was quite a surprise then, when on Monday, I opened my Hotmail account and found the following note:

'Steve, you sounded so nice by your voice, it made me want you more, I thought about you all the rest of the weekend, how can we be apart any longer? I am so unhappy when I think that I don't know when you will leave Shanghai. Please Steve give me a hope'

Deja vu

November 2003

From the outset Ki was in earnest. Her questions were serious, her intention was serious, but she never asked to see a photograph.

She talked about our relationship, about missing me, about wanting to be together as soon as possible. It was deja vu. Go back one year and I was getting exactly the same emails from Maggie.

The difference this time though was that Ki and I had never met.

She said it was difficult being apart, and constantly asked for my return date. She wanted to plan a holiday to Phuket. 'Such a romantic place' she told me.

Then she asked me to call her at the weekend.

I knew that I could easily make an excuse this time. But by now, I already suspected that my relationship with Maggie was finite. So I wanted to keep my options open.

Maggie and I always spent the weekends together, we were never out of each others sight. There seemed only way I could call Ki. I had to go into the office.

Monday, May 15, 2006

In your hotel

And so we counted down the days.

And Maggie made plans; where we would have dinner our first night, she asked if we could go dancing and she took my flight number from Shanghai so as to meet me at the airport.

It added excitement to our conversations, and each night when I called, she would remind me the number of days we still had to wait.

Then I wrote an email saying that I would understand if she couldn't spend all her time with me. I said that if she still wanted to have lunch with her mother, then it wasn't a problem. I said I didn't want to be selfish.

I got the response I wanted, 'I don't want to have lunch with my mother, I want to spend all my time with you, our time is very important'

And I got something I hadn't planned for when she added 'that's why I decided I will stay with you in your hotel'

More precious now

November 2002

Then the next day I told her that I would only be staying in Hong Kong for a few days. I said that I was still required to finish important work in the UK.

I also mentioned that it was my mother's birthday party mid December, and that as she was 65, I had to return for that anyway.

She was disappointed but said 'Ok honey, work is very important, anyway I know I can see you soon. Our time is even more precious now'

'ne ho ma, lo paw'

November 2002

Every time I spoke to Maggie, she would teach me a word or two of Cantonese. It started with 'ne ho ma', how are you, then she taught me good morning and pretty girl. She would spell the words out to me over the telephone and I would try to include them in the text I sent her overnight.

She always said my pronunciation was very good, adding that 'you are part Cantonese already'

I called her earlier that day, as I had a meeting in the afternoon. I said I had a surprise for her, then changed the subject, and waited until she asked me for her surprise.

So then I told her that I had was going back to Shanghai. Then when she asked, I told her that I would be in Hong Kong on 7th December. 'Wow' she said, 'so happy news..... so that will be..... let me see...... two and a half weeks, I will count each day'.

'What about my lesson today' I asked. 'Ok' she said. Then she took a little time to think what would be the best thing to teach me next.

'Right' she said, 'today, I will teach you my nickname'. I wasn't sure what she meant by nickname, but was very happy when she told me that she had never told this to anyone before.

'It is lo paw' She said 'L O P A W' she spelt it out.

'What does it mean?'

'It is just my nickname' she replied.

My text that night said 'ne ho ma, lo paw'

Friday, May 12, 2006

Approval was given

November 2002

Due to the very vociferous complaints of a particular Project Director, the Shanghai Office was perceived to be a particular problem, about which my boss felt particularly exposed. This is what gave me the first opportunity to travel out to the Far East, resulting in my meeting Maggie. It created a situation that I could exploit.

Indeed it had already been tentatively agreed that I would return to Shanghai, to follow up on progress with Lucia.

I set a return date of 1st December and decided that I would try to include another visit to Hong Kong at the end of the trip. I would need approval however and therefore some justification to support my application. So I spoke to Henry to try to convince him that we still had work to do prior to the year end. Fortunately, he was happy to endorse my plan.

So I put forward a travel application for a ten day trip, five days in Shanghai and five in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong part of the trip to include the weekend.

Two days later approval was given.

Pass me by

May 2006

The weather in the UK this past week has been lovely. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and it is warm enough to enjoy a coffee in the pretty little square outside The Boston Tea Party.

This weather brings out the best in people, we are all so much happier. Me especially, as I can enjoy a coffee outside Boston in my lunch break.

And as I sit there, I look around and reflect on just how much this weather brings out the best in all the gorgeous young students who are walking around the city.

With short skirts revealing long tanned legs and the tiny cropped tops with plunging necklines, there is such an abundance of young female flesh.

But as I sit there alone, the book I hide behind remaining unread, all I do is watch them all pass me by.

What is mistletoe?

November 2002

At the same time I started to write her little stories, just for fun. They were all in a similar vain; me as her servant, lover or hero, in some romantic setting; a walk in the moonlight, a trip to Paris or a deserted tropical island.

In the first of these I described the many ways in which I would serve her; as her chauffeur, her gardener, her chef and her butler. Another time I was a knight in shining armour saving her from her evil admirers with my trusty sword. The stories were shamelessly clichéd.

It was easy to forget that English was not her first language and that she knew little of western culture. Another story described a fairytale castle, surrounded by snow, at Christmas time. That evening she told me she’d asked her boss ‘what is mistletoe?’ She said she would try to buy some in time for the coming Christmas.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Time wasting

November 2002

The next day I got an email saying:

Sunday is such a boring day, always the same, dim sum with mother, then watch tv. I wish you could be here with me, then I would be happy. Now that I have you, it seems like being apart is just time wasting. I miss you so much already

And each night when we spoke the question about my return date come up again and she would ask ‘any news yet honey?’

I talked to her about a problem contract that I had to deal with back in the UK. I said that our business was losing money and that I was under a lot of pressure to help sort things out. And in some ways this story was true, our business could not meet its targets without the most creative accounting since books began.

But she had expectations, she thought I was moving to Hong Kong to take up a position there. She thought we had a future. She didn’t know that my job and life were firmly based in the UK. She didn’t know anything about me. She didn’t know that it was me that was wasting her time.

And all the time I continued to feed those expectations with talk of my return.

She was patient, always very patient, saying ‘don’t push your boss, work is very important for a man’.

And as I read these emails and listened to her kind words, I began to realise that I wanted to see her too. Surely I could make it happen.

She meant every word

November 2002

In the end, it wasn't as difficult as I'd expected.

On the Saturday morning after my return, I had to pop out for an hour to drop someone off somewhere. So on the way back, I stopped to call Maggie. We didn't speak for as long as had become our habit, and it was earlier in the day than I'd have chosen, but nevertheless, I did manage to call her.

And so it went on, I just kept finding new reasons to disappear for an hour at weekends to speak to Maggie. Sometimes I took the car to the car wash, another time to the supermarket for an ingredient I'd forgotten, and since Christmas was only a few weeks away, I found Christmas shopping a great excuse.

On week days, I would find a meeting room that was unoccupied, and use that for an hour. I don't know if anyone ever noticed, but if they did, it was never mentioned. Initially, I never called her from my office, as I didn't want the call being easily linked back to me.

In this way our relationship continued to grow. Maggie would often say 'I love to hear your sweet, honest voice, always makes me feel so secure'.

We continued to use text and email as well. And after about a week I got an email from Maggie saying:

'Even though I only know you for such a short time, I know you are the one for me, never did I have this feeling before, and never will I have it again. It is hard for us to be parting, but I know that when we meet up again, it will be forever'

We'd spent no more than three hours in each others company. And yet, as I later found out, she meant every word.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What if she were beautiful?

May 2006

For a while now I've been getting emails from a guy who claims to be a 'dating guru'. And recently I got the opportunity to put a little of what he preaches into practice.

When I started working in this office in February, I was introduced to all the other staff, as is normal. Everyone I met was friendly enough, as you might expect. Everyone that is, except one woman; the most senior woman in the company.

Although polite, she clearly had no intention to be friendly. She seemed rather arrogant, and I think she wanted me to feel intimidated.

In the past I would have tried to make her like me. I would have smiled and tried to make conversation; trying to show her that I was a 'nice guy'. Instead though, I simply said 'Nice to meet you', turned and left the office.

I didn't see her often, our job natures don't require us to meet. Occasionally though, I would pass her in the corridor or on the stairs, and initially she seemed to maintain the same attitude. My response was always the same; look straight at her with a slightly cheeky smile, say 'hi', and continue walking. I tried to let her see that I cared little whether she liked me or not.

In recent weeks though, her behaviour began to change. At first the tone of her voice became less condescending and her manner more pleasant. Then she starting smiling and saying something like 'how are you?'

I continued in the same vain. I didn't show any recognition that there had been an improvement. I showed her the same level of indifference.

And then today, as I stood by the water dispenser, I saw her walking towards me, from a distance I noticed her smile. She said 'hello', and as she passed me she looked away, like a bashful teenager, worried that I might not like her.

It seems like a result. But then I wonder; she isn't attractive and she's not my boss, so I really don't care whether she likes me. I will leave here in a month or two.

So the question is......... what if she were beautiful?

All but forgotten

July 2005

Saturday morning I received a text from Sylvia:

'Where are you? Are you alright? Did you get my message last night?

Later the same day, I sent a reply:

'I think I screwed up'

And that was it, the relationship was over.

Three days later, I was sat on a beach in Bulgaria, and it was all but forgotten.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

We never spoke again

July 2005

The day immediately after the London bombings was the last time I spoke to Sylvia.

I'd sent her a text early in the day, just to find out if she'd got to work. London made a brave attempt at normality that day, but transport was very difficult, with a number of tube lines closed, or partially closed.

I called her just after lunch, we had agreed to meet the next day (Saturday), but as she had left in a hurry the night before, it didn't seem certain.

Her manner as we spoke didn't help much either. She didn't seem happy at all, a little angry even. Not knowing her well enough, I just assumed I'd upset her in some way. 'Do you still want to meet tomorrow?' I asked. 'Oh yes' she said, 'I will call you later'

We never spoke again.

Meeting Sylvia on a Saturday posed all sorts of problems for me, but I felt it to be necessary, if our relationship was to continue. The weekend before, she had wanted to see me, but I had refused, saying I was going to a conference near Newcastle. It had upset her more than I'd
imagined. In truth, I was at the Live8 concert with someone else.

To see her this weekend I needed to book a hotel for the Friday, this would cost me, as I could only claim for hotels from Monday to Thursday.

So I had a dilemma; her moodiness made be think that perhaps she had changed her mind. Equally though, I thought she was probably candid enough, to tell me if she had. So I didn't know what to do.

I decided to set a deadline; 10pm. If she did not call by then, I could still get the last train home.

I spent several hours that evening killing time in Central London, walking and drinking coffee. At 9.45pm needing the toilet, I went down into the basement of the pub in which I was enjoying a pint of 'green king'. I couldn't have been down there more than two or three minutes. But it was enough.

At 11.15pm, just as the train pulled out of Reading, I looked at my phone and immediately realised that I had a voicemail. It was from Sylvia, saying 'Where are you? Can we still meet tomorrow? Call me back'. How did I miss it?

So many times in the past, I'd blamed a lack of signal for not answering a call, but this time it was true. And now I was on a train home; there was nothing I could do.

We never spoke again.

The weekends

November 2002

I called Maggie after I'd checked in; I knew that by the time I got back to the UK, it would be too late to call her. She was still at work, so her conversation was much more guarded than normal. I didn't like it.

Later, as the driver fought his way through the Friday night traffic heading west on the M4, I sent the following text;

'Landed safe, heading home, feeling sad'

I knew she would like the 'feeling sad', and it let her know that I was safe, something she always liked to know.

After that I needed some time to think. In the last week, I had established a pattern of calling Maggie every night. It was easy enough, when I was in Shanghai. But now I was home, and it was the weekend. How would I find the time to disappear long enough to call her? On weekdays
I could call from the office. There are so many overseas calls anyway, one more a day might not be noticed.

My problem was the weekends.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Back again

May 2006

It took three weeks, and then, when I'd started to think that maybe this time I really had heard the last, I got this email:

'honey, are you only teasing with me, said want to be back together? i email you after we spoke, and told you you are more important than work, i decide be back with you again, why you don't reply to me. and i said i need to talk, why you don;'t call me or write me your landline no. that i can call. are you not serious about our getting back. let me know.'

I hadn't replied to her last emails, being consistent I think with the conversation we had four weeks ago.

And each time we have a break in communication, I begin to wonder if she has finally decided to let the relationship end. Or that maybe this time she really has met somebody else. As she has just started a new job, it seemed quite likely.

Now she is back again, and I have to consider whether to respond, and what to say if I do.

When others are not

April 2006

It is universally accepted that women are attracted to confident men.

I know from my own experience that when I am walking down the street, happy with the way I look, maybe a smile on my face, I get a response. It works. It worked the night I met Maggie. That night, I was 'on fire' and the women loved me.

Why is it though, that so often, my confidence is lacking? What makes the difference between a good day and a bad day? Is it just my appearance?

I don't think it is.

In January, the day I was told I was to be made redundant, I had a date with Barbara. It was the first time we met. I should have been feeling depressed about my job, and nervous about meeting her for the first time. But I was quite the opposite; articulate, witty, funny, cheeky and full to the brim with confidence. I was wearing the same clothes I'd worn on at least the last three dates. By the end of the evening, Barbara was already a little in love with me.

Contrast that with Olga, a month earlier. I left work that day, having just won a major victory against my arch rival Floyd. After a lengthy exchange of emails, in which he became increasingly aggressive and I (thankfully) kept my cool, I managed to demonstrate that I was totally correct in all respects. And to make matters even better, due to Floyd's habit of copying emails to a wide audience, my vindication was seen by many, including our boss. So why was it that when I met Olga, later that day, I was tongue tied, shy, introvert and clearly very self conscious?

I could have had a relationship with Barbara, but with Olga, I screwed it up. And yet, it was Olga who initially approached me, she made the first move, she arranged the date.

Olga was more intelligent and attractive than Barbara, she had a wider circle of friends, more interests, a successful career, a full life. She didn't seem to need anyone else. Olga was very confident, Barbara much less so.

Is that it then? Is that the key? Am I more confident, when others are not?

Continue to come

November 2003

A few days after my registration, I received my first contact through the network. The email title was 'message from 1insert'. I didn't know what this meant until I read:

'Hi, I thought you sounded interesting from your profile. My name is Ki, I am 39, single and work as a manager for a fashion exporter. I like to travel, my favourite destination is Phuket in Thailand. I also liked London, Paris and Italy that I went to last year.Do you like living in HK? My email is k***** and mobile number is 00852 9721 ****. I would like to get to know you, I hope you like too. Ki'

And that was the start of my relationship with Ki. It is one, I am rather proud of.

Next came a message from Lowan. Similar, in style, to the one above, although she didn't give me her phone number.

So over the following few weeks, I had very pleasant email and messenger conversations with both Ki and Lowan. I told them both that I was temporarily in Shanghai and would be returning in the next few weeks. They both seemed happy to wait and I was happy to see how long they would wait. In both cases it proved to be a very long time.

As the messages had begun, so did they continue, about one a week, so that it soon got to the stage that I had insufficient time to respond to them all. Even, that didn't seem to put them of though, some tried again and again. Even now, nearly three years later, the messages continue to come.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Walking with Lucia

November 2002

Thursday was my last night in Shanghai, and Lucia and I went out to dinner alone, as I'd hoped we would.

She took me to have hot pot, another Shanghai food sensation. A large pot boils in the middle of the table, full of water and the restaurants particular mix of stocks and spices. Plates of raw food are delivered to your table, you add these to the pot as the fancy takes you, and eat them when they are cooked. It is delicious, and great on a winters evening. As with all the other restaurants I'd been to, this one was full.

I remember one of the young waiters, only eighteen years old coming stopping at out table to ask me questions, translated by Lucia. He was particularly interested in how wealthy I was. He only earned £60 a month.

After eating, Lucia suggested a walk, saying she wanted to walk with me. Although rather surprised (I knew Lucia was tired), I agreed. We walked along way, hardly speaking. The streets were quiet, it was late, and I began to realise that Lucia didn't know where we were going.

'Oh, it doesn't matter' she said. 'I am happy just walking' And so we continued. My only thought was that I would be late calling Maggie, so I sent her a text as warning. It was a good move.

An hour later, we came upon a hotel, and from there caught a taxi to my hotel. On arrival, Lucia walked with me into reception instead of continuing on to her own hotel. 'I just wanted to see you back' she said

I kissed her cheek and said goodnight.

Managing expectation

November 2002

A fortnight before going to Hong Kong, I had been on a management development course. Amongst other things, it was explained that as good managers, we needed to learn the art of managing other people's expectations.

And now, with Maggie, I had to put this into practice.

I had led her to believe that I would be returning to Hong Kong, when I had concluded my work in Shanghai. I hadn't put a date on this, but it was obvious that she expected to see me in the next week or so. This however, was never going to happen, my flight from Shanghai to UK had
been booked several weeks ago, for the following Friday. There was never any likelihood that I could change this.

And now it was Wednesday, two days before the flight.

I decided to do it in stages.

That night, as we talked, I simply said that my company had requested that I return to the UK for a few days for an urgent review of a particular project I'd had some responsibility for in the past. I said I was waiting to be advised when the review would take place.

Then the following morning I sent her a note saying that I'd received an email overnight requesting my immediate return, and that my flight was booked for the following morning.

That night, I told her that after my trip to UK, I would be returning directly to Hong Kong.

She simply said 'Ok honey, I will be waiting, work is very important for a man'

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Eating experience

November 2002

My best ever eating experience was in Shanghai, and my first time was with Nicky and Lucia, the day after Lucia arrived. It was a forty minute taxi ride outside of the city.

It was a wide street, busy with taxis, bicycles and delivery vehicles. On either side of the street, and as far as you could see up the street, were shops selling the biggest and most bizarre collection of sea food imaginable.

There were tanks full of live fish, lobster, crabs and shell fish. Outside the shops were baskets of clams, prawns, shrimps and even snakes. Above the shops were restaurants, ready to prepare whatever you presented them with.

The ground is always wet and dirty, and the smell is incredible.

Again, I became a centre of attention wherever I went, as if many of the people there had never seen a westerner. Is this what it is like to be famous?

We spent about half an hour wandering around the shops, collecting our dinner, clams, crabs and a large fish, then climbed the steps and waited for a table. There is always a wait. The estaurant does a lively trade.

The food was wonderful and complimented by a couple of local beers. Lucia spent the whole evening complimenting Nicky on his choice of restaurant. We had a great night.

And it was a story to tell Maggie. It was another year before we would go there together.

And so it began...

November 2002

And so it began..... my relationship with Maggie. A telephone call in the evening, a text message before going to sleep, and email during the day; for me it was just a bit of fun.

I didn't expect that we would ever meet again, but I thought it would be nice to keep in touch for a while.

It wasn't more than a couple of days before I began to see that for Maggie it was much more than that. She started calling me 'honey' and her emails were saying things like 'my lovely Steve', 'I can't wait to see you again' and 'forever'. It took me by surprise that she was so open about her feelings so early on.

And clearly, she expected to see me in Hong Kong in the next week or so. I needed a plan.

My first email to her, turned out to be rather prophetic, it was just the lines of a song:

'There may be trouble ahead, but when there's moonlight and music and love and romance, let's face the music and dance'.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The start of something

November 2002

My first day in Shanghai was spent in the office going over plans and setting actions. Lucia was due to arrive the following afternoon, so we wanted a draft timetable by then.

The evening was spent with Henry, Henry's wife and another colleague called Nicky. We went to a restaurant that specialized in hairy crab, a Shanghai delicacy. It proved to be quite an experience.

It was the first time I had used chopsticks and the first time I had eaten a whole crab. It wasn't long before my obvious inexperience became apparent to the many waitresses. That, along with me being the only white face in the restaurant, meant that I became an item of curiosity. Soon our table was surrounded by young girls, all trying to help me. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Later, we walked down the Nanjing Road. An incredible site; every colour of the spectrum shone out from what must have been thousands of neon signs, along a one mile pedestrian walkway. At the end of which was the world famous view of Pudong, along the Bund.

It took just a few minutes, as we walked, before I realised that people were stopping to look at me, some smiled, some ventured a 'hello' or even a 'how are you?'. Never before had I received such attention. Who could fail to enjoy it?

Most of those looking were women, but it was always the men that spoke. And although it was fairly late into the evening, the streets were full, and the shops open for business.

After admiring the view, we jumped in a taxi, and headed for our hotels.

I got back to my room, picked up the telephone and called Maggie.

It was a night I will always remember. It was the start of something.

The Relationship Network

October 2003

Having obtained Maggie's password, I signed into her account with The Relationship Network, and did some investigation. I was surprised to find that she had saved a number of profiles of prospective men, all of whom seemed rather old and unattractive. Maggie always placed significant emphasis on how good looking a person was, as if looks were a guide to character. So why did she choose such unattractive men?

I then proceeded to set up my own profile. A western guy aged 38, living in Hong Kong. I didn't post a picture, mainly because I didn't have one at the time.

I wanted to see how online dating worked, and this seemed like a harmless introduction. I was a two hour flight from Hong Kong, so there seemed little chance that I would ever meet anyone, even if I got a reply. So what harm could I do?

I also hoped it might give me some insight into how and why Maggie had used online dating. I couldn't see any evidence that she'd had any success with it. All she had in her email account, was 'prospective matches'. I was curious to see how people who met this way communicated.
How did a 'match' become a relationship? Did Maggie meet anyone this way?

A day later, I received an email confirming acceptance of my profile. I had no idea what to do next though. As it happens, I didn't need to do anything, except sit back and wait.

I had a very pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Eleven O two

November 2002

'I'm so glad you called' I said. 'I have to change my plans; I have to go to Shanghai this afternoon'

We exchanged numbers and email addresses, and agreed that we would meet when I got back to Hong Kong. Although of course, I knew I would be flying back to UK at the end of the week. I didn't have any particular intention, other than that I would like to keep in touch.

She told me she had only just woken up. I was soon to learn that Maggie needed a lot of sleep. Indeed, sleep became a barometer. It became my way of measuring how happy Maggie was at any particular time.

'It's is lucky you called now' I said. 'Five more minutes and I would have been gone'.

'That's fate' she said.

We only had a few minutes, Henry was waiting in reception. I asked, 'what was the date yesterday?'

'2nd November' she answered. 'So...... eleven O two'