Thursday, May 31, 2007

Why would these calls upset me?

February 2003

From outside the shopping mall I called Maggie, feeling a little nervous. I wasn’t very happy with my ‘story’, but I knew that I could not avoid the topic again. At the time that I’d first mentioned the ‘problem’, I thought I would be able to come up with something convincing. Now though, even though I’d had several days to prepare, as I stood here in the wind, pacing up and down, it seemed like I might have made a mistake.

It took less than two minutes; ‘honey, what do you want to tell me about your ex? I didn’t know you would still be speaking with her’

‘I don’t’ I said, ‘but she called me the other day, when I got back from Hong Kong, and then again a couple of days later’
‘What did she want?’
‘She said she really missed me, and asked if there was any chance that we get back together’
‘Did you tell her about me?’
‘Of course, and she started to cry, saying everything was her fault’
‘And then what?’
‘Well then she called again, maybe two days later, saying that she still wanted to get back with me, despite my relationship with you’
‘Did you tell her we will be married?’
‘No, I didn’t. She was already upset enough’
‘Honey, you have to tell her, then she will know there is no hope’

Then after a few moments she added ‘promise me honey’. And I did.

Fortunately she didn’t ask me what I thought was the obvious question. The question I would have really struggled to answer; ‘why did these calls upset you?

I didn’t have an answer. What could I possibly say to that? This was where I’d really failed to think things through. I’d been unhappy, I’d wanted revenge, to scare her, to make her say ‘honey, I don’t want to lose you’. My favourite words.

And the question remained, perhaps for another day; why would these calls upset me?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

'The issue of your ex'

February 2003

The next days conversation was fairly ordinary, and so left me feeling disappointed. I asked about the flowers, hoping to hear how happy they made her feel and how impressed her colleagues were. But all I got was ‘I took some pictures, I will show you next time we meet’

So, just as we were saying good bye, I reminded her that I still had something on my mind that I wanted to talk to her about. ‘Tell you what’ I said, ‘I have to go now, and it’s late, so I will send you an email tonight, and then we will talk tomorrow’
‘I’m ok to talk now honey’
‘Yes but I have to go’
‘Why? What do you have to do?’
‘I have to do some shopping’ I was sat in the car, in a supermarket car park.

Without further questions, we said good bye. I was left with the feeling that she wasn’t very happy. It was a recurring thought, but so far I had failed to find out if anything was bothering her. I wanted to stir things up, to find out, to frighten her. I wanted to hear my favourite words; ‘Honey, I love you’ and ‘Honey, I don’t want to lose you’.

Then I could tell her that everything was alright.

So late that night I wrote ‘The thing that has been upsetting me is to do with my ex’

This was a gamble, I had no idea how she would react. We had talked about ‘my ex’ before, on a few occasions. I’d given her a long story to explain why we’d broken up. At the end of which she’d asked ‘why were you so patient with her? and ‘why did you stay with her so long?’

The next morning I looked at my email, and read ‘honey, I will work late tonight, although is Sunday, as my boss will travel to Delhi tonight, then we will talk about the issue of your ex’

Friday, May 25, 2007

St Valentine

February 2003

I awoke early the next morning because I wanted to send an email to Maggie, and the dial up from my room, I knew from past experience, would take an age.

When I finally got connection, I sent her a picture of a single red rose with a short version of the St Valentines story. It was Valentines day. I assumed that St Valentine would mean something to her.

When I arrived in work, I got her reply; ‘so happy to receive your valentines message, and today I opened the card that come to the office for me, you know it said from my secret admirer? Who is that secret admirer? I think he is my handsome sexy superman’

I wrote back; ‘I cannot know who your secret admirer might be. I think you might have many’

Later, I got another email; ‘You know what honey, the beautiful flowers were delivered to me just now. From my secret admirer. We know who that is, don’t we. Thank you honey, you give me so much face’

A while later, the receptionist called me to say that Maggie was on the phone. This was unusual, she rarely called me.

‘Hi honey’ She said,’ I couldn’t wait to talk to you and tell you thank you for the flowers, they are so beautiful. Everyone in the office says so. They all notice that. They can see that you love me. This is my perfect day. And it is all thanks to you’

And when she got home there was another card waiting. I’d given it to her sister before leaving Hong Kong. That one was signed by me.

It was a happy conversation that evening. All the difficulties of the past few days were forgotten.

‘Tomorrow, I will take the camera to work and take pictures of the flowers, then you can see next time we meet’

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What she might be thinking.

February 2003

That night I wrote, ‘I am much happier now that we have sorted things out, and that you will be able to get enough sleep. I really don’t want to be the cause of you being ill. I hope you know that’

The following evening, just as we were saying goodbye, after a fairly ordinary conversation, in which I tried to put a just a small hint of unhappiness into my voice. I said ‘I can’t do it now, but I have something I need to talk to you about. I felt quite upset about it’

‘We can talk now honey, its ok’
‘No, I have a meeting soon, and you will be tired’
‘Not that tired, it is ok’
‘But I do have a meeting’
‘Don’t worry babe, we will talk tomorrow’

It was after four, and I had little motivation to do any work, so I left early and drove home.

The next day, I was due to travel north. My flight was at 8.20am. I would stay at the usual hotel, a very grand old country house, in the middle of the Yorkshire countryside. It was always a restful evening.

I called Maggie in the afternoon, deliberately avoiding any mention of the subject I had alluded to the night before. I told Maggie all about the hotel, saying that she must come and stay when she eventually came to the UK.

‘Do you want me to come?’ she asked
‘Of course’ I said ‘another month and the weather will start to improve’
‘Tell me honey, is there any reason why you don’t want me to come to UK?’
‘No. Like what?’
‘Nothing. I just wanted to ask you’
‘Something on your mind?’ I asked.
‘No. But no harm to ask, right?’
‘I suppose’

I spent the evening wondering what she might be thinking.

Friday, May 18, 2007


February 2003

I resisted the temptation to call her. But what was I going to do in the afternoon? Whilst in the UK now, my whole days were geared around my phone call to Maggie and I really didn’t want to wait until the following day until I could speak to her.

On the other hand, I wanted to punish her. Punish her because I felt bad. Punish her for not giving me the reassurances I’d sought. But to punish her, I had to punish myself. And I couldn’t even be sure that the punishment would be a punishment to her at all.

I was working in the local office again, an unpopular decision. I had a pile of work to do, but no inclination to do it. Emails kept coming, but remained unanswered.

I have to be strong, I told myself. Tough. I have to be tough. I’ve been very tough in the past. It was time to do it again. I needed to win back the position of dominance I’d enjoyed in the early stages of this relationship. At the moment I could feel it slipping away.

But how? What would give me the upper hand?

At 3pm I called her. ‘Meeting is delayed’ I lied, ‘so I might be called away at any time’
‘Ok honey, I understand. You know I always like to hear your voice. You can call anytime. Sometimes I can’t wait, so maybe you could call earlier, when I get home from work’
‘Unfortunately, that’s not usually a very convenient time’ Another lie.
‘Well if you can’t call then just send me a text, if I get something from you, I will feel more secure. But honey don’t worry. Work is much important for a man. You see I am the reasonable person’

Monday, May 14, 2007

To hear her say

February 2003

Now what? That was the question.

How could I go on seeing Maggie? Maybe now was the right time to put an end to it. I knew it had to end at some point, better for both of us that the end should be sooner rather than later. Ok I would be unhappy for a while, but time passes so quickly, a week perhaps two and it would all be behind me. I’d had my fun, now it was time to get back to normal.

It made sense, I knew that. But………. it wasn’t what I wanted. I wasn’t ready to end the relationship, I wanted more.

Then I started to worry, what if Maggie was getting fed up with me. I though that, at times, she didn’t always seem to be so happy. Why was that? I’d upset her a few times, and I’d behaved like an idiot when things hadn’t gone my way.

I wanted her to tell me that she loved me without question. I wanted to know that I had not dented her opinion of me. And I wanted to scare her a little, to hear her say ‘honey, I don’t want to lose you’

I wrote:

Babe, I understand that you are tired, perhaps I keep you awake too late, always talking into the night. I think in future I will always try to call earlier. Shall we say that if I cannot call before 11pm then I will not call on that day. I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon, and don’t know what time it will finish’

Her reply:

Honey, you know that I always want to hear you voice, but if you have the meeting then I understand, no pressure, you can call me earlier, or send me the message so that I don’t worry’

That wasn’t what I wanted at all.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Now what?

February 2003

Later when we spoke it was immediately apparent that her mood was very subdued. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked
‘I think I have the cold’ she said, ‘and so tired’

It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I was hoping she would repeat the sentiments of her email.
‘You still have the cold? You seemed ok when were in China.’
‘Maybe. I don’t know. I think I just need to sleep’
‘Did you sleep well last night?’
‘No not well. You are not there’
‘Do you think you will sleep alright tonight?’
‘I think so. I am so tired’

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear either, I began to feel a little irritated. I wanted to know that she felt as empty as I did, as if her pain would alleviate mine.

‘Lets not talk so long tonight’ I suggested
‘It is ok honey, I want to talk, it is the highlight of my day’
‘But if you are tired, babe’
‘Do you have to work?’
‘Don’t worry about work. Do you need to sleep?’
‘Ok honey, but can talk too, for a while’

I was trying to punish her. And yet I wondered; why did she agree so easily? Why didn’t she put up more of a fight? Didn’t she miss me as much as I missed her?

‘Look babe, do you need to sleep?’
‘Well maybe if I sleep early tonight, will be better tomorrow, then we can talk longer then’
‘So that will be ok for you then, will it?’
‘Honey, I can talk now if you want, or try to sleep. I am flexible. You decide’

‘If you need to sleep, then sleep. I don’t want to keep you awake.
‘Ok then, I will try to sleep, but is ok if you want to talk’
‘I may have a meeting tomorrow afternoon, so don’t know what time I can call’ I lied.
‘Don’t worry honey, just call when you can, I understand’.
‘Good bye’
‘Bye honey, miss you’

I put down the phone feeling worse than before. Now what?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My friend will meet me

February 2003

Maggie called me, as the airport express left Central station. ‘Honey, I love you, I miss you’
‘I miss you too’
‘Honey, I don’t want you to go. Don’t say I get rid of you’
‘I was just feeling upset’
‘I know; I feel upset too. This is hard for us, too much parting’

The flight left on time. As I found my seat, I saw the girl I had sat next to on the outward flight. She smiled. ‘Hi’ I said.

Later, after the meal, she came and spoke to me. ‘What a coincidence’ she said, ‘that we sit close together again’.

As we disembarked the plane the following morning, she walked by my side. We talked about London. As we neared baggage reclaim her mood seemed to change, she seemed less happy, had I aggravated her I wondered. Or maybe I wasn’t very good company. I asked about her onward journey. ‘My friend will meet me’.

I wanted to ask her if we might meet again, but my perception of her changed mood, deterred me, and we parted with a curt ‘good bye’.

And so any hope of alleviating the pain I felt at parting from Maggie was lost.

I collected the car and drove home. I was due to go to the London office, but I called in to say I wasn’t so well and would work in the local office for the next couple of days.

In my inbox, three messages from Maggie, one said:

Honey, I miss you already. Never have this feeling before. I told my mother how well you look after me when we are in China. I am so impressed, you are so gentleman, always holding my hand, always make sure I am safe. I am always so secure with you. My mother impressed too. So you see I cannot live without you’

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

So ugly guy

February 2003

After that, we went to a shopping mall. Maggie and I spent our time in an amusement arcade, playing air football. Then at Maggie’s request we both had our pictures taken in a photo booth. The pictures could be edited to add a choice of wording. Maggie chose ‘True Love’. The picture of me was awful, but it still got pride of place in Maggie’s purse, displacing the picture of her dogs.

After that we went for coffee. ‘Which one shall we choose, honey?’ I didn’t know, so I chose the first one I saw, it was Arabic. It was served with great ceremony. ‘I believe Arabic is the best coffee, is that right honey?’

This was the final stop, next it was a long journey back to Shenzhen, where our trip finished, leaving us to find our way back to Hong Kong, repeating the journey we’d made a few days earlier.

We didn’t talk much. I thought Maggie might be in bad mood, but I decided not to ask.

It took an age to get through the immigration at Shenzhen. The crowds were incredible. Maggie and I were separated for more than an hour.

Back in Hong Kong, we caught a taxi to Maggie’s house, where we had dinner, and watched TV in near silence. The movie ‘Ghosts’ was on in Cantonese subtitles. Seeing Patrick Swayze, Maggie said ‘look at that guy, so ugly, why is he the movie star?’

A few minutes later, her mother came into the room, and repeated the question in Cantonese.

Maggie seemed tired. ‘I think I still have the cold’ she said.

An hour later, I collected my belongings. I told Maggie not to come down to the taxi with me, but she insisted. At the taxi stand, outside her apartment building she said ‘you better go, honey’

With tears in my eyes, I said ‘are you trying to be rid of me?’

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Elvis Presley

February 2003

The food on the boat was rather poor, and the drinks were a choice of very sweet coffee or lemonade. However, the trip up the river was pleasant enough, and lasted around an hour and a half. We found seats and looked at the view.

This was our last night together. Tomorrow we had the journey back to Hong Kong, and that night I would be flying back to the UK. We sat quietly, I had nothing much to say, Maggie rested her head on my shoulder. ‘I love you’ she said.

A couple of hours later, we were back at the hotel. We didn’t go out again. After making love, we watched TV, surprisingly there was an English speaking channel showing a documentary about Elvis Presley. Maggie didn’t know who he was, ‘is this a popular guy?’ she asked.

Eventually, once I could feel that Maggie had fallen asleep, I switched of the TV, and lay there thinking, ‘would this be the last night I spent with Maggie?’

The next day, after breakfast we were taken to a herbal and health remedy shop. Maggie bought some patches to wear on her shoulder.

‘You didn’t tell me you have a problem with your shoulder’ I said
‘No. You know I am so happy with you, just never remember that problem’

The shop was full of all manner of remedies and potions. I picked up what looked like a large sausage.

‘Honey, let me see what this is’ The packaging didn’t have any English translation.

‘This is the reindeer, you know what that is?’
‘Reindeer? Yes. That’s what father Christmas uses to pull his sleigh.
‘Honey, this is the reindeer penis’
‘Oh. Well it’s quite big. Bigger than mine’
‘Oh honey, yours it big enough’
I smiled. A good answer. ‘What is it for?’
‘I don’t know,
‘Doesn’t it say?
‘Yes, but I do not know what it means’

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The rose

February 2003

That night we were treated to a banquet and cabaret aboard a ship, as it took us on a tour up the river.

We were dropped of about a hundred yards from the ship. It was a difficult hundred yards to cover. The road was crowded with people selling all manner of food, souvenirs, novelties, watches and pens. And as soon as they saw me, I became their only interest.

‘Hello’ they were calling, ‘Rolex, Rolex’, ‘Monteblanc’ or just ‘Please sir’. Some would grab my arm or start touching me. ‘Careful of your pockets, honey’

We tried to push through, but it was impossible. There were many small children selling candy and roses. One boy approached us, and tried to hand me a single rose. I shook my head, but he wasn’t deterred.

He just walked by our side, holding the rose in front of me whilst nudging my arm. I tried to shake him off; we turned slightly as if to change direction. He stood in front of us, walking backward, holding the rose toward me.

Just as we got to the boat, realising he was running out of time, he allowed us to pass slightly and then slid the stem into the back of Maggie’s jeans.


A grabbed the rose, and then, not knowing what to do, and wanting to appear as Maggie’s protector, I bent the stem in two, and through the rose to the ground. As the boy bent to pick it up, we rushed past onto the ship, where he couldn’t follow.

‘So annoying, don’t you think honey?’

I saw him walk off, and wondered what would happen to him. Did he have more roses? Or would the loss of this rose deprive him of food for the night?

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007


February 2003

Back on the coach, I remembered that Maggie had told me to bring some shorts for swimming. ‘Why?’ I asked her.
‘Oh, that’s right honey, we are going to the spa’
‘Now I think, I can’t always tell what the girl is saying. You know I don’t know the mandarin that well’

An hour later, we arrived at what proved to be ‘the spa’. To me, it seemed exactly the same as any 1960’s built municipal swimming pool.

We had to change in separate changing rooms. I was ready in a few minutes, but Maggie took an age. Eventually she came out, looking lovely in a bikini. All the other girls wore swimming costumes. Maggie was clearly a little bit unhappy.

We walked around the pool, to the deep end, and I dived in and swam a couple of lengths. When I got back, Maggie was sat on the side, ‘so cold honey’ she said.

It took a lot of coaxing to get her into the pool. She swam half a length, then turned to me and said ‘see that guy sat up there? He looked at me the whole time. So horrible guy. I hate him. I hate those dirty guys, always looking at the girls’

We swam for a while. Maggie found it quite difficult. Then we went into the steam room. It was full, for a while we had to stand. ‘My swim clothes are broken honey. Can you see through them?’
‘No babe, anyway I am always happy to see your body’
‘But what about the other guys?’
‘Don’t worry about that babe’
‘Of course I worry about that. It is for your eyes only, not for the other guys. You should think about that too.’

For a while she was quiet. When our hour was up, we left the pool, returning to the coach. Maggie fell asleep again. I held her until we arrived at Guandong.

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