A Contrarian Universe
The alarm clock rang at 5:30am. It was a Monday and Joshua did not need to go to work.
Funny things, these newfangled electronic devices, they knew what was a weekend and what was a weekday. Friday had been his last day at work. He didn’t have to turn off the alarm on Saturday; it never came on. He gave it no thought on Sunday for the same reason. But newfangled or not, the alarm clock was not cognizant that there was no job for Joshua to get up for on this Monday morning.
Joshua turned off the alarm and lay in a half sleep. What was he to do now? Yes, sure, he had thought about it before, but before was, well... before it wasn't a reality. Now it was as real as it was going to get, and he really wasn’t convinced that his planning had been all that good. The prime example being this morning; how shall he spend the morning?
This was like a Saturday or a Sunday, but then again it wasn’t. There was no college football on TV to distract him, no Sunday newspaper, no NFL, or 60 Minutes, no friends to hang out with over a few beers. No, this was a Monday, and for all his adult life, Mondays were for going to work. There was a void in a way he had not expected.
Like many mornings, he felt the stirrings of desire in his loins. Unlike many mornings, there was nothing to stop him from paying full attention to it.
Joshua dreamt. Joshua stroked and dreamt.
Joshua liked the look of Asian females. He might be as white as snow himself, but he liked Asian girls. As he lay in bed, his mind kept on circling back to a few young Asian girls he had seen at the mall this weekend. Not that he had any expectations of ever contacting them. No, they were fully American in their orientation. They were not available. He drifted in and out of a half sleep.
Joshua stroked and dreamt. His morning woody was now rock hard. There was no reason to get up. He could stay in bed all day and no one would be the wiser. Joshua stroked, and dreamt, and let loose cum.
At 6:22am, Joshua rose from the mattress and entered the bathroom for his morning ablutions. It didn’t take long. Joshua was dressed and ready for the day in fifteen minutes.
A glass of OJ, a scrambled egg and a slice of toast disposed of, and a mug of coffee in his hand, with dishes and a pan in the dishwasher, Joshua decided to look at the computer. Other than the ever persistent spam, his email box was empty. Opening his browser, he typed “Filipina Dating” in the search bar. Why did he write Filipina and not Asian? In Joshua’s mind, the answer was obvious. Anyone who has spent time overseas knows that Filipinas like Americans better than other Asian women often do, and praised be, they could speak, read and write some English. As a sailor, he had spent enough leave in the Philippines that the choice was, for him, obvious.
The screen filled with links for website upon website. He checked out a website that listed scam service/sites and then clicked on one that was reputed to be clean. Joshua was just browsing, but even to do any browsing he needed to register. Registration was free, but even when registered, he found he couldn’t see enough and the search tool wasn’t fine-tuned enough. He tried another and yet another site, each with the same result. Joshua was bored, horny and had nowhere to go, a deadly combination.
Joshua, a bit frustrated with the whole process, stood up, went to the bathroom to piss away the coffee. The morning woody was now replaced with a semi hard-on, and his own touch as he pissed, reminded him of his needs. Shoving his dick back into his jeans, he returned to the computer. Selecting the site that looked like his best bet, he clicked on the button to purchase a full membership. Forty dollars later, Joshua was able to set his search parameters tightly and see what he could find.
He set his age search for 13 to 17 and clicked on “Search.” Nothing. Then he entered 18 to 18. That brought him about 70 hits. But he wasn’t getting what he really wanted. These girls were too old. Still, he looked through the listings of the girls displayed. Some were attractive, but they weren't what he was looking for. As he moved from one girl’s profile to another he started receiving on-line requests from women who wanted to chat with him. This was annoying. The women, from what he could see, were older. Many of them were in their thirties. He didn’t want that! Their requests kept on coming, interfering with his ability to use the website. Joshua logged off and went out for a walk.
He needed to stretch his legs. He needed to get away from the computer, which had turned into a hostile place as he fended off request after request to talk. The morning air was crisp. The sky was clear blue with nary a wisp of a cloud on this fall morning. The morning sun was bright, but the temperature was a modest 52 degrees.
He walked along the sleepy city blocks of his little town. Aspen leaves in yards had turned yellow. Vines covered fences — both picket and chain link — hiding the structures that held them in place. Some of these had turned from green to a dark crimson.
Young squirrels scampered up, down and around the rough bark of ash trees as if on a huge flat table top instead of the totally vertical surface. They would keep these games of tag going for hours without ever seeking a branch to rest upon.
These 30 foot ash trees lined both sides of the streets. Their boughs hung a good twenty feet over the street and sidewalk, made an urban forest, deep with shade and patches of sunlight on streets sixty feet wide. Not a leaf had fallen yet on this fall day.
This was clean. This was right. This was so different from the needs of his heart and his loins. This felt good, but not satisfying. This felt like it should be right, but not for him. This clean, felt antiseptic. It felt passionless.
As Joshua’s footsteps found their way along the uneven sidewalks and odd pavement details of residential blocks built during different eras, his mind circled back to what he really wanted.
Here the sidewalk had a deep border of grass between it and the street. As he crossed the street, the sidewalk abutted the gutter and all the grass was on one side alone. In the middle of the block, a large blue spruce pushed a knee up, heaving the sidewalk up at the joint and causing two intact cement slabs to angle up on each other.
If he couldn’t find teenage girls directly, he pondered, what attributes did they have in common, that would enable Joshua to find them? He was stumped. It wasn’t possible. And then he had the ‘oh shit’ moment. Why do they call it an ‘ah ha’ moment. It wasn’t that, it was an ‘oh, shit, could it be as simple as it appeared to be?’ Was it really that simple? He would see once he got back to the house.
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Joshua returned to the computer and logged back into the website. It was quieter now. All those Filipinas who wanted to chat were now in bed, sleeping. He would be undisturbed this time. The first thing to do was to change his search criteria. He was looking at the wrong age range. That piece of brilliance had not gone unnoticed before. What had gone unnoticed before was what the best range was for his search. That was the ‘oh shit’ part.
Joshua was interested in teenagers and teenagers were not listed on these sites. So now, he set the criteria for their mothers. He didn’t really want the mothers, but they were the ones with the teenage girls. He set the age range for 30 to 36. He held on to other factors, as the mothers would also have to be good looking. But now he set a field to require that the women had to have children to be selected.
The resultant list was 700 names long. Granted, some of the children were sons rather than daughters, some of the daughters were of the wrong age and some of the mothers were plug-ugly. There were no search tools to select attributes of the children. But an amazing number had children who were the right sex and the mothers at least were attractive. Some mothers had three daughters. One had twin daughters. There generally were no photos of the children. Still, it was a candy store of a selection list. And added to that was that these women were not being contacted, by anyone. Their profiles languished on the website.
Not every mother would offer up what Joshua wanted and he knew that. But having spent time in the Philippines, he knew that some would. He would have to remove many of these women. Even after removing the ones who were not attractive. Some would be OK other than for the fact that they were of a higher economic bracket and would be far less inclined to serve up a daughter, and far more inclined to call in law enforcement.
Joshua weaved his way through the list, sorting through the women. From the initial 700 plus, he was down to an initial 24 women, all of whom he bookmarked in his favorites list on that website. Joshua crafted a careful letter and he selected one of the very prettiest mothers.
Her name was Ana Fe. She had three daughters, aged 16, 14 and 11. He attached an honest but flattering photo of himself and added some very complementary things about what he had seen in her photos. He suggested that if she was interested in him that they could web chat. He further asked about her daughters. Did the girls live with her? Did she have recent photos of her whole family? In what province did she grow up? What did her parents do? What were the names of her kids? How was her health? How was the health of her kids?
Once the letter was sent, there was little Joshua could do but wait.
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Ana Fe had registered at the website a year earlier. Nothing had come of it. She had never updated it and she hadn’t given it any thought at all for the last six months.
Ana Fe spent her days selling cosmetics at a mall in Cebu City. She didn’t make enough money for her family, but her oldest was working as well. They lived with her brother’s family, all squeezed into a three room apartment; eight of them in all. Life was not easy, but it wasn’t easy for anyone, so there was no sense in complaining.
There were plenty of Filipinos who had it far worse.
The sun sets every day in the Philippines, more or less, at 6pm. There is no daylight savings because there is little variation. Day follows day. The only difference is that of the rainy season where either: the edges of typhoons that sweep through the northernmost island of Luzon, dump drenching rains day after day on the Islands of the Visayas; or the typhoons head straight for the Visayas, these the middle islands of the Philippines, which sit about ten degrees north of the equator. During the rainy season, the evenings could be downright chilly. The temperature might dip to 22˚C (which was a truly cold 72˚F). At such times everyone was putting on extra layers and wrapping up in blankets.
Ana Fe was in bed by 9pm most nights. Tonight, as it was so cold in the apartment, they all went to bed at 8pm. Ana Fe would get up at 4am to wash and iron before the children were up. They needed clean and pressed clothes for school. She would also reheat the rice and the chicken adobo from the night before. That’s what they would eat for breakfast.
Joshua had sent the email long after Ana Fe retired for the evening that Monday night.
Tuesday morning, she took a large tub, a bucket of water and a bar of Tide wash soap out onto the window terrace. Squatting down by the dim light of a single bulb she scrubbed the clothing and wrung it all out by hand, hanging the now clean outfits on a clothesline tied to the grillwork on the terrace. As she moved to the kitchen area to start heating up the breakfast, she also turned on the old desktop computer the family owned. It was a prized possession. They luckily were able to connect to a neighbor’s WiFi that was not secure. It meant they did not have to spend ₱20 per hour at an internet café.
The rice cooker was turned on and the adobo was set to warm up. Ana Fe had the old iron in her hand when she stopped back at the computer and clicked to see if she had any email from a friend. There was an email but it was not from a friend. It was from the website she had signed up with last year. Now was not the time to read it. She shut off the computer.
Ana Fe was just done ironing the clothing for her girls and her own outfit, when all around her was in motion. Everyone was up now. Her kids were finishing their breakfast, laughing and playfully arguing, as they got ready for the day. Her brother and his wife were up and eating their breakfast. It worked out nicely. Roberto’s wife, Analen, cleaned the house and made the supper each night. Ana Fe got home too late for that. Ana Fe got things going in the morning and helped Analen with the house on the weekends. Analen had two small children, aged one and three. Ana Fe’s kids helped with Analen’s childcare duties after school, so that Analen could get supper cooked. Roberto was the last one home at night, and he was so tired each night that no one asked him to do anything. They pooled their earnings. Her contribution was ₱8,000 a month. There was enough to send the kids to the public school, pay her portion of the rent and purchase second-hand clothing. There was blessed little left beyond that.
Ana Fe had wanted to send her girls to a good Catholic School, not so they would be good Catholics, but because the quality of education was so much better there. But those schools cost ten times much as the public schools. Ana Fe could barely afford ₱2,100 a semester. There was no way she could afford ₱21,000 a semester per child. She still had two kids in school. That was better than her economic situation last year when she had three in school. Mary had graduated high school and had a job. But it also meant that Mary could not go to college.
No reason to complain. Many were far worse off.
There was no time to read the email from the website before she went to work that morning. There was no privacy either, and she certainly wanted some privacy. Analen had ridiculed her when she signed up at the site. She didn’t need any more ridicule.
The ₱20 ride on the Jeepney1 was crowded as usual. When she climbed in from the back entrance, (the only place you can enter a Jeepney,) there was not a seat to be seen. But, as is the way of life on these islands, each passenger squeezed a little tighter and a spot miraculously appeared.
The rain had stopped. Last night’s flooded streets were completely dry. The humidity was thick, but Ana Fe didn’t notice.
This was life in Cebu City. This was the only life that Ana Fe had ever known. She had been to Manila once as a child. They had taken the ferry. It was an overnight passage and she slept in a large room with double-decker cots as far as the eye could see. All women sleeping in one huge room and, men in another; marriage be damned, unless you were wealthy you did not stay with your spouse for the voyage.
Today, Ana Fe was traveling over the same roads she had known from her earliest memories. She didn’t think about a way out. For most Filipinas, there was no way out. This was life. Maybe, when her girls got old enough and before they had babies, there would be a few relatively more comfortable years. But the likelihood was that at least one of them would be pregnant far too early and there would be no respite.
Ana Fe punched the time clock when she got to work. All thoughts of her troubles, and of the email, faded from her mind as she made her way to the sales floor. For the next eight hours with a half-hour off for lunch, she would sell cosmetics costing her entire monthly salary to women who acted as if it were no big deal to spend so much money. There were wealthy people in the Philippines. There were simply far more really poor ones. Ana Fe was aware of that fact, but it didn’t seem odd or unfair. It was just the way things were.
Lunchtime normally meant she would pay ₱80 for chicken and rice in the food court. Today she grabbed a lumpia for ₱40 and just finished eating it as she entered an internet café. Even though she would only be there for 15 minutes, it would still cost the ₱20. It was an extravagance, but she wanted to read the email privately and this was the only way she could do it.
The email was both a nice and an odd letter. The nice part was that there was nothing offensive in the letter. It was polite and well written. But it asked too many questions and told her so little about him. What did he do for money? Where did he live? What was he looking for? What did he find nice about her? He said nothing about her other than she looked nice? Was that it? Why the interest in her daughters and family? He looked nice. But how could she tell what he was like? This was so backwards from everything everyone had told her about what men wrote. Ana Fe was confused.
Dear Sir Joshua,
Thank you for your letter of interest in me. I have very little time for personal messages and chats. Maybe I do this when I am not working this Saturday if it OK with you. I not have photos of my children. I not have a camera. Their names are Mary 17, Janna 15 and Ricca 12. Yes the girls live with me. We live with my brother and his family. We are all, thanks to God, healthy. Thank you for asking. Please tell me about yourself. How you make a living? Where you work? What you looking for in a wife? What you want for life? Do you drink? Do you has temper? Please tell me these things.
Ana Fe was late by five minutes clocking in. She sought out her supervisor and told her she was very sorry and would work extra time both tonight and tomorrow over lunch to make it up if it would be allowed. Having a man interested was nice, but who knew if she would ever hear from him again. She needed this job!
§ § §
It was 10:45pm Monday when Ana Fe’s mail displayed on Joshua’s screen. She had just sent it minutes before, during her Tuesday lunchtime. Joshua read the brief response over a number of times. It was a frustration that she did not have a camera but, in retrospect, surely not a surprise. It also wasn’t a surprise that a woman with three teens might be short on available time. He had failed to factor those issues in when thinking things through. He also noted that the girls were a year older than the posting but, once again, on reflection, noting that her posting had languished on the site for a year, he should have expected that. These ages would still work for him.
Joshua had the benefit of having known Filipinos before and, remembering that, when discussing complex things, the resultant responses would be less than that for which he might hope. He decided to send three letters at essentially the same time, each one with a separate idea embedded.
The first one had a subject title of “What I am like.”
Dear Ana Fe,
I am 55 years old. I am six foot two inches in height. I weigh 220 pounds and consider myself physically fit. I am retired both from the US Navy and from the job I took after leaving the Navy. As a result, I have two pensions and can live very comfortably now without working ever again. I am a calm and easy-going man. I do not have a temper. I will never hurt you. I will never hit you. I will never yell at you. I will for the rest of my life — if you are the one for me — take care of you and your girls. I do like a beer every once in a while, but you will never see me drunk. All of this is a promise that I will make on a Bible for you and before God.
Did Joshua believe in God? Maybe, but he knew Ana Fe would. He wanted to impress her with his sincerity.
The second letter had the subject: “What I want from a wife and daughters. Part 1”
Dear Ana Fe,
All these are the basic things I want from a wife and my daughters. Loyalty, honesty, beauty (yes you have that, but I do not know about your daughters), intelligence, no gossip — a closed mouth, a good homemaker, a good cook, good sex, and no fighting. I need to see your daughters.
The third one had the subject: “What I want from my wife and daughters and will give my wife and daughters. Part 2”
Dear Ana Fe,
Assuming after I see your daughters, and I find you all attractive, the rest of this needs to be understood.
I want your physical and emotional love. I want the same love from your daughters. What I will give you and all three of your daughters is a life of ease in the USA, each of you will get your access to Permanent Residency status and US citizenship. Each of you can enroll in the educational programs you might want to pursue. I will treat each of you with respect and love without limit. Are you and your daughters interested?
Before Ana Fe went home that night, she stopped once more at the Internet Café. She again spent ₱20. There were emails waiting for her. She was surprised to see three pieces of mail. She read the first one and smiled. This was nice and promising. She asked if she could print the letter out. Yes, she could for ₱5. She did.
Next, she opened the second letter. It confused her. Yes, he was right that he should expect those things from her, but did he mean for her daughters to be the same way? Why did they have to be pretty for him? This she didn't like. He must have written wrong about housekeeping and sex. He could not have meant to include her daughters! She decided to open the third letter before spending another peso on this man.
She read it once. She was so stunned she read it twice and then a third time! He wanted four wives! Oh my God! How could he? She was repulsed. He must be a perverted devil. She closed the email window and left, crying and shaken. She had spent ₱45 on that man! That was a lot of money to throw away.
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1 - Jeepneys are one of the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and kitsch decorations, which have become a ubiquitous symbol of Philippine culture and art.
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