“Where are you, bro?” he asked gruffly.
“I’m on my way back from a meeting in Sunway” I replied.
“Where exactly are you?” he demanded.
“My friend’s in trouble and needs your help. Turn back and park at Carrefour Subang. I’ll pick you up” he said.
“But…but…but” I tried to object, but it was too late. He had already hung up.
Now I know Dani’el and I know that he takes his commitment to friendship very seriously so I made a u-turn at the next exit, drove to Carrefour Subang, parked and dutifully waited.
My timer kicks in here. 48 hours and counting down…
4:00pm June 24, 2008. Dan arrived with his friend, I jumped into his car and we drove to the requisite meeting place for serious discussions in the Malaysian handbook - his favourite mamak shop.
Over mugs of steaming hot teh tarik and freshly made thosais, I pieced the story together. Apparently Dan’s old friend, a gorgeous looking woman, wanted to start her own web based business and had paid a substantial amount of money (think five figures) for a 2 day internet marketing course from a self styled “world’s number one expert coach in internet marketing”.
Later as Ms Very Wrong (that’s what I call her) made more enquiries, she found out that the course covered only the very basics and the promised website used simple programming software that did not fit her needs. She would be stuck with a “flat” and boring site with no flash, java or dreamweaver.
To make matters worse, she also found out that the company was not willing to even consider a refund. This was the scenario as I found it. I then proceeded to add more hot water to her dilemma by telling her that most of the course contents that were offered were actually available for free on the net, and that she would have done better by starting a blog first to test market and hang on to her cash.
7:30pm I went home feeling bad because there were such predators who preyed on innocent and trusting people.
9:30pm I sms-ed Very Wrong that night and promised to help her in any way that I could. I also invited her for a food review that I was doing for a seafood steamboat restaurant in Bukit Tinggi, Klang. She sms-ed back and accepted.
7:30am – 10:00am June 25th we sent each other a barrage of sms-es on normal stuff.
12:00noon I picked her up and we drove towards Klang where I promptly got lost and ended up at Northport. It was Very Wrong who managed to get the proper directions from a gas station attendant and guided me to the right place. Since she had not had a proper breakfast she was, of course, starving by this time.
2:00pm We finally arrive at the restaurant where my friend Lily was frantically waiting for us. We met another co-owner Michael and proceeded to stuff ourselves while taking photos of the food.
4:00pm After the review, being a confirmed idiot when it came to directions, I did the macho thing and gave her the car keys. She grabbed the keys from my outstretched hand and with a shrug got into the driver’s seat and confidently drove us back to KL, without getting lost of course.
4:45pm Naturally we called Dan and requested to meet up. Naturally Dan said he was busy. So we decided to drop by Datuk Leonard Tan’s office and catch up with his lovely wife Krystyn.
5:15pm Since traffic was at a gridlock, we’re sitting at a café in Leonard’s office block and I’m getting her to draw a mind map to get her focused and organized on the details of her concept and objectives.
7:30pm I send her back and drive home with an uneasy feeling of mixed emotions. I feel good because we made friends very easily and naturally and our misadventures of the day ensured that we really bonded. I felt good because I was able to help her to focus on her objectives. I felt good because I could make her laugh out loud with my stupid antics when the day before she had seemed distraught and lost.
I also felt a foreboding sense of disaster because I had thoroughly enjoyed her company to the extent that we had even exchanged our life stories and she stirred up long buried emotions in me. I had this sinking feeling that I was going to crash and burn because I was feeling emotions that I was not supposed to be feeling.
10:00pm we sent each other a couple of sms-es and wished each other goodnight. I would be lying if I told you I slept soundly that night. I just could not switch my mind off and lay in bed thinking random thoughts and running imaginary scenarios through my mind.
10:00am June 26, 2008 she sms-ed to say she’d arranged a meeting with “the world’s number one internet marketing coach” and could I please go along with her. I was out the door and hailing a cab before I finished reading her sms.
10:50am we meet up at Damansara Perdana and head on down to a friendly kopitiam for some breakfast and discuss strategy. I’m distracted because she looks absolutely gorgeous in a green blouse and faded black jeans.
12:00noon we head on up to the office to meet up with the internet expert. While they talk, I look at a copy of the contract letter Very Wrong had signed upon payment. The terms and conditions are airtight and slanted completely in the favour of the internet coach. There are no provisions for refunds or dropping out and the terms for changing classes or packages were very strict and limited.
I asked the internet marketing expert if there was a cooling off period as required by law and she almost snorted with derision as she told me that “it’s long past”. I decided that under the circumstances, there was only one thing that Very Wrong could do, and that was to sit for the course and hope to learn something useful. She certainly was never going to see her money again.
1:30pm Very Wrong packs Char Kuey Teow for lunch and we start to work on a marketing plan for her website. It’s a long and tedious process involving twelve key areas and covers 28 pages. I can see her confidence growing as she initially grapples with the fundamentals but then quickly catches on and starts to put her dreams and aspirations on paper into a workable plan.
4:30pm We’re done. She’s a fast learner and a smart girl to boot. We call Dan and agree to meet up for tea.
5:00pm We’re sitting at Dan’s favourite mamak shop eating and chatting over tea. Very Wrong is in a happy mood and we’re teasing each other and talking about everything under the sun.
6:30pm Dan has to go as he’s taking his family for “Beauty and the Beast”. I jump into Very Wrong’s car and she’s supposed to drop me off where I can get a cab home. She doesn’t. She joins the jam along the LDP and is insistent on sending me back home but she isn’t quite sure of the way to Selayang, where my sister lives.
Her reason for this bit of lunacy? I have been good to her and she can’t just dump me along the roadside. Naturally I refuse to guide her on the way to Selayang so she makes another brilliant decision. She will drop me off at the new wing of 1 Utama where I can choose to lepak, have dinner and then get a cab home.
On the way there I steer the conversation to relationships and we talk very openly about ourselves. We’ve both been badly burned. As we almost reach my destination, she tells me very gently but very firmly that she is not interested in a relationship. She only wants a handful of very good and sincere friends whom she trusts and is comfortable with.
7:30pm “Am I one of them?” I had to ask.
“Of course, Dave. You’ve been very good to me. We will always be friends”
I get down from her car not understanding why I feel so numb. I am literally in a daze. There is a knot in my stomach and I actually feel physical pain. I feel seriously depressed and nothing matters anymore.
The strange thing is although we became very close, Very Wrong did not at any point indicate that she wanted to be anything more than friends, so it was entirely my own fault that I allowed myself to be in this predicament.
I walk into 1 Utama and look for a bathroom to wash my face. It doesn’t help. I absent mindedly hail a cab and agree to the ridiculously high price the cabbie asks for. I just want to get home. I promise myself I will not call her or sms her. She can call me if she wants. My job was to help her and I have done my part.
48 hours. Not a very long time, is it? What can happen in 48 hours? A lifetime can happen, my friend.
Did you ever want something so very badly that every fibre of your being ached? Do you know the excruciating pain when it hits you that you can never have it?
Today I want to talk about pain. And Fate. And Destiny