by Agnes Ong
It had been five years since Frank relocated from Ireland to Malaysia. He loved the sunny weather which was a stark contrast from the dank, wintry days of ice and rain in his home country. As much as he loved the sun, his face did not. It always turned red with overexposure, like he’d been drinking too much. However, the days in December were cooler with a light breeze, so Frank took every opportunity to stay outdoors.
Only two of the five tables outside the Starbucks café were occupied. The locals preferred to sit inside to enjoy the air conditioning. Frank was alone, except for a young couple sitting across from him playing with their smartphones and not talking to each other.
He watched the people milling about the nearby shops as he sipped his espresso. The bitter aftertaste reminded him of burnt toast but he drank it anyway because it was the hip thing to do.
Halfway through his coffee, a girl with silky hair joined him. “Hi Frank, sorry I’m late.”
“Nah, I’m just enjoying the coffee. Mocha Frappucino for you?”
Joanna nodded and shifted in her seat. As Frank ordered her drink, she ran her fingers through her hair while checking for messages on her phone. He watched her from the counter and knew that something was on her mind. After he returned to the table, he did not push her for an answer. Experience told him that she would just clamp up. They waited in silence until the waiter delivered her drink.
“So, you can’t wait until tomorrow to see me, huh?” Frank asked, cooing in the deepest, sexiest voice he could muster.
Her lips curved into a smile which did not reach her eyes.
Frank grabbed her hand but she pulled it away to tip the straw to her mouth. “What’s wrong, darling?”
Still avoiding eye contact, Joanna took a deep breath before she said, “This is not working.”
“What’s not working?”
“Us. We can’t see each other anymore.”
“Are you breaking up with me? Why, Jo?”
“You said I was the perfect man for you. I gave you flowers, took you out on romantic dinners, bought you expensive gifts…”
“Money is not everything.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. I care for you. I took care of you when you were sick last month.”
“That’s the problem. You’re too perfect.”
“What? What’s wrong with being the perfect man? Isn’t that what girls want?”
“That’s not the point. You are great but… but I don’t love you.”
“I don’t understand.”
She sighed. “When we first started dating, I thought you were the one for me. You were kind, romantic and rich, everything a girl wants. Then, something changed in the last couple of months. I don’t get excited anymore when you call. All those candlelight dinners are becoming a bore. Every time we sit down, we make small talk, but we don’t connect.”
“Let’s talk now. What do you want to talk about? We can talk about our life ahead…”
“No, Frank. Stop!”
Joanna yelled a little too loud. The couple at the other table looked up from their smartphones for a moment, packed up and headed into the shop.
“Don’t you understand, Frank? I don’t want to talk about us. I never felt comfortable talking about our future because I just don’t see myself sharing a life with you.”
“Why not? I’ll make a wonderful husband and a great dad…”
“I’m sure you would … but just not for me.”
At that moment, Joanna’s phone beeped. She picked it up at once. Her eyes glinted as she read the text message. Frank thought he saw her lips curved up a little but he wasn’t sure.
“Sorry. I gotta go. It’s a work emergency.”
“On a Sunday?”
“Yes!” Joanna said a little too forcefully. “Please don’t make this any harder than it already is. I’m sorry. I’m sure you’ll find a nice girl.”
Frank looked intently at Joanna as she stood to leave, willing her change her mind. She put on her oversized sunglasses, shutting him out, before walking away.
Sitting alone, Frank sipped the remaining espresso, the bitterness of defeat lingering on his tongue.
SUBJECT: Joanna Woo, Female, Age 32, also known as JW
OBJECTIVE: To study brain chemical reaction in subject through interaction with the ‘Perfect Man’ persona
JW made contact today to terminate the human contact process. Neurotransmitter Scanner was activated as soon as subject approached. Fluctuating levels of serotonin and norepinephrine indicating a minute imbalance was detected, a mild anxiety condition, consistent with the body language displayed.
Attempts were made to justify the cause and effect leading to JW’s action. During this timeframe, the subject exhibited increased level of dopamine and decreased level of serotonin. Such indicators mirrored the brain chemical state during the early stages of this process – attraction. However, this state of mind contradicted JW’s intense determination to sever all forms of communication and interaction with me even though the subject’s brain still transmitted signals of infatuation.
Then, JW received a text message. Accessing the said information caused a surge in adrenalin in her bloodstream, a common stimulant associated with fear or pleasure in humans. In this case, JW showed signs of experiencing pleasure confirmed by the flood of dopamine at that instance. The contrast between the negative situation and positive state of JW’s mind suggested a discrepancy in information relayed. Hence, this led to the conclusion that the subject may have been hiding some facts in this process, which could be the key to her seemingly irrational decision.
The ‘Perfect Man’ persona failed to secure fruitful human interaction. Cause of failure is unknown.
Prolonged interaction and integration into human existence has weakened my ability to regulate my neurotransmitters, which was confirmed by the abnormal readings of serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin in my system as shown in the Self Systemic Assessment Report attached. Other symptoms included:
• Lack of objectivity in judgement
• Irrational obsession over a subject
• Inability to assess and control emotions
• Withdrawal from interaction due to repeated abandonment by previous subjects
Diagnosis: Infected with LOVE and LONELINESS, human conditions with no known cure.
In view of this recent discovery, I will not be able to perform my duties as a Universal Research Agent efficiently. Hence, a Foreign Extraction Order must be issued with immediate effect so as not to jeopardize the findings of this study group.
Agent #XZ89 a.k.a. Frank Linton
Frank finished typing the report on his laptop, printed it out, and folded it into a hexagon shape. He then went to the kitchen, dropped the paper into the left slot of a toaster, and pressed the switch down. The paper disappeared with a spark. Frank sat down and cried.