I go over to my friend Ted's place. He's hunched over his laptop again, knees high enough on the low low couch to make him appear crouching. The beaten coffeetable on which the laptop sits is just as squat as the beaten couch. It's as though he hasn't left the screen in literally days, which he probably hasn't, but figuratively I know he must have extracted himself from the holey burlap to buzz me in. He's too wrapped up in whatever his computer obsession is this week.
"So what is your computer obsession this week?" I ask. "Civilization IV? Madden NFL two thousand six version full-on with owner mode and head coach creation?"
"Nah." The monosyllable is involuntary; his eyes never leave the glow. That's a good idea, though."
"When was the last time you blinked?"
"Yo, Ted. What the hell are you looking at?"
"Czech women? Czech women? What the hell are you looking at Czech women for? I thought you already maxed about a zillion credit cards calling up porn websites."
"Dude, I'm not paying anything. Well, not much anyway..."
"So what, you're all into Czech dating now?"
"Czech dating? Pfffft," he snorts derisively. "Czech mating is more like it."
"As you like it. When will this obsession be over with?"
"Dude, I'm making a life decision here. I want to marry one of these women."
"What? Mail order bride shit? Do you realize how often that works? You know the dogma: you get the chick over here, they learn a little English, learn about lawyers, divorce your ass the minute after immigration law allows it and sue you for alimony. Of course, in your case, there ain't much to sue for, is there? What's she going to do? Take your collection of Gunter Grass paperbacks?"
All through my monologue - for it was a rant that became a monologue - my friend Ted heard not a word. So I checked out what had captured his interest. After all, I might like to do some Czech dating. And who doesn't want more sex, Czech, American or Martian?
My friend Ted was scrolling down through picture after picture of women thousands of miles away.
"How many of these things are there?"
"Exactly fifteen thousand one hundred and seven."
"You know the exact number?"
No answer, more scrolling.
"Jesus..." I muttered. These women are pretty much shameless. "And they're all posting in English? "Take a look at this one," I said, figuring he already had. "Selina. I'm a naughty girl from Czech republic wanting naughty sex."
"Naughty sex, Ted?"
"Come on, man, I'm serious. I want to get married."
"Yeah. You. Married. How about this one? 'Hand Job Mystery'? That's her handle?"
"Isn't it great?"
The next one appeared to be posing in an art studio of some sort. "Hmmm... 'i look for girls and women to take part with me in business.' Whoa. Oh, this is bloody brilliant: 'I'm the black goddess of strange happiness.' Wait a minute; she's not black."
"Dude," is all my friend Ted is reduced to.
The fun soon becomes less so, especially since he won't let me look at their profiles, history and et cetera. I leave. He doesn't even notice.
Three days later, not having heard of his success or lack thereof, I go to his apartment again. There he is, hunched on the couch, knees way up, staring at the computer screen.
"Well," I say, "was Mission: Czech Sex successful?"
My friend Ted chases this with no answer for ten seconds, thirty, a minute. I go round to the other side of the threadbare sofa and look. Civilization IV, the Czech dating obsession long blown away by short attention span and dreams of ruling the world.