How I Was Embarrassingly Conned By My Foreign Ex-Boyfriend

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How I Was Embarrasingly Conned By My Foreign Ex-Boyfriend

“Do you know anyone in Karachi, Pakistan?” the customer service agent asked me for a second time. I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was getting annoyed, but I couldn’t answer her right away. To most people it didn’t sound like the trick question it was for me.



Define “know.” Do you mean in the biblical sense?

I dated a man from Pakistan, but that was years before I had this frustrating conversation with my credit card company. My former boyfriend Ashraf and I had completely lost touch. I couldn’t say for sure if he lived in Karachi or Pennsylvania. Actually, I couldn’t tell you if I'd really known him in the first place.

The only thing I was almost positive about was that it wasn’t Ashraf who had made those unauthorized withdrawals using my credit card from an ATM in Karachi. It was just a coincidence — it had to be. I couldn’t stand the thought that I had been scammed by an ex.

I hadn’t been looking for love when I met Ashraf, and even if I had been, the convenience store just a few feet away from where I worked was the last place I ever thought to look.

“I think the clerk likes you. He can’t seem to stop smiling whenever he sees you,” my friend and co-worker Vicki pointed out to me as we were getting our daily dose of coffee and snacks. 

There was a time when I couldn’t walk into a convenience store or an Indian restaurant without being treated like a Hindu goddess.

I was Parvati, but with only two arms and without the PMS. At Indian restaurants, the staff always made sure that I got the finest seat in the place and free papadum or chai. I was invisible in most trendy L.A. restaurants, but I have a feeling I was hot in Mumbai.

I got used to Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan men being attentive and generous to me, so it wasn’t unusual that the clerk at the local convenience store was friendly. Since I was also attracted to East Asian men, I decided to try to take our non-relationship of smiles, small talk and free chips to another level.

One afternoon on a solo trip to his store, I finally decided to actually have a conversation with the friendly clerk.

I've always loved foreign movies, so I asked him if he enjoyed the films of Satyajit Ray. I assumed that since he was East Asian he’d be familiar with India’s premiere film-director. I was a film snob in that way. French? You must enjoy Goddard! Italian? Isn’t Fellini amazing?

The clerk responded that he did know the work of Ray, but when I pressed further, he didn’t seem to know any of the ones I mentioned. “Pather Panchali? The World Of ApuThe Adventures Of Goopy And Bagha? No? Seriously?"

After much questioning on my part, he finally came clean and admitted that he hadn’t heard or seen any of those fine films.

I took this as a sign to invite him to my house to catch-up on his Ray films. He agreed, but I had the feeling he was using the body of Mr. Ray’s work to get closer to my body.

Ashraf was very cute. He had kind of shaggy brown hair, deep brown eyes and a killer smile. When I opened the front door of my apartment, he was standing there with roses. I invited him in, we watched approximately 10 minutes of Pather Panchali and ended up in my bedroom.

After we finished, Ashraf took three showers. When he was cleaned up, we went out for Indian food.

Ashraf and I started seeing each other, which mostly entailed going to Indian restaurants, seeing Indian entertainment and going back to my place. He liked to show me off to his friends, which was kind of a new experience for me.

Sometimes he’d make me those complicated Indian milk desserts that are much harder to make than they look.

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Every time we went out, I tried to get to know and understand him better. 

I don’t know if it was the language barrier or because he was a Muslim from Pakistan and I was a fourth generation Californian, but it always felt as if we were strangers.

We'd been going out for a few months when he started talking about marriage as if it was something to do when we were ready to take our relationship to the next level.

 I felt as if we were barely on the first level and that there was a long way to go before I even considered making a lifetime commitment. He obviously didn’t get me; he didn’t even laugh at my jokes.

For my birthday, he gave me a card formally addressed to my misspelled name and a gold necklace with a Nefertiti head on it. It was a nice gesture, but it still felt very impersonal. I began to prefer hanging out with my friends rather to getting some saag paneer with Ashraf.

As I started to pull away, Ashraf stepped it up and asked me to marry him.

Was it because he felt guilty about having pre-marital sex or did he want a green card? I don’t know.

But I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t get me on any level except physical. I realized that, for the first time in my life, I had a boyfriend who only liked me for the way I looked or what I could do for him.

He was a good worker and had saved enough money to open a small import store nearby to the AM/PM. He worked long hours and a lot of his spare time went to working out in the gym.

I hardly ever saw him, which was fine with me. When I did see him he looked as if he was on steroids — twice as bulky as he had been the time before. The sweet smiling man I’d met seemed to have been swallowed up by a steroid-eating freak. 

When I finally broke up with him he seemed more distracted than upset.

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We agreed to stay friends, but again I got the feeling that he was just saying what he thought I wanted to hear. The next time I went by his store, it was closed, and his co-workers at AM/PM said that he had gone back to Pakistan.

Many years later I got my credit card statement and saw that someone has used my card to extract a total of 900 dollars from three different ATM's in Karachi, Pakistan. 

I immediately called the credit card company's Lost/Stolen Department to get them to freeze the card and credit me back the money. 

The customer service rep was quite sympathetic, but had to first ask me some questions. The first question was, of course, did I know anyone in Pakistan?

I really don’t think it was Ashraf who stole from me. It wasn’t a card I’d had for a long time but a brand new one. I think it was a coincidence, plain and simple. I also like to believe that Ashraf did find me hot and wasn’t just after a green card.

Either way, now I'm much more careful who I share my love of foreign films with.

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Christine Schoenwald is a love and astrology writer.