Things just kept getting worse. For the first several months I spoke to M every single night. We would talk for at least 25 minutes and most of the time longer. I was very inexperienced with international calls back then and all I knew about were those crazy STI phone cards, so I would spend $5 for a 25 minute call, and that was pretty much the best bargain I could get. I would run one card out and start another only to use it completely up too. The phone calls were the high point of my day.
Inconsistently, we could use MSN Messenger. M had taken his computer with him and when he could get online and stay there, we would talk. But it was just not the same since we couldn't hear each other that way.
And then suddenly, M wasn't around for calls each night. It became difficult to contact him and sometimes his mom would get the phone before he could and hang up on me. I finally had to resort to getting one of his male friends in my town to call for me, get M on the phone and then I could talk to him. M was not helping the situation. As depressed as he was he started mentioning how persistent his family was being about getting him married there in Pakistan. They had people calling the house all day long with proposals and daily had pictures of the "prospects." In the beginning M had found this funny and even minorly gratifying. He explained to me that he could have three arms and one eye and be a 'catch,' as long as he still had his Canadian passport.
It was around this time that M's passport disappeared from his bag along with the ticket stub for his return ticket. M's younger brother was getting married and this had been the family's first reason for an extension request, but as they got bolder, they pressed harder and harder about M himself.
The pressure and arguments started about his 'family responsibility.' They pressured about his getting 'citizenship' for one of his cousins. They chose specific members of the family and the extended family got involved.
One of M's closest male cousins was working behind the scenes as well, because his own arranged marriage had become tied to a demand for M to marry a cousin of the woman this cousin wanted to marry. This situation was complicated further by the lack of education of M's cousin as compared to the education level of the woman he wished to marry. For this particular cousin the situation was dire, because theirs was a 'love' match. It did not seem to matter that M had a 'love match' of his own, that was of no consequence.
The interesting thing is that this part of the dynamic was hidden from me, and part of it was hidden even from M. The only information we both had was that M was getting sicker and sicker. M knew about the demands, but he didn't know how many people had a hand in it, and seemed oblivious as to the connection between the demands of his family and his health.
I knew that M was having episodes of vomiting nightly and that he was weak. My real fear came in when he started describing his other symptoms, which I knew to be serious. He was having bleeding problems--which I decline to describe--in addition to hallucinations. This was when I got scared. This was when I started pressuring for M to give me his address in Pakistan. M refused.