There’s a story doing the rounds of social media that’s making people feel a weird kind of sadness.
According to a report by CCTV News, a man from the Netherlands has been hospitalised after waiting in an airport terminal for 10 days to meet his online girlfriend.
That’s more than a week waiting for someone who never came.
Reports claim the 41-year-old flew to Changsha, China to meet a 26-year-old woman named Zhang, only leaving the terminal when he was taken by wheelchair to hospital. It's said he was suffering from exhaustion and looked disheveled and broken.
Alexander Pieter Cirk's alleged ordeal went viral in China, so much so that a TV channel considered it their mission to get in touch with his missing date.
Apparently, she thought her online boyfriend was joking when he said he was coming to visit her, and sent her a picture of his travel documents.
When Cirk arrived and tried to contact her, he received no answer. She had gone to another city for plastic surgery, and was completely offline.
Heartbroken, he booked his ticket back to the Netherlands, and will travel home when he's released from hospital.
The story clearly had a strong emotional impact on a lot of people, with the Facebook post on CCTV News receiving 6,500 likes and hundreds of comments. Many commenters have tried to put into words how the report makes them feel.
It's sad because Cirk spent money, that he had presumably earned, to fly to the other side of the globe to see this woman. He sat on a plane, alone. Then he watched for a week and a half as people walked by him in the airport terminal, probably with their family, friends and partners.
Even if you don't know the person in question, there's a very specific type of emotion that comes from hearing a story about someone who is in a lonely, horrible situation, and will ultimately be left to feel... foolish.
Alexander Pieter Cirk's experience is one of those stories. It's not unlike the viral image of the "sad grandpa" who made dinner for his six grandkids earlier this year, for only one of them to show up:
Tim Urban at Wait But Why recently described the reaction to these stories as a weird kind of sad, where something about the helplessness of the entire situation can almost make you feel sick.
Thankfully, there's a name for this feeling — Urban calls it 'clueyness'. And it's the perfect explanation for why thinking about Alexander Pieter Cirk alone in a Chinese airport is so deeply excrutiating.
Featured image: CCTV News/Facebook