I had to clear space on my phone, and wound up deleting, among other things, a bunch of screenshots I made last year and the year before.
I can find sadness in all things, even the best, most inspiring news. But some of these screenshots raised distinct melancholy.
I lost count of how many screens I captured of all the pretty women I found on dating apps. Almost all of them ignored my attempts at connecting. I even captured images of some of the pathetic-seeming messages I sent into the oblivion of these women’s inboxes.
But those who I did connect with and meet in person raised different kinds of melancholy-inducing memories.
It’s not that things didn’t work out, but that so many of these people entered into the realm of online dating with an agenda, and their suite of skeptical, even cynical suspicions. I came to expect this when dating women in their 40s and 50s, all of them divorced at least once, packing enough baggage for a world cruise.
One woman thought I was way cool, but backed off when she decided I was a drunk. I drink but not anywhere near as bad as she preëmptively concluded, informing her verdict with memories of past experiences with substance abusers. I wasn’t that into her anyway.
Another one shared my interest in taphophilia, though seemed to know surprisingly little about the boneyards of New York. That seemed promising to me, and I suggested tours of Calvary, Mt. Zion, and the endless expanse of the Cemetery Belt. Somehow, to her, this mutual interest didn’t seem to matter.
She was a writer. That’s what mattered. At the end of the day the last thing she for which she had energy was more writing. I, to the contrary, thrive on email correspondences. I think I do some of my best writing in direct correspondence. Compared to blasting text splatter like this into the infinite sea of shit that is the modern Internet I find that in email or postal correspondence I feel connected and relevant.
Perhaps most importantly, I know who is reading what I write.
I had no problem with this woman’s disinterest in correspondence, asking myself if maybe I’m a little needier than I thought. We dated thrice.
Images of others remained in my screenshot collection, but one stands out.
One woman whose beautiful photos lingered in my screenshot collection still haunts me.
We met first at the Oyster Bar Saloon. After a couple of beers, during which I had a hard-as-hell time taking my eyes off of her, I blurted out that I wanted to bone her senseless. She laughed, genuinely touched, saying she appreciated the honesty. She herself had already made numerous salty, even crude comments about sexual things, so I felt perfectly in-context with my pronouncement. This further drew me to her, how I could say such things to her acceptance, with her seeming to reciprocally float the flirt.
BUT, we had dated about 6 weeks before she finally saw fit to tell me a little something: Earlier that year she had wired her life savings off to a dating site scammer who identified himself as a Marine held hostage in Afghanistan by ISIS and blahblah, the story doesn’t matter since none of it is true.
I knew about this kind of scam, and had a genuine interest in learning more details of her experience. What I know of these scams is what I read in the papers. I wanted to see the nuts and bolts of how these cons work, and how seemingly intelligent people get fooled. You do not have to be stupid to fall for these things. I think these scams feed on a certain emotional aspiration, a desire to be someone’s savior, raising emotions and delusions of salvation more powerful than logic.
She also gave maximum respect to the script these scammers use, and their convincingly credible delivery.
I did not feel sorry for her, a growed-ass woman who made a deliberate and willful decision, of her own free will, to fire off a bazillion Bitcoins to some dude in Turkey she’d never met.
Still, something inside me howled with desire to help. She didn’t know what an IP address was. She asked how someone in Turkey could get a phone number in the 917 New York City area code. She said something about “VNP”. I gently corrected her: “I think You mean VPN.” She tried to report this to the FBI found the webform on the agency’s website confusing and recalcitrant.
I don’t know about the FBI website but the answers to her other questions were, to me, so obvious and fundamental that I couldn’t help think that if I knew more I could possibly help identify the perpetrator(s).
Further to that, I felt a sympathetic heaviness in my heart, imagining the ghastly, dark horror she felt in the slow-motion moment of discovering almost everything she worked for had vanished.
Her reality was no mere nightmare from which she could wake, and her presence on the dating apps had nothing to do with wanting to hook up or connect with like-minded sorts. She wanted to get her money back. She said she wanted someone who would make her “whole” again.
Somehow I gave off a vibe that I had a lot of money, or else she simply wanted to believe I did. Otherwise I don’t know why she kept stringing me along, except that I could tell she really liked me. She said I was good-looking, just about her perfect body type, thought my payphone thing was awesome, and she ranked my guided tour of the payphones of Lower Manhattan the most unusual and interesting date she could remember.
BUT, she had to focus on her new reality, and a poorie like me wasn’t it.
Months after we parted ways a story about payphones crossed the news outlets. She forwarded it to me, wanting to make sure I saw it.
This happens a lot, and I say so with no chagrin or attitude. I think it’s cool when people from across my life, some who I knew in person no more than a couple of hours, think of me any time they see mention of payphones.
We had a brief and friendly email exchange. I don’t know what became of her plan, or even what it might have been. I suspect she wanted to marry a rich person then quickly sue for divorce, a relatively common scam that often goes unreported.
Whatever her intention our brief correspondence made clear her outlook had not changed. She liked me but needed someone to make her “whole” again.
Whatever one can say about the conman that tricked her I assert that she herself perpetuated the scam, becoming part of the syndicate, leveraging the only tool she had for the task: Her beauty. I dodged one big, huge, cannon-ball sized bullet.