Sunday, 22 May 2016

Soldier, Scammer / The Madness of my Age

“There is always some madness in love. 
But there is also always some reason in madness.”   
Friedrich Nietzsche

Soldier, soldier won't you marry me,
with your musket, fife and drum?
Oh no sweet maid I cannot marry you 
for I have no coat to put on.
So off she went to her grandfather's chest 
and brought him a coat of the very very best
and she brought out a cloak of the very very best
and the soldier put it on...

Soldier soldier won't you marry me

with your musket, fife and drum?
Oh no sweet maid I cannot marry you
for I have no shoes to put on...
So off she went -

I remember, as a child, my mother singing me that song. There are lots of verses and 'sweet maid' keeps on going up and down the stairs to the grandfather's chest and bringing her beloved whatever he requests.

'What sweet name you gonna call me?'  asked the soldier the first day we were chatting on the internet.

Me: IDK maybe Honey or Babes. Jamie babes...'
K.J: Cool
Me: I could always vary it. Anyway, bye for now Jamie x

He won me over on the internet. Or rather the scammer did. My friends think he is a scammer.

The photos attracted me at first. Afghanistan. A field of yellow and green with distant houses beyond, a field of rapeseed flowers under a cloud dappled sky, and I said, 'Those fields look like the English countryside in the summer,' and he said, 'Oh really?' He said it was Afghanistan, and not knowing much about that country to be honest, I kind of believed it. Anyway, I flicked through the other photos on his profile, and I love the one of the poppies glimmering like rough edged rubies in the grass. I know they have poppies in Afghanistan: they have an opium trade, and I want to start painting and like the idea of painting the image in oils, or maybe tempera. Send me photos, I said. 

I don't care that much if he is a scammer.  Whatever. I like the fantasy he has created. Or we have. The way that a fictitious character can somehow be brought to life that does not even really exist. My soldier fantasy... 
     They know us well - women of 'a certain age' as they tactfully call it in France. In case you are wondering, I can't even say middle age. I just did, I know but I hate that phrase.  My parents are always middle aged in my mind, however old, and that makes me forever young. And anyway perhaps we could be licensed to skip it if we wish. Not that we really want old age either, not really. Young one minute and death the next would be fine with me. 
     Perhaps we should 'select' age, pick an age to reflect how we feel and not the biological facts. I'm twenty-seven, by the way, because this is the age that I feel today...  
    It is striking to me how we live in an era where the real and the imaginary conflates at times in unprecedented ways -  and we don't quite know what is real and what is make believe or illusion and the internet permits this overlap of the real and the fictional. And we are on quite unstable land it seems, a bit like it could all cave in and barely sustain our weight, which somehow we forget about if we are often typing at a screen, unwell perhaps, as I have been with anaemia, unhappy on my own in the outside world. And the on-line world can start to seem like a theatre of many masks. We may find ourselves flaunting 'personae' not quite synonymous with our all too familiar off-line character, and this has a thrill, the sense of being creator of a new self, we are, in a sense, the new cyber existentialists, but the risk is that we start to feel more cipher than human, like a character led around a video game with a few clicks, a Lara Croft, or one of those Sims characters on the Play-Station game, a pale imitation of flesh and blood... That sense of bodies without organs. And what we want is to connect in a way which makes us feel real in the fuller and physical, three-dimensional sense. 
    Back to age, I was saying that age can become an obsession once you're over forty and something you want to hold back, but which feels like a tide coming in. Perhaps the wonder drugs in the pipeline could be seen to offer a reprieve of hope, for those who hate the middle age. If, at a rough guess, they'll keep us functional until a hundred and twenty, then forty something is not yet the middle by that measure, or calculation at all. Anyway, no one can stop us from dancing about to Taylor Swift of an afternoon when the children are at school. But you really don't need to know. In fact banish that thought. I never dance around to Taylor Swift! Never !  Of course, I listen to jazz or classical like a mature, stable woman realistic about her age and the passing of time, honestly, but dancing aside, because we want to feel young and stay young, we may respond well to a chat-up line from a young looking solider or any pursuer because that head rush that accompanies being told you're still young and pretty, still wanted not just for your mind, but your looks and your jeunesse, is, for some an escapist intoxicant they will seek out virtually any way that they can. In some cases it is almost an addiction... 
     Some women, and perhaps men, may set the bar pretty low to get the wanted thrill of attention. Perhaps you acclimatise to a toxic romance because it is you one escape route from the day to day. Perhaps it is the best you have found and you cannot face being alone. You could find that you talk to complete strangers on the internet and while away the hours on insubstantial banter just to fill the void and make you feel you are fascinating and can make someone laugh. And although we may set ourselves standards - a set of rules - no more flirting around - you find you can easily lapse, and all it takes is a minute or two of weakness, the split second ill-advised 'accept' of a drink in a bar or a friend request and you can find you somehow turn into their art materials and struggle to get the brush or pen back in your own hand. The point to remember - is that you are in control. And to surrender control at a point of incomplete trust and knowledge of who and what you are dealing with on or off-line, bears with it a risk. Discernment matters. Beware the poisoned apple. One bite and the poison will start to seep through your unsuspecting veins. And remember that voices are not to be feared. They can be our friends.  That 'Voice of Reason' could one day be your best friend even if it seems like some scary intimidator when you're growing up and you want to break free of it. Make it into someone you like...
    And once you make friends with that sensible girl and get to actually like her, it could even be BFF! (Best Friends Forever for those who don't get the anacronym.)

At the extreme end of the play on reality that screen-life permits, we have fraud. Anyway, I was on this story about the soldier, and what I mean when I say that they 'know us' is that they know we are of an age where strange things can start to happen and we just don't even know why. And we wake up one day - no matter that we had a much loved demin jacket with a CND badge on at seventeen, that long ago time when we actually had values and would come out with things at the tea table - I grew up in Yorkshire, in England where they have 'tea' by the way - like, 'You can change the world,' whilst they look askance and picture you carted off in handcuffs for some political protest and sigh and say, you're so naive, thinking, please darling leave other girls to change the world.
     Fast forward thirty years and we look around and we think - so what's new today? Oh my God this soldier is not just the usual random dropping a request in my inbox. This one's like totally gorgeous. I will risk it and friend them and just get out if it all gets too much.
    And suddenly we have this thing going on about a man with a rifle, army boots and camo-wear. And we kind of go mad for it and don't know what is happening. Is it the rifle? Why is it that soldiers are suddenly sexy?  The pin ups of adolescence days are quite forgotten. Jim Morrisson's svelte bare torso dizzyingly sexy and grown up to a girl to seventeen suddenly seems like a boy's. He looks younger than our almost adult sons, that christ-like body rather too fragile to actually grasp onto - the pin-ups of our teenage hood not quite cutting it now. It's that profile photo of the man in the trench with a rifle that does it.  That. We feel we have lost our minds but we can't control the base desires. 
    What would Freud say about it anyway? we may wonder whilst we go about the domestic chores that keep us busy for a few hours of every day. Penis envy or something a bit complicated to read up on... Or not having enough well...  stop right there, we instruct out wandering minds. At least I try to steer the pathways of the mind away from peril, red flags and pure, unadulterated self destruction, with the aim of staying stable and sane since the end of a relationship with the last man I met on the internet. 
    Anyway, that first day I spent seven hours, with breaks that is for a desultory surf around a few of my posts and comments, which suddenly seemed a bit inconsequential compared with the love story at hand, but the best part of seven hours, yes, almost seven hours on breathless unpunctuated texts with my soldier, that young man the one magnet that day, and after seven hours he proposed marriage and it was all pure cyber lust and excitement but all somehow made all just perfect and fine and wholesome with that virtuous promise of marriage twinkling in the cyber static like a glimmer, an oasis of happiness, a gold ring encircling a happy future together that would prove everyone wrong who said - oh but he is just a scammer. Everything good seems to happen in sevens I reflected. Like that seven minutes in heaven games, but this was seven hours of happy thrills. And now he has asked me to marry him.

Of course in all likelihood, he is just some sleaze-ball scammer running a furtive operation out of some grim bedsitter in the outer reaches of Middlesborough. I don't know why Middlesborough, and I don't even know if there are such thing as bedsits anymore or if they are now known as studios, but that place just sprang to mind and a kind of bed-sit-land paisley carpeted hell, with Nescafé in a chipped mug; although my friend says the scamming industry is worth *billions* so perhaps actually they have gold taps and swimming pools. And who, knows really? And isn't this the whole enigma? The rather tantalising question that is the main question of that day, in the absence of any proper life since the children started school and you left work because of depression. And you are not that likely, you know it, to get to the truth at the heart of it. And you badly want to get to the heart of it. Find the real person underneath that web of fantasy.  Like the minotaur in the labyrinth... What is the nature of this beast? Who is the writer? Who is the artist of this piece? Are they ruled by some Mafioso who writes them a script? Kind of pimped out and on commission? You start to get just as intrigued by the scammer's identity as the soldier. Who is he? What is happening to the world when it is a mirage of illusions? Or it is when you click accept on the request you know you should have just walked by like you did with all the others...
    Redcar springs to mind. Maybe he operates out of Redcar. North of England and not far from Middlesborough. We went on a girl guide pack-holiday there once - the distant past - as in three decades ago - that long. Anyway, we went on a so-called 'midnight walk' one night through the brackish wastelands near the sea, then inland through Streets badly lit. 
     I remember we walked past a bus stop. All graffiti and shattered glass. Yvette shagged Jono. Chantelle is a slag. Then a fight broke out in the street and a bottle got thrown and police called. As other girls slept peacefully in their Hampstead homes, or boarding school dorms, a little night light perhaps, teddy bears and fluffy bunnies, how it should be really at twelve, we were put through such Northern 'character building' ordeals. But then learned to navigate the dark. And perhaps this was the aim - there always seemed to be reasons for things with the guides - the aim was to overcome our fear of the unknown, but at the same time they made it exciting.  Had they made me a lover of grim, abject excitement? 
     Whatever, the scammer is a criminal. A criminal is a subverter of all good, wholesome norms. It is exciting. Tainted. Suppose I fell for a scammer?! A bad, tainted love somehow dragging me down into the abject, horrible depths. Everyone would be shocked. And I wonder it it is all part of some attention seeking drive to get people out to rescue me from a fix. A kind of double wave of attention, first the squaddie who grins in bucket hat, khaki vest and combats like he's smiling right at you, and gazes out of the Afghanistan trench like a young war poet but kind of pasted in to a new landscape, there but not there, like he is acting or playing paint-ball on a day trip out with the boys, then the rush from your friends to save you from peril. And you act like you don't need them, but perhaps it is the attention that you want. You want to be noticed and not treated like can just be walked by and left by the wayside alone to there to fade and to die.
Anyway, another photo came through today. Quite inspiring! I said. Your picture could inspire a painting.... And I wondered who lay behind the texts. Perhaps he could abandon his scammer project and write books with me instead. Or become an artist's assistant and send me photographs of Kabul and Nigeria. Somehow I could turn him around. What do you do in Afghanistan? I asked. 'We subdue the Taliban with power and authority.'  A photograph please of such heroism... 
    I have two of 'Jamie' himself - but I can't share those here as it would be a kind of identity theft I am sure. And anyway, I know how it feels when your portraits are ripped off your Facebook and used on someone else's account. Happened to me. For real. Had a message from Zuckerbrg's assistants at Facebook HQ which said - 'Identity fraud alert. Is this you?' Words to that effect.  And, true story, a photo of me in a straw sunhat with a bow, my hair neatly brushed for once, and a picture of me in a poker dot dress, navy and white, had been used on the profile of a certain Lesley Victoria who apparently attends an average American university and was masquerading literally as me. Her name and my pictures!  And I can't think of anyone who wants to have a double even if it is just a cyber-double. It's just strange and a bit sci-fi an dystopian and like you wake up and realise you were cloned in your sleep. So more than a little aggrieved, in fact more than a little pissed off with whoever they are, and it is quite impossible to know, I messaged that fucker and said - if you don't take the photos down like fucking pronto I will 'call the feds! Well I thought they were maybe American and as far as I know they have 'feds' in America.  Anyway, no debate was required. I sent them that bare instruction, and the next time I looked up that account the photos were gone and in their place just a blank. And Lesley can be a blank if she does not have a photo she likes of herself. Let her be a blank for all I care, and no way is she/he using my photo for a scamming enterprise like K.J tried to pull on me.

Here is the landscape 'Jamie' sent me today. 

wonder if this is Afghanistan. I looked up a map of that part of the world. I don't have an amazing grasp of geography and I was seriously wondering if Afghanistan actually has a sea or at least a lake as the photo shows water quite clearly. Anyway, I found out that it is bordered on the South by the Arabian Sea which sounds incredibly exotic, a bit like The Arabian Nights... except 'sea' instead of 'nights'.  Could be Afghanistan then, on the basis that there is sea in the picture and Afghanistan has a sea, which all adds weight to the solider rather than scammer scale.  He is where he says he is, we trick ourselves, but a mind that wants to believe something is true, when it is not entirely true or barely true at all, will apparently swap logic for dream. And the scammers, somehow just know the working's of a desperate woman's mind, a borderline depressed and/or isolated stay-at-home mother, cutting a remote figure like a woman in an Edward Hopper painting just waiting for a life to come her way... Tired perhaps of going out to seek for it and finding it all falling apart time and time again... They know the mindset of their targets. 
    My friends say: 'They are very clever.' They never say - look you are about to lose your mind like a total fucking idiot because he has said he will marry you and fuck you senseless - or whatever he said he would do to you, or with you or whatever that has shot your impressionable mind still more to pieces than it already was, poor girl. You're a sucker for a man with a rifle and a career as a military commander because you don't have a life do you? Admit it.' 
     Do they spell out what they are thinking? No. They tactfully say, 'They are very clever.' But it is transparent, and you sense a frisson of opprobrium, and that sense that they see you have to work it out for yourself. That you won't really listen because that's what you're like. You have to go in there, toes in the water, and learn from your bitter experience...And you feel a bit miserable about how empty your life really is and try not to read into the subtext of what they are too polite to say. And you know they mean well. And you start to feel glad at times you have these big sister type friends looking out for you, even though you should be big enough to suss life out for yourself by forty plus.

I'm not sure if this the Arabian sea, I reflected as I looked at the lovely, twinkly photo that landed in my inbox today. The flowers look a bit cultivated and all the photos I saw of the Arabian sea when I checked on the internet looked a bit wilder than this. But it could be. It is certainly stunningly beautiful and I feel it will make a lovely painting when I finally get round to actually painting anything instead of talking to soldiers !

Other 'doubts'.... 
Well, the day we met, almost a week ago now, I asked where he is usually based, and he said, London. Before I said I live in London, that is, which did make it seem perfect. Wow, he grew up just half a mile from where I live. He then explained that he had built a house at The London Eye for his widowed mother. Jamie is twenty-nine. It sounds a bit young to me to have built a house at the London Eye. And - more to the point - are there actually any houses anyway at The London Eye? As far as I know there is the observation wheel itself. There is a kiosk, maybe a few kiosks, or vans selling ice-creams and hot-dogs.  There is a carousel.  A river bank. Then the River Thames. In the other direction a field of grass, roughly a square and a playground, but I don't recall any houses. No little cottage with a Mrs James answering the door and a bedroom with his things in all prepped for his return from the army.  I could go to look. Except this way madness quite possibly lies. Correction. That way madness definitely, without any shred of doubt, lies, because we just know there is not a house at the London Eye. 
    And the school. I say - 'Oh I guess you went to The Nautical School then near the South Bank.' And he will say yes, that's the one and make you feel, how amazingly attuned that you guessed it. And you say, what was your favourite book. And he says, 'The military books,' but he cannot think up a specific title. Be alert to such subtle red flags. 
     Because the thing is this, if we start to believe the tricks that our mind is begging us to perform because there is a tiny bit of us, actually more than tiny piece of us, rather most of our malleable, crazy mind that wants to be well, handled by this young exciting, fit soldier, his rifle flung down and his combats and boots pretty much off at the door, well, then we are really gone forever and will start to sign up to things that send us still madder. Like messaging our name and address and bank account details, name, age, anything on request. Once a woman is lost she is lost. This is the premise that they work on, I surmise. The scammers.

Alas, my friends are making me cynical.

The question really is this. Have I been scammed? If he was a young soldier and we had struck a chord, then fine. An age gap of around fifteen years, no problem in itself. But the crux of the matter, is have I been duped? Or if I could be duped of I permit the liaison to go on.
    By the evening of the first day, KJ raised the subject of bank accounts. He had accounts in London but no money in Kabul where he was stationed. He wanted to come home for his thirtieth birthday quite soon. It seemed a bit soon to me to mention bank accounts so that was a red flag. I knew little to nothing about internet scams at the time, but it seemed so predictable. He was about to ask me to send him the money for the fare. I changed the subject and then I logged out to get on with something else.
    The next day KJ. told me a story about 'gold bars'. He was about to be flown to Nigeria, he said, and was afraid he would lose his gold and his documents at war. A man had died near Kabul, he said. He fell down dead after being shot and I can't remember who shot him, but he had some money on him in dollars and in his house were several gold bars. Jamie was given some money and two of the gold bars. He is worried he will lose this small fortune in Africa where he is about to be sent. He wants to send me the gold. The dollars. Now, of course there is probably a catch. We are born suspicious so it seems, or made so within a few short years of our existence. We don't trust anyone.  And admittedly the story looked kind of 'cut and pasted in'.  I asked him a question about this mysterious 'gold' and within two seconds there was a seven paragraph story in dazzling detail dropped in my inbox in reply. How many other unsuspecting women get that little story parachuted into their inbox I wonder?
    How many other women look at his photos - that young man in a beret gazing away from the rifle and through the camera and kind of shooting you down, and get a frisson of First World War poet combined with twenty-first century cyber lust and get a bit lost in love with their soldier? 
And one minute they pluck on the poet string, and the poems come rising right back, Wilfried Owen, Rupert Brooke, an indiscriminate blur of first world war poets in the mud and the rain of the trenches... 'What passing bells for those who die as cattle...' provoking that motherly urge just to save them and pull them out of the mud and into a tidy living room with a bottle or wine ready on the table and turned back sheets. It will be fine. Everything will be fine, we want to soothe and console, chance to fall back into the familiar maternal pattern, as the maternal heart string zings happily, and the young ones do look like they need a mother... Already happy with this idea of a younger man we will look after, now our children regard us as a cast-off garment they've out grown, we then get a dazzling image in our head of the 1940s glamorous young wife waiting for her solider to come back from fighting for the country... Some of us envied our grandmothers perhaps for their devoted letters and passionate reunions with husbands sent to the war.  None of this Tinder-world horror, of swiping and clicking on the one you like the look of that day like they are a bar of chocolate to consume before moving to the next. The hook up, I imagine, not that I have ever done them, compared with their marriages is surely like polyester next to silk, lycra next to seamed stockings, just not the same.  
     And these scammers sense that many of us are dissatisfied with the emotional lives that we have. It is like they have a sixth sense of they have read up on basic psychology. And one way and another, they play us. We are as harps in their hands. The music seems really rather beautiful... And that day of breathless unpunctuated texts can seem like a happy day in comparison to the others you have surpassed, days of quiet solitude with just your cat and the family for companions, like laying your eyes on a mirage you think could be real.

I had all manner of advice from my friends.

One man, I don't know him that well and he somehow muscled onto my friend's list through the mutuals... Well, he said - 'So what is it with this soldier?' And I said, 'Oh, well just passing the time.'
And he said, 'Oh and I thought you wanted some AWOL soldiery or something, but forgive me if I am wrong...'
     And I thought, AWOL soldiery? Like, seriously what the fuck, seriously, is 'AWOL soldiery'? Is that a 'thing'?
I did not ask.  Facebook, to my mind, is notably formal and polite - leaving aside the personal message option, more law unto itself than the time-line, that is true... And 'AWOL soldiery' is probably a euphemism for sexual activity with military types, and best left unsaid, I decided. Later I looked the phrase up in the Urban Dictionary but I could not find it listed amongst the new phrases and terminology. Unique to Martin, perhaps ?
     Anyway, it has all been a bit far fetched and I know I should try to stay grounded, and actually get a real life instead of this fantasy world thing going down. That man, let's just call him Martin - not his real name - Martin, anyway, said 'I hope you don't mind me saying but I think your attentions are misplaced...  Can't believe you take army profiles seriously, to be honest.  A clever girl like you... Whilst I understand my need and desire for distraction, and 'empathise' with that - but that the inter web can be full of odd folk, scams and psychos... Just being guarded on your behalf as a sensitive type can be easily scarred... ' And I said, 'Seriously, Martin - I am on my guard!' I don't want his empathy to be honest. I can't help thinking it sounds frightfully dull and kind of a little desperate.
    Martin tried to get me from another angle, the 'rescue' one, somehow backfiring, and began to explain that he has a lot of experience as an infantry man in The Honorable Artillery Company, founded in 1537 by Henry VIII, the oldest military body except for the Vatican Swiss Guard and I asked him if he had been in any wars such as... No, he said, he had been a part of a kind of land army.
    And then the predictable little lecture about how the military types are all fake. Same old story isn't it? Anything new? And he sent me a photo, all red and white regalia and brass buttons and he is a about sixty-five,  and I said, don't even try to compete... And he said, 'Look, if you have any trouble from those shameless scammers just bell me up any time. I'll be your knight errant.' Words to that effect.  
    Infantry men who think I want saving from scammers or soldiers or whoever they are can back off to be honest. It's ridiculous. Will some third bloke wander in to save damsel *not actually in distress at all* from the 'knight errant' who is trying to save me from the soldier/scammer?  And could knight errant himself be a fake? 'I don't really know you, to be honest,' I said. And I am starting to think that this world is like a hall of mirrors, a sea of illusions and nothing is quite real.

Solider soldier won't you marry me?

Seriously, I wonder if this fantasy is more about me than K.J and who he is or might be.
I drew a picture of Jamie last night and it is interesting to me at least how the combat get-up looks more like a fleecy onesie with hearts on and shapes that are almost like stars and moons but not quite. And I started to think - he can be anything. My imaginary construct as much as his. And maybe this fleecy number is me depicting in my mind the sweet side of the male. Or maybe he is my inner male reflected right there on the page. And maybe relationships give us that - a missing element that completes us in a  sense.  But I really don't know. I must talk to the therapist... Whatever, I have the picture now on my wall which fills the gap to some extent. The soldier in my mind doesn't kill anyone by the way. In this drawing he looks like he would not even kill a rabbit. I think it is about wanting to feel safe. A man around to protect me from wolves. I am not the best of feminists and I know I should feel confident I could look after myself instead of this fantasy about a man on guard at the door. But anyway, it is what it is. I am who I am, damaged, crazy or just too many hours of the days and nights alone. I don't know... Maybe I even have that syndrome. Stockholm syndrome. Perhaps. Or maybe part of me wants to be trapped and put through dreadful misadventures - perhaps for the adrenalin thrill... Not badly enough to make it happen, quite clearly! Well, not with these sleazy scammer types that steal the photos of perfectly admirable, up-standing soldiers who you won't ever get to meet or talk to because they are far too busy fighting the Taliban in poppy fields to chat up unsuspecting women like me.
    Anyway, one thing I do know, if nothing else, is that you can't deploy a fraud to protect you from wolves when they are quite possibly a wolf themselves just dressed up costume to lure you in. Oh yes, mother read me Red Riding Hood as well, where the wolf tricks the girl he wants to eat for tea.

On the 3rd June I am seeing a therapist.
I went to my doctor a few times after a recent 'break up.' I keep crying, I said. I had a man in my life who I think maybe loved me but just did not know how to say it, and I did not realise until too late how much he means to me. And I was tearful each time I saw her, and she signed me off sick with depression and booked me in to see a psychotherapist. It's taken weeks to arrange and to actually get a date so most of my problems have completely diminished. I feel quite a lot happier, even going out on occasion  in 1940s style red lipstick and wrap dresses and high heels. Anyway, when I see Vivienne, my psychotherapist, I will tell her if she asks about my 'problems' that I spend spare time drawing pictures of soldiers with rifles in trenches in Afghanistan and fantasising about married life in a house at The London Eye. Or at least I did for a day. Is it normal? 

The second day I woke up and came clean with Killian James.I admitted that I could not go ahead with any wedding, it had been a day of crazy madness, that's all. And he sent me a crestfallen reply. 

You know what I've been thinking, Jamie - I just can't. I just can't surrender my heart via Facebook as I thought perhaps I could - just so you know... And there are days where I lose my mind a bit here... And I think I 'lost my mind' a bit when we first met. I do really like you... We can be friends for sure and maybe more than that if we like each other when you come to London.... but I can't make promises before that !

Babe why are you saying this? I have already gave you my heart
His command of English is not amazing for a young man who professed to study at a London school - the notorious low achievement of some boys at such schools no excuse from a rationally minded perspective. And much as I adore those photos in the army gear, and some crazy instinct makes me suddenly desire a man who is stronger and powerful than me and will somehow be deployed to protect me from every danger, and perhaps from all of my doubts and fears, and help me forget about everything difficult, an escape route, escapist as a field of poppies, a cloud of opium, and I like the photos of places I have never been and possibly will never see in my life, I can't go there. At the edge - about to leap into the dizzying unknown I won't make the final jump.
    I started to dream of a possible future together with you, Jamie, I said, but today I feel so much more hesitant. I don't want to lose my mind again like before. And I don't want to treat you like a chat up line... No personal photos required. No sexts. Landscapes are fine, just those. And I issued the dismissive I have had to repeat a few times on the internet when, on occasion, a message lands in my inbox from a friend of mine which says, 'What are you wearing? Do you have knickers on?' That kind of thing.... 'Sorry, but I don't as a rule do 'cyber-sex'.  Jamie said, 'No worries. You don't have to do anything. And I will come there and marry you.'  So I said, Jamie, I can't accept a proposal of marriage without at a few coffee dates first, at least ! And by the way - my age - I am not as young as I look. I know. I look like Scarlet Johanssen in my photos, but I am much older than that. I am actually over forty. I don't want any more children. I think I would make a really bad wife, if I am honest. You should choose someone younger than me. I poured out the honest truth.
    And he said, 'Well you never know there could be a little miracle... A little sweetheart out of the blue.' 
     More miracle to get my children to the secondary school stage and have time to go on proper dates with actual real actual me instead of fake ones, than to make another baby in my reluctant uterus, I can't help but think, whilst another side of me says, how sweet, how endearing, and the other side is fairly certain he had fabricated this entire soldier in love pose so he can scam me for money or maybe my personal details.
     At one point I said, 'I think you could be a scammer. My friends said you could be a scammer.' And he said that he and his troops would come to London and attack them for saying that. At every stage - a display of bravado, but that remark made me very sad. My friends matter much more than him.

I have a song in my head - Last night I gave you my heart and the very next day I took it away. I can't remember the exact words.

Goodbye Killian James.

I feel I have been a bit harsh - as I cannot be sure he is a scammer - but where it comes to unknowns such as the random friend requester you don't know from a fraudster,  the mind can make it all wonderful one minute, then the next day we fill in those gaps in another way entirely, join the dots and we come up with worst case instead of best case scenario, and suddenly the little dream gets shattered by the voice of reason, that inner girl guide bossy voice that says, that's enough fun and games we have camp fires to build today.
     That dizzying flip from a vision of wifely duties in that cottage at the London Eye we somehow just hadn't noticed - perhaps too busy buying ice creams for the children and didn't see it at the time - how unobservant can you get ! - the mind just papering over the flaws to try get you to what you instinctively want - to thinking suppose I give out my address so he can post me the gold ingots he doesn't want to lose whilst taking down Isis in Nigeria... What if he comes to London, for real, takes the cat hostage and demands a ransom of a million pounds? And that is not worst case scenario, just one of the less extreme possible examples...
     And suddenly we get a bit nervous. It's not always for the best, to walk out in the dark, into exciting unknowns.  We're taking measured risks all the time but perceptions can blur into a haze if the heart gets tugged a bit hard.
     We need to be on our guard is all I am saying, and I don't mean 'on the guard' - literally on the squaddie because that won't happen anyway, well, about as likely as the most unlikely thing is to happen that is, and I can't think of what this is right now, but you know exactly what I mean. A little caution is a good idea. Don't throw it all to the wind.
    And we don't need to give them anything... 
We don't need to give them cloak, hat, boots, socks, personal details, address, date of birth, hand in marriage or anything else whatsoever. Keep it for a real man or woman or for yourself.

In the song sweet girl keeps going up to her grandfathers chest and bringing out more items for her solider at his request...  and he just rips her off for more things.  
And the ending - oh the poor girl - you can imagine how broken hearted she is when she hears this...

'Oh no sweet main I cannot marry you
for I have a wife at home..'  !!

The original soldier rogue !

And you wonder at the time - why is mummy singing us that song again? And you don't really get it. You're just thinking what will she get out next from that chest? And one day it all seeps back to you, because it's in there. The songs they sang you are in there and you think your mother didn't really care and all the don't talk to strangers warnings were just designed to ruin all your fun, but one day you wake up and think to yourself oh well, perhaps she was right to warn her daughter of the scammers - what foresight - how did she know I would one day get pounced upon on the internet by man with rifle and a sweet line in proposals...?

All too easy to lose our minds in the madness of this age, but seriously speaking, there are no houses at The London Eye... In our dreams perhaps - so have them - have your dreams - because they are yours and no one can take them away...

Thanks to 'K.J' for the photos of Afghanistan
Thanks to Martin for participation and the 'AWOL soldiery' phrase.
Names have been changed


A day after writing this story I came across a rather wonderful photo on my friend's facebook page. A close up of a poppy, made iridescent and shimmering with the sunlight shining through the petals, the middles are visible each like a smouldering, all seeing, eye. My friend says they are in Regent's Park but they won't last for long. So I want to find the poppies, real poppies I can touch and actually smell, not just a splash of vermillion on a photo that could have been taken off the internet and not even seen with that man's eyes. Why do I even think that there was a possibility that the whole site is not a fraud? I don't know. Sometimes reason goes off on vacation and only part of it comes back, and once hooked a bit of you always belongs to them, even if you don't think it does.
   Another poppy photos appeared. A pair of poppies then a group of three, one a little bud beside the other two. That's real. 

   And another story is floating into mind - Poppy, Poppy - The Beauty of my World - It is the 'this-ness' that matters to me now - the tangible and what I can reach out and sense and touch.


An extract from Jezebel - by Anna North
I discovered this article today. If only I had read this before I would have known to have been more cautious!

'The Army is warning online daters about a disturbing form of scam: thieves pose as US soldiers stationed overseas, pledge their (fake) love to women, and then bilk them out of thousands. Some scammers even steal the identity of actual servicemen to make their pleas more plausible.
In an unexpectedly poetic memo last month, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command (CID) warned Americans to be wary of "scams promising true love, but only end up breaking hearts and bank accounts." The organization released a similar memo last May — but, they say, "CID continues to receive hundreds of reports of various scams involving persons pretending to be U.S. Soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The victims are most often unsuspecting women, 30 to 55 years old, who think they are romantically involved on the internet with an American Soldier, when in fact they are being cyber-robbed by perpetrators thousands of miles away." The scammers are often based in African countries and accessing dating websites at cyber-cafes. Apparently they "will often take the true rank and name of a U.S. Soldier who is honorably serving his country somewhere in the world, marry that up with some photographs of a Soldier off the internet, and then build a false identity to begin prowling the internet for victims." In an especially creepy variation, scammers take the identities of soldiers who have been killed.
Once they meet a willing woman, they may profess love and even propose marriage to her very quickly, then begin asking for money. Some scammers claim they need funds to "help keep the Army internet running," while others say the Army won't let them access their bank accounts. These are lies, but victims who believed them have sent thousands of dollars. One British mom sent $127,000 to a man claiming to be "Sgt. Mark Ray Smith," while another woman sent $72,431 worth of cash and electronics, including 12 Blackberrys and 10 iPods, to man who said he was stationed in Iraq but was actually in Nigeria. Says CID spokesman Chris Grey, "We cannot stress enough that people need to stop sending money to persons they meet on the internet and claim to be in the U.S. military." '   (11/03/2011)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good story - well told ... glad you came to your senses
M.V - Sweden