Seven Degrees of Bogus
by Ilan Herman
|part 1 of 6|
Alan was done writing an e-mail when the clock above the fireplace chimed seven in the evening, and he turned his attention to Plenty of Fish, a dating website he had recently joined.
A few friends had mentioned the site to him, and one friend insisted on helping Alan create a profile that said he was a 46 y.o. single Caucasian male, no kids, living in Folsom, 5’7” and 180 pounds, or, as the site labeled him: a few extra pounds.
As his profession Alan entered: novelist, which was true, if purely by his own choice alone. He also mentioned he was a copy editor for Penguin, which he was, through the choice of others who considered him a good copy editor and paid a barely living wage.
His profile showed three photos: One of him three years ago on the beach in Mazatlan, a fiery sunset coloring his thoughtful brow. The second with his pal Bob posing like chumps in a living room with lots of masks on the wall, but one especially vivid: an African woman with cheeks streaked black and red and a white angel centered on her forehead. The third photo he liked best: it was ten years old but he figured he was still a fair version of the thinner man. He was sitting on a jagged red rock in Petra, Jordan.
Petra was the lost city, a magical place like Sedona. His trip through the Mediterranean — Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Egypt — was very educational and remained the highlight of his life. He looked good sitting on the rock, a stoic longing locked in his kneecaps and elbows, a thoughtful soul coming to grips with and wisely navigating life’s swift currents.
Over several months, Alan had written to about twenty women. One wrote back: Jennifer, and they met for coffee. Alan thought they had a good time, but Jennifer, a vivacious middle-aged brunette with more than a few extra pounds, was quick to e-mail that Alan was a nice man, and she did have a good time, but she wasn’t feeling the chemistry.
He received about a dozen inquiries, women winking and asking a coy question like: Where is the sunset in your pic? or stating the tired obvious: You look like Paul Giamatti. All his female pursuers were older than he: one was ten years older, and not one was slim. They’d all raised lots of kids and were now grandmas looking to rekindle a discarded passion. Alan wasn’t pleased with the Darwinian selection, perhaps even a bit offended, but there was nothing he could do about changing his status.
Therefore he was intrigued when he received an e-mail saying: “You look like Joe Namath.” The woman was fifty, only four years older. She was short, 5’1”, and had a nice curvy body and a pleasant if sun-struck face. Her cyber name was Jem, and she worked as a day trader in the stock market. She’d never been married and had no kids.
Alan leaned back in his chair: he liked Jem, the first time his heart twitched in longing after weeks of browsing profiles and composing e-mails and going out on two dates, the first with the abovementioned Jennifer, and the second when he met Dottie. They’d exchanged e-mails all day and then he dared her to let him come over.
“I guess that’s where the rubber hits the road,” Dottie e-mailed back and gave him the address. He showed up with a good Cabernet and met a nice woman, with kind, light-green eyes and sloping hips. Her two kids were in college and she’d been divorced for five years. They spent a pleasant and passionless evening. They even got naked and fooled around, nice enough, but the chemistry wasn’t there.
Maybe Jem, who thought he looked like Joe Namath, could cast a line to capture his loneliness. He e-mailed: “Is that a good thing?”
She LOL’d: “r u kidding? Joe’s a babe magnet.”
He typed: “Do you really work out six days a week, ride your bike for 100 miles and play racquetball 3 days a week?”
“I sure do.”
“Wow. That’s great. I do the treadmill and weights, and I like swimming.”
“Do you like camping?” Jem asked.
“Not really, but you never know, if it’s with the right person.”
“Alan, r u flirting with me?”
“This is my first cyber flirt, and I’m only doing it cause u said I looked like Joe Namath.”
“So you’re a day trader on the stock market?”
“Does it really work?”
He frowned: “I thought of investing in the market last year, when I had a few extra bucks, but I didn’t.”
“Amazon. It was down to 34. Now it’s 130. I’m an idiot.”
“LOL. LOL. If I had a dollar for every time that happened.”
Alan chuckled to himself and typed: “So I wrote a story about it, kinda. I embellished a little. It’s called ‘The Tingle’, about a day trader who never goes wrong.”
Jem LOL’d: “I gotta read it!!”
Alan smiled with unrequited passion. He sent Jem the Word doc, and then waited for thirty minutes. Then he typed: “Did you get it?”
The cyber stream remained wearily silent.
Alan tucked himself in with a good book, but was also saddened by the rejection, for it was a rejection, if only in Internet pathways. He’d never met Jem, had no idea if her voice was high or low, if she smelled good, or if she had a wise twinkle in her brown eyes.
Jem didn’t write back the next day, or the day after that. Her profile showed that she’d deleted all his e-mails. Alan sighed with tempered resignation. No harm, no foul.
* * *
“He lives in Folsom and works as a copy editor for Penguin Books. I thought he was a nice guy but then he sent me this weird story he wrote,” Jem said and sipped her martini. Seven o’clock had passed and with it Happy Hour and the chance to meet someone nice. She felt deflated, besieged by thirty-something Milfs.
Gina, a chubby forty-something blonde, bit off a celery stick smothered with ranch. “How was the story weird?”
“It’s about this day trader who’s never wrong. He feels a tingle in the back of his neck when a trade is right.”
Gina raised a thumb. “I like that.”
“I did too,” Jem said, “but then the story got weird. The big banks figure out his stats and think he’s got inside info, which he doesn’t. But his stats are too good. They want a share of the profits and threaten him.”
Gina clapped. “I love this story.”
Jem sipped her martini. “So the guy decides he’s not going to take crap from them,” and then told Gina how the story ended.
The chubby blonde frowned. “That’s a dumb ending.”
“I know,” Jem said. “Makes you wonder what he was thinking.”
Gina nibbled on the celery stick. “So many whacko psychos out there.”
Jem drained her martini. “You think he knows something, you know, illegal, like maybe he knows these kinds of people?”
Gina laughed. “Probably. Can you e-mail me the story?”
“No problem,” Jem said and stood up. “This place is dead. Wanna go to French’s?”
“I’d love to but I have this insane deadline on the quarterly report. I gotta get back home and put in a few hours on the comp.”
The women walked to their cars, where they hugged, and then drove off, Jem in her red Honda Accord, and Gina in her silver Toyota Camry.
* * *
Copyright © 2011 by Ilan Herman