Then he asked me the question I’d been dreading: “Can you help me?”
The man who had stolen my photos to scam lonely people was now asking me for money. So much of our willingness to help other people depends upon what we know of their lives. Without being able to confirm anything he said, could I believe his story? Of course not. Still, he had answered my questions. What was that worth?
I told him I barely made enough to get by. “It won’t be much. Maybe 25 dollars.”
“Can you send an iTunes card with it?”
“I thought you were hungry.”
“Yes, but 25 dollars is very small, my friend.”
Indeed, it is.
I learned he had tried to scam only one of the women who had contacted me, though he had a list of 10 others I knew nothing about. Which, if true, meant there was more than one impostor using my pictures, in more than one location.
“I won’t use your pics anymore,” he said.
I thanked him and closed the app. Our whole exchange reminded me of the blogger who had led me on for too long. Without facts, without trust, human connection fails. And what is trust on the internet except a suspension of disbelief?
I haven’t sent him money, but I keep thinking about his son, who I believe may exist. Maybe. I’ve always been more sucker than cynic, but in any case, my impostor and I may not be done with each other.
“So how is life in America?” he texted recently.
I may still respond. In the meantime, I’m learning to live with the discomfort of knowing my images are still being used in ways I can barely imagine.