Sometime in her FB life, she received a request from a foreigner – and for whatever reason she couldn’t place, she accepted, actually, rather perfunctorily. It was the first time she ever did. Since the beginning, she had made it a policy to ignore requests from foreign men. She felt she had no need for it, the plainest reason. Thus, she had completely ignored all the requests she found in her request notifications – not bothering to even take a glance at the faces of the men, where they came from, how they looked, what they did, etc. The few that she did proved to be not at all to her taste, not by a long shot.
Analyzing it later, she thought it must have been that she rather liked the way he looked – a tall man with a gentle face. She also must have liked the idea that he went to high school in Dublin, Ireland, and was with the French Foreign Legion and was stationed in Scotland. The French Foreign Legion: She was both fascinated and intrigued by this. She knew the song, and used to hum it before, during the Sinatra-craze phase of her music-filled life. Also, she thought that the French Foreign Legion was a thing of the past, was history. It surprised her that it still existed. He went to the War College and he was a paramedic, his profile said. Which she did not quite understand. He explained that they did the job of the doctors in the war zone. Not very interesting, she thought. Later, she was to know that he also did something else, like going underwater fixing oil rigs. Absolutely not interesting at all, she thought.
Also, at her age, she didn’t think that she should still be doing it – encouraging, or having friends in the internet, least of all, foreigners. But beyond that, it was a total absence of interest to include somebody in her list whom she didn’t know before. To her FB was for long ago friends, friends she had lost along the way in the byways of life: former classmates, officemates, students, as well as friends and family, relatives living both here or abroad, mostly those living abroad.
Undoubtedly, desire for anything romantic was farthest from her mind. Not that she hadn’t done it before. But precisely because she had done it before. Some 18 years ago, when the internet was still relatively new in the country, and she, having the resources to go online, had a service provider, an email address.
So, she had done it. When very few were already doing it. Done ICQ, MIRC, MSN. Gone to the chat channels, trivia channels, even became a channel op, befriended and got close to the channel habitués, most of them of other nationalities. She felt the excitement of this new world, the world of the internet, knew it as a virtual world, but fancied that it didn’t seem to differ much from the real world.
And so, she had friends, admirers, and lovers too.
Exhilarating times they were. That was 18 years ago. When she was almost two decades younger. Actually older than she presented herself. And yes, the only lie she ever committed in her life – age – and for which she felt no guilt. Why should she when she was gifted with features that made her look almost half her age at any point in her life? So she was a fifty year old pretending to be a woman in her late thirties.
She gave it a chance. No, not really. She felt something else. She had actually seen a few of the introductory lines of all these guys, and for some reason not quite clear to her, she felt like testing the guy, see what he had to say. If it was the usual “I was surfing the net and I saw your beautiful face and your attractive smile and I thought I would like to know you, know you better, even.” Or something different.
The usual. Boring and predictable. Prosaic. She knew she would be bored to hell. And so, she started the offensive: “Oh really? So, what do you do?” It was to be a series of inquisitorial, investigative questioning. Something in the way he talked, the way he spoke/wrote his messages, made her feel that he was not a native American, and she said so. Also, something in the way he answered – by the way – his name was Nicholas Mcdonald – which made her suspect, rightly or wrongly that he wasn’t particularly bright.
But there was something about his face. Which was soft and kind, almost fatherly.
You know there is something about your English which tells me you’re not quite American.
Oh. So, you’re an immigrant.
No, I’m not an immigrant.
Who’s Irish and who’s Italian? Your profile says you went to Dublin for your high-school.
My father was Irish, my mother Italian.
And you were with the French Foreign Legion? I thought that was a second World War thing. Do you know the song? French Foreign Legion? Sinatra.
No, I don’t.
And you went to the War College for your college?
So, are you a doctor?
I’m a paramedic. But I also do deep sea diving.
Oh, is that part of your job?
And so, what do you think can happen between you and me here?
I just want to know you. I’m a widow. And I think I can still have my chance at happiness.
Really. Do you know how old I am?
I am not concerned about age. A man and a woman understanding each other, that is what is important.
How old are you?
Older than you think.
Well, I’m seventy.
No, it didn’t matter, said he. Every morning when she woke up, she would see in her notification box, always a bouquet of flowers with accompanying affectionate messages. Every single day, every single morning. She began to look forward to it and found herself smiling at the sight of the colorful, beautiful bouquet of flowers, different each time. She was pretty certain there must have been a website where he was getting this. Each bouquet had the inevitable lines expressing sweet love, deep love and affection. Though cynical about it at first, it eventually had its effect on her, putting a smile her face, each time starting to feel a thawing of the initial indifference and coldness in her heart. Although each time too, there was that feeling in her, a suspicion, a cynicism about how unoriginal he was. Couldn’t he write something original? Couldn’t he write something coming from his own mind, his heart? She was very certain he was getting these images of bouquets of flowers from a lovers’ site – these flowers cum love messages. She noticed too, that there were occasions when there would be what seemed like original lines. And how she would conclude with a kind of secret smile how indeed he had tried to add something of his own. And that would be because it would be rather obvious to her – the syntax, the grammar, the word usage. It was discomfiting, but she chose to ignore it. What she would miss, she thought should Nicholas suddenly were to go out of her life. She had started to acknowledge that indeed this man had brought a kind of light to her life – like what that Sinatra song was saying, with the lyrics that went: “something or someone to light up my life”
After a week, he asked her if she had Messenger.
What about Skype?
You have a Smartphone, yes?
No, I don’t think my cell phone is smart.
But you do have a cell phone.
Can I have your number?
He called her right there and then. He sounded like a high-school kid on his first date. And so, added to the menu were the calls to her cell phone: morning calls, evening calls. Morning calls while she was still in bed, about to wake up, mooning about him or doing her morning prayers; calls before she would go to bed, still mooning about him. The calls were not really long. They did not really delve on anything – serious or not. Just greetings and cute little expressions of love. It did not take long at all for them to naturally fall into the usual endearments, calling each other, “love,” “darling, “honey.” It amazed her that she naturally fell into bestowing him with such endearments, amazed her that she really seemed to mean it.
She was right. His voice did not sound American. It did not have the Western nor Eastern accent. Not British either.
Next time, we were messaging she asked where he got his accent and he said from his mother, his Italian mother.
He said that his parents separated when he was nine. She didn’t ask for the reason nor did he offer one. She realized that from day one, she had been trying to do a lot of piecing together of seemingly disjointed facts. Not that there were many. They never really went far from his seemingly single focused trajectory of “their” relationship: and that was to persuade her to consider having a life with him, consider loving him; that it was very important for him, and for everyone for that matter, wasn’t it? She was amused that the matter of her age which she had made clear since the beginning never cropped up again, that fact which he so nobly ignored. He said he had been looking for a partner since his wife died of cancer five years ago. Mmmm, she thought, some details this time. And yes, he had a son, living with his mother in California.
One source of mystery for her too, was that he didn’t seem to have friends in his Timeline. And when she mentioned it to him, he said something about his privacy settings. That it was company policy – not to divulge their associations.
Hence, aside from the almost daily sweet and endearing words accompanying the flowers which would greet her in the morning, his calls became another source of delight. She attributed, equated his calls to seriousness on his part – the fact that he would call from far off Scotland – that he would spend money just to say hello, hear her voice, engage in a few loving exchanges. Actually, she wondered if she was truly affectionate to him even.
But she found herself or thought herself falling in love by the middle of the month. In her diary she wrote: “A man in my life! There’s a man in my life!” She started to like the sound of his name. Nicholas. Nicholas Mcdonald. She began to keep on going to his Timeline and gazing at his photos, one was of him wearing a mask and obviously inside an operating room. Only once had he referred to his job as a paramedic: “We did an operation today.”
She was exulting. But she conceded that she was only thinking that she was in love. “Am ALMOST in love!” she declared. She began to fall in love with songs again, downloading them one after the other from You Tube. Songs she used to love before, singing them, and feeling each of them as she did: “What a Difference a Day Makes,” “Special People,” “From Both Sides Now,” “Almost Like Being in Love,” “French Foreign Legion.” She woke up and went to sleep with a smile on her face. She felt like singing to the world.
The calls were quite regular now. And the texting as well. Just to greet each other “Good Morning” and “Good Night” with what began tentatively, awkwardly, she sensed, but had slowly acquired the regularity of endearments exchanged between couples on long, established relationship. Not hearing from him for a day or not receiving the usual message when she woke up was enough to immensely upset her day. And she would entertain countless gloomy thoughts, that it was really just a casual thing as probably most things in the internet were, nowadays – but not in her youth, or what she considered still her youthful years, not during those times when she first so naturally jumped into internet affairs.
To be continued…