Subtle humor peppers his sentences. As a writer, I like that. I don’t remember who reaches out first, but he is the one who suggests we cut the messaging and get on the phone. I’m game.
His words are halting and choppy. Might be a slight speech impediment. Or perhaps English is not his first language. He’s clumsy in conversation, so I pick up the slack. The next morning, he texts, calls again that night.
The verbal chop is perplexing, but time, I figure, will expose its source. He blames the poor connection on an old BlackBerry, soon to be replaced with an iPhone. His daughter’s been nagging him. I weigh whether to engage longer or move on.
My friend Susan arrives from Florida. “Give the guy dating perfect match more time,” she urges. “Doctors are socially awkward, podiatrists even more so, I bet.”
So much so that around Valentine’s Day every year the FBI issues a news release cautioning hopeful lovebirds against cat-fishing scammers
A few nights later, he ends our conversation with an audacious prediction, finished in a whisper: “After we meet this Friday, I think you’ll look at me and say, ‘That’s David. He makes me really happy.’ ” His approach could not be more timely or better scripted.
I meet my friends Gerald, Elsa and Eric for our monthly happy hour. Like many happily married friends, Elsa and Eric live vicariously through Gerald’s and my reportage on matters of the heart.
“I believe I have a suitor,” I declare, and I outline David’s bio: United Nations doctor stationed in Syria, on leave now, at the end of his contract. His wife died of cancer three years ago. Born in Denily moved to Utah. Yes, he still has his accent. Gerald’s eyebrows peak.
Wednesday night, I have dinner with friends and sneak into the bathroom to read and respond to his texts. He finds my behavior so funny and cute.
An hour ago, the United Nations called, he says, and he must leave immediately for a briefing in New York. He redeploys Friday. Thomas, a dear friend and his replacement in Syria, was ambushed, his body found yesterday.
He calls before takeoff, again from New York. He doesn’t know when we’ll connect again, he says, but email might work. Get ready, I tell him, because we writers are prolific online.
A podiatrist by profession, his profile says, and he’s looking for a serious relationship
The last time we talk it’s 4:30 a.m. my time. I make one request: “Please, give your daughter my number. Should anything happen, I’d like to know the truth.”
Gerald, Elsa and Eric reply with texts of monosyllabic surprise. “I can hear your skepticism,” I write back, “but I know he’s legit.”
My sister, the family genealogist, goes uncharacteristically silent when I tell her. I ask if she can find David’s wife’s obituary.
My phone rings within the hour. No obit, she says, and his name isn’t on the U.N.’s list of doctors in Syria. She does, however, find detailed accounts of dating scams. Turns out my experience follows a rutted path.
In 2017, over 15,000 people in the United States were bilked out of more than $211 million through what the FBI calls confidence or romance fraud. Such schemes involve deceiving someone into believing that the perpetrator is a family member, friend or potential romantic partner. Actual losses are likely much higher. A study from the Better Business Bureau cites Federal Trade Commission estimates that fewer than 10 percent of victims report their financial losses to law enforcement.