Passing Ships

Frozen in Time
Image by fred1st via Flickr

Her name was India. Or at least that’s what she told me. I trusted her briefly.

She discovered the blog in 2004, and came around from time to time with great comment-suggestions for ramping it up a notch–generating photographic cards (which I have since done), having a business card (which I did not need very much at that point, but she insisted) and other more aggressive marketing actions for my writing and photography at a time when I was still “reinventing” my future. She almost convinced me to take myself seriously and not just blog my life away.

That kind of work is what she did, she had told me, after losing her federal job with the transition of administrations in 2004. She also told me she’d had a serious skiing injury and was not able to leave her apartment very much to find other work, so was trying to make things happen using her computer.

We had several long phone calls and became friends, I thought. I introduced her to some colleagues for whom she had some targeted promotional ideas related to their businesses. I couldn’t vouch for her, but only passed along her contact information, and she did the rest. I wish I’d kicked the tires a little longer.

Point came in our two month acquaintance where she was becoming desperate to pay her rent, voicing her concerns resolutely and courageously at first, but quickly becoming tearful and anxious. I still don’t know the truth of it, but think looking back it was a clever ploy, and I bought it.

I was torn about what to do. She needed $300 right away, and would repay me. I decided I’d be better to be a fool than a miser. I sent the money. I never heard anything more from her, and she couldn’t be reached at the (pay phone?) number we’d used for our conversations. There are legitimate reasons to explain why she suddenly disappeared, but I’m thinking I was manipulated and betrayed. Ah well.

I heard “told you so” from Ann. I felt confused and sad, then angry. I gradually forgot that episode that at the time was so significant and troubling–until I saw the little snippet on my “calendar map” of 2004 like I mentioned here the other day. A few succinct words in the November panel that brought it all back.

A story lives like an insect in amber in so many of those entries–of events that, at the time, consumed so much of my emotional or physical energy, that brought such joy or disappointment, hope or despair. It astounds me how quickly they recede in the distance of time, sinking beneath the surface of our present and lost for good if we don’t do something–like the calendar map, or like this blog–to give them buoyancy, to keep them afloat beyond us on a far horizon, to preserve them in a bottle that might drift ashore on a future continent of our lives.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred, yes, you were most likely taken but I’m happy you took the chance on her honesty and gave when you thought someone needed help.

    I have seen many of my more liberal friends pass by beggars on the street with the attitude that they are conning people, or worse, that they don’t even see them, yet spout off about how we need to fight poverty somewhere across the globe.

    I’m proud of what you did. Had she been a reality, and you didn’t give, you would have felt worse.

  2. My daughter responded to a stranger in a grocery store parking lot, who told her he needed money to get home to his dying mother. She gave him enough for a bus ticket to So. Carolina – and her cell phone #, which he asked for so he could call her when he had the $$ to pay her back. She made the mistake of telling her dad about it; he hit the ceiling about both the money and the phone number.

    I was rather proud of her – even though that guy never called back to repay her.

    I think you did the right thing, Fred, but I know it hurts to be taken advantage of.

  3. Oh, your post hits a tender nerve in me.

    I felt similarly “conned” from a friend I’ve known since the 7th grade. My better half has tried to remind me that our gift was offered without expectation. Whatever she’s done is her own life to live… even if she refuses to talk to me now.

    Let the truth of any gift stand on its own.

    Don’t ever expect a loan to family or friends to be repaid. It is a gift… without expectation.

    And, yes, it can be painful to remember those people who have made an impression on our lives and are no longer there for whatever reason. The best anyone can do is follow their own heart. And, that is where I want to seek my own joy.

    I hope you can find peace about this.

  4. In the larger scheme of things, $300 is not a whole lot of money. Did you get scammed? Maybe. But you also got some good business suggestions which were helpful. At least you didn’t get sued for “breach of verbal contract”, like I did! That cost me several thousand dollars – be grateful that you got off cheaply. One of the weaknesses of being a “bleeding-heart liberal” is that we tend to trust too quickly. Sometimes that trips us up. Hopefully, we learn something every time we get taken advantage of and we are able to forgive and move on with life.

  5. I’ve given out several “loans” of this size that turned out to be gifts, and I’ve never regretted any of them. It’s better to be charitable toward others and reserve the suspicion for oneself.

  6. My sympathy, Fred, it happens doesn’t it? As someone says above, it probably says more about you than about the one who took it from you … it does make you wary in the future though.