Is it possible to miss someone who never really existed? To long for something you never actually had? Well, of course it is, I tell myself–that’s what dreams are. Right? Sure. But in this case, I’m not talking about a dream I had. I’m talking about something altogether different.
Before I go any farther, let me just say that sharing this with the entire world was a difficult choice to make. I need to get this out of my head, though, so here we go! A few posts ago I mentioned that I’d ventured back into the world of online dating, and that I’d met someone.
His profile on OkCupid said his name was Justin, a computer engineer in his mid-40’s, living in New York City. He had a cute profile picture; not movie star cute, but attractive. (I’m not movie star attractive, and I don’t judge a book by its cover!) He liked books, jazz, Asian food, and travel. He messaged me, and we chatted on the site for about a week and then through emails, and texts. After a couple of weeks, he asked if he could call, and I said yes. Talking to him was very nice; he was funny and smart, and I liked him. He did have a strange accent that made understanding him difficult sometimes; it almost sounded as if he had a hearing problem as a child. He told me his accent was from growing up in Germany, where his mother still lives. It didn’t sound at all German to me, but I accepted his explanation, because by this time, I was starting to like this guy. Of course, I should have paid more attention to the things that didn’t add up. The strange accent. The fact that if I called him I always got voice mail. And the strangest thing, the one that really should have made me know I was being played–he had no online presence. I did a Google search for the name he gave me — Justin Peacock– about a week after we started talking, and while I did get some hits, they clearly were not him. There is a writer of that name living in NYC, and he popped up. His books, mystery/thrillers, are pretty good. But that’s neither here nor there. I thought this lack of any kind of online presence was odd, given that he claimed to be a freelance computer engineer; in this day and age, how do employer find him if he isn’t online? No Facebook profile, either. Something was smelling fishy.
A month or so went by, and “Justin” called me nearly every night. I enjoyed our talks, and was truly feeling something for this man. I’d set aside my suspicions, except for a little niggling in the back of my mind. And then he told me he loved me. Frankly, I was astonished. We’d never met, and he loves me? Seriously? He seemed sure of himself, so I went with it, and let him declare his love. I wasn’t in love–yet–but I was developing very strong feelings. Then he began telling me he had a job coming up that was taking him out of the country. He said he was going to Malaysia for a month to negotiate the contract, then he’d return home before going back for a year. He said he wanted me to come with him for that year. Well, from there it all went down hill. The week before he was supposed to leave on this trip his calls were fewer and fewer. The day he left, he didn’t call, and I was angry and hurt; how do you leave the country for a month and not even call the girl you say you love to say goodbye? What the hell was going on? I emailed him, and heard that he’d been running so late he’d nearly missed his flight, and how sorry he was. Yadda yadda yadda. From then on, the excuses flowed like a river. When I told him that my sister suspected he was playing me, he told me he’d planned on coming to Portland on his way back home after his month was up, to surprise me and prove them wrong. Then he said he was having trouble with his bank and couldn’t put minutes on his phone, so couldn’t call me. I really didn’t know what to think at this point, but I was torn. A big part of me wanted him to be real, and to have him show up on my doorstep. But the sensible part of my brain said “Jonna, something is not right here. Find out why!” So I did what I could, and put his picture into Google image search, and hoped against hope that I was actually talking to a man named Justin Peacock. Nope. I got catfished.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term catfish, let me enlighten you.
someone who pretends to be someone they are not online to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances. From the 2010 movie Catfish
CATFISHED : Being deceived over social media as the deceiver professed their romantic feelings to his/her victim, but isn’t who they say they are.
Having a fake profile, images and avatar in order to lure people to have romantic feelings. They are then catfished when the victim realises the person they have fallen for via social media is not who they appear to be.
The picture led me to a Google Plus profile of a man in California named Alexander Appleby (his name sounds fake, too, I know). Every picture “Justin” had sent me was from one of Alexander’s profiles, either on Google Plus or Facebook. Just to be sure these were not the same people, I called the business phone number listed on the profile, and spoke to Mr Appleby. I’m not sure if I was hoping to hear “Justin’s” voice or not, but the voice I spoke too was definitely not the man I’d been talking to. And he was rather upset to find out someone had been using his photos in such a manner.
I sent an angry email to Justin, telling him I knew the truth, and wanted to know who he really was, and why he’d done this. Needless to say, I’ve heard absolutely nothing since.
What really bothers me is that I miss him. I miss that imaginary person, and that makes me both sad and angry. I swear, if I ever meet the person behind “Justin Peacock”, I will bring the wrath of the gods down upon them.