The Farce is Strong with This One

Dearest Rachel –

Saturday, July 9 (3pm)

I have so many potential titles for this letter, but it may have to wait to see how things play out, which means that this will need to carry over through tomorrow, because it’s not going to be able to be wrapped up today. However, today is not looking promising: I considered the likes of “Well, There It Is” or “Here We Go Again,” because, quite honestly, this is starting to look discouragingly familiar.

I say ‘starting’; that’s rather over-dramatizing things, really. It’s only been a couple of days since, but you’ve already heard me express doubts about the veracity of Lalla and her flowery expressions of affection towards me. But at that point, the only issue was a question about the situation in Highland Park and her claimed proximity to the events there. Anyone might reasonably claim to be affected by such, especially those of us living in similar places, and relatively nearby, to boot. Highland Park, after all, is much closer, geographically and demographically to us than, say, Uvalde or Parkland or Littleton, just to name a few (although, quite honestly, the South Side of Chicago is probably closer to Woodridge than Highland Park is, when you come down to it, and its goings-on don’t generally phase either of us, more to our shame. Again, tragedy versus statistics, I suppose).

Despite my misgivings, I’ve allowed her to continue to contact me, and I have dutifully responded as best I can whenever she does – which I told you I was going to. Any doubts about her I’ve kept in the back of my mind; not forgotten, but set aside, as she had yet to make any requests of me that might be construed as the beginnings of an actual scam.

The fact that I’m telling you about this should give you some indication of where this story is going.

To be fair, the morning started out innocuously enough. I heard the ‘ping’ of a text message arriving as I stepped out of the shower. She was, as her habit, inquiring about my morning, and whether I’d had breakfast yet (I’d already let her know I wasn’t nearly the coffee fiend that she was, and that I was more likely to take orange juice with my morning repast). She even had the cheek to offer breakfast to me if I was willing and able to join her – half jokingly, at least, since who can clear their schedule with that little notice? I mentioned the men’s Bible study I was already planning to go to – although I didn’t mention that we would be having breakfast there, not that it was an important detail to add to the conversation – but suggested that I might be free to meet her tomorrow, if she were amenable.

You see, it turns out that Daniel and Logan are planning to go to a… I’m not sure what it is. A convention? An exposition? Anyway, it has to do with comics, and it’s down at Rosemont, where they hold Anime Central. So he’s going to church this evening; if I were to accompany him, I might have tomorrow completely free to meet up with Lalla.

And in fact, she gave me the name of her church, which I’ve since looked up. Shouldn’t be that hard to find, and – shades of Austrine – I might just head down there and check it out. Of course, I plan to let her know about this, but first…

…she texted me that she ‘need[ed] a little help.

‘I’m a little bit out of cash. Can you borrow me some money till month end?’

Well, there it is.

The weird thing about her assertion, of course, is that we’re barely one third into the month. And giving her suburban lifestyle (she’d actually sent pictures of her alleged house and car – the former is practically a McMansion, and the latter, while a sedan rather than an SUV, looks to be of fairly recent vintage. Either that, or it’s well-tended, from all appearances), the amount she was asking for would barely take care of a car payment, let alone a mortgage or any other bills. It wouldn’t be likely to carry someone entirely through the rest of the month.

But of course, were she to ask for enough to pay every bill from now until the end of July, the average man would be expected to balk and bail. Of course, I’m not the average man. If nothing else, my attitude is that, regardless of amount, this is an inappropriate request to be made of me, especially sight unseen. The story is always different from woman to woman, but the elements are always the same. So I’ve gotten quite used to the drill by now, which doesn’t speak well for them.

However, since it’s always a different woman, I think they tend to be put off balance by my response; I don’t say ‘no’ outright, but I’m not the sort of sucker who will send money online, either. As with Ruby, I dangle the offer to pony up, IF we can meet in person. I’ve told her about how my schedule for tomorrow has fallen into place; let’s see what she has to say about it.

Saturday, July 9 (7pm)

After telling her my plan, and heading off to church with Daniel, I expected that to be it. At this point, I expected her to simply ghost me, since all she wants is my money. On the other hand, she knows I’m headed to her area. So, what should she do? Discourage me from coming, since there might well be a confrontation (not likely, but I’ll explain why not in a moment)? Let me go, and just not show up? That latter one would seem to be the easiest thing to do, since it should be clear to her that she’ll not get a thing from me unless we see each other (hey, if nothing else, I’d be willing to spring for Sunday dinner for the two of us – or even the three of us, if her son accompanies her to church).

But her move strikes me as somewhat curious; she asks if there’s a store near me. It strikes me as a silly question; both of us (allegedly) live in the suburbs; there are no food deserts out here. Of course, there are stores nearby. Regardless, she then asks if I would be willing to but her some iTunes cards.

It’s not the first time I’ve gotten that request, either, but it still strikes me as odd. My guess is that this isn’t even Lalla – if it ever was – but some hacker from some other side of the globe who’s either created or taken over the account. It would certainly explain the lack of comprehension about the Highland Park attack, for instance. And, since it’s clear to whoever it is that I’m not about to send anything by PayPal or Venmo or what have you, there’s always gift cards that work like cash.

Except why would this person think I’d be willing to do that, when I’ve made it abundantly clear I’m not sending anything? I’ll hand it over – maybe – but otherwise, no deal. ‘She’ literally asks ‘can [I]’ do this, to which I say I can do, but won’t. At this point, you’d probably be referencing that bit from the Monty Python TV series with that exact line (oh my, where am I going to find a girl that’s as into those blokes as I am?).

I end the conversation for now with ‘I’ll see you tomorrow; we’ll talk then.’ whether ‘she’ views that as a threat or a promise in up to her.

Sunday, July 10 (7am)

One day in your courtyards is better
    than a thousand days anywhere else.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the Temple of my God
    than live in the ·homes [L tents] of the wicked.

Psalm 84:10, Expanded Bible

I know this is going to be a waste of time, to drive the 27 miles each way to ‘her’ church to see Lalla this morning. I can almost guarantee that I won’t see her, either; like when I visited Austrine’s church, I am conspicuous by being the unfamiliar face amidst the crowd, while to me, the entire congregation is nothing but a sea of unfamiliar faces. Unless she’s there, and actually approaches me (which, given the interactions thus far this weekend, is highly unlikely), I expect absolutely nothing to come of this trip.

But that’s fine. Time spent in His house (as with the old saying about time enjoyed while wasting it) is never wasted time. Really, when you come down to it, there’s no better place to be: to exercise your faith in God, when you’ve lost all faith in humanity.

And this experience (along with so many others throughout the past year) have certainly chipped away at my faith in people. Thankfully, I’m not required to have any faith in other people, otherwise I’d be in a terrible mess, as would we all, when you come down to it.

Still, it promises to be an adventure, even if only a farce of one. Wish me luck, honey… I’m going to need it.

Sunday, July 10 (10am)

I managed to catch Daniel as he was waking up, and told him of my plans. Since he’s been party to my previous problems with Ruby and the like, he told me to make a report back to him; so this part of the letter is as much for his benefit as yours. For one thing, he wanted to know if the church was traditional (and presumably dying – he literally can’t imagine any such church surviving these days, but his experience is rather limited) or modern (like ours) or – worst of all – woke.

Regardless of any other description, it’s decidedly small

From first impressions, it would seem to be most like the first category. It’s no Saint Peter, but it’s not Prospect Christian, either. And while for the first few minutes, I’m convinced that I’m the youngest person here (which you would think would make finding Lalla relatively easy; just find the one other person my age in this small crowd), they are reasonably friendly, greeting me as a guest like you’d expect.

And in fact, I wasn’t the oldest one there; there was a middle schooler with glasses and a pixie cut that seemed to be there with her grandparents (although it took until we had to stand for the first hymn that I realized she was wearing a skirt rather than shorts, and thus was a ‘she’ – or at least, identified as one). Then again, you combine the short hair and the older-looking guardians, and she’d be a dead ringer for you at that age, I suppose – although you used to insist that your church had more young people back in the day, and, compared to just one, that’s likely true.

The sermon was about the Good Samaritan, and how the question we need to deal with isn’t so much “Who am I required to be a neighbor to?” (as the lawyer inquiring of Jesus meant) as much as it is “Can you be that neighbor to anyone in need? Even enemies, and those that hate you, and those you might justifiably (from a human standpoint) hate?” It’s a fair question, although I have always had some difficulty reconciling the implications of that with His instructions to ‘wipe the dust from your feet’ of those who reject His message, or even His dealings with the rich young ruler, who He appeared to lovingly tell to go to Hell, since He knew he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to follow the final command Jesus gave him). But those aren’t questions for a time like this, and even if they were, I’d be just as guilty of trying to justify myself as that lawyer had.

There wasn’t much more to the service than that, apart from the eucharist, which I (not being Lutheran) excepted myself from. You might have enjoyed the old hymns, but only one felt familiar anymore. Guess I’m just that out of practice.

Afterwards, nearly everyone greeted me, and hoped I’d come back. Really, quite a nice place. But it isn’t as if I’ll be back, and when I mentioned where I was from – because I was asked if I was from Woodridge – they were quite surprised, and understanding that I wouldn’t be. I did mention Lalla’s real name (or at least, the name she gave me in our texts), and none of them recognized it. So that confirms what I had assumed all along.

So it’s been a very different Sunday. Not better, to be sure, but different. Sometimes you need one, just to stir things up, I suppose. I wonder how days are – assuming there are days – where you are? Wish you could let me know.

All I can ask is for you to keep an eye out for me – oh, and thanks to you and the Lord for doing so up to this point. Love you, honey.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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