• Lyn Coffin

TINDER 38

Updated: May 7

Aside to the reader: the author's note about the correspondence thus far....


(Austin left a message for me on Monday, May 23, and the phone obligingly told me it was from The Valley, Anguilla, which is a British island in Antilles, in the Caribbean. Not only that- there were two people at the pool in the picture (just discernible), and the set up appeared to be that of a hotel.

This morning, I read an old People magazine piece about a Seattle mother’s blind date that ended up with her murdered, and the accused’s ex-girlfriend said, “He was very charming and witty but manipulative. He got pleasure from hurting people.” I’ve been thinking about that all morning.

Throughout the Austin Experience (I use the word in full acknowledgment of the irony, because of course in many ways, this has been the Austin non-Experience, the Austin wished for -?-éperience, I have come up with many scenarios to “explain” or develop (in a narrative sense) the correspondence. Most obvious is the “he thinks I have money” scenario. This scenario is pretty much a cliché by now. When my male cousin saw the picture by the pool, his first (semi-humorous) comment was “He’s going to take you to the cleaners.” So- I’m an older woman. I travel a lot: perhaps that led Austin to believe I have money.

In the early days, I was waiting (especially when Austin began talking about oil investments) for him to mention an opportunity for me to invest, ya da ya da. Because one of the touchstones in this for me, that has let me go as far as I did, is that I have no money. I have no investments. I mean that literally. So, in one scene I pictured early on, the con man says he needs money and the woman says- I’ll give you half of what I have in the bank, the joke being that she (me) only has $100 in the bank. When it didn’t seem to be money Austin was after, and he began sending letters in which the topic of marriage was raised, broached by his mother, I decided he wanted to marry me so he could have US citizenship. (This jibed with his accent, the foreign localities of the phone calls, etc.) But then it seemed that with his good looks and so on, he could persuade someone a lot younger to marry him. So maybe he wanted to marry me so he could count on my dying soon (in darker versions of this fantasy, he murdered me). And collect whatever monies I had along the way. But then when I thought about his mother’s remarks, and the fact that on Facebook it says he’s interested in Men and Women (No friends on Facebook, I noted- and what scanty information it contains is recent)- No timeline, no school listed- when I processed all the information I had at that time, I came up with the following scenario: Austin was gay and his rich mother would not leave him her fortune until he married and gave him a veneer of respectability. I was fairly rooted in this fantasy until his mother died, or seemed to die. Or the woman in the picture died. (It seemed a little odd to take a picture of his mother in a coma, but then he was a photo-happy kind of guy.)

So now I’m wondering if whatever scenario Austin had in his mind is now over, or has just begun. I feel embarrassed by my emotional paroxysms, but not overly so. I had not realized how lonely I was. I started sharing the saga of Austin with friends, and that provided a veil of reality, through which I could watch what seem to be the events of wish fulfilment taking place. This is one of the strangest stories in which I have ever been involved. And I am also not above wondering who is taking advantage of whom. Early on, I reassured myself that when someone sends you a picture in an email, it becomes yours (a gift). I think I remember this from the Salinger legal battles—So I started keeping tabs and checking up. If I never hear from Austin again, I am going to see if I can’t find out more about who he is, or was, and come up with a scenario to explain our correspondence.

Of course, sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me. Not wrong in the sense of- Why did I let myself be carried away by fantasy: the benefits of that are clear, I think. The question is why did I assume, almost from the beginning, that he is a con man of some sort. Couldn’t a young and handsome man be lonely for love? Couldn’t he be swept away by a woman who says she cares about him, and writes poems and plays in his honor, or inspired by him. Couldn’t he be who he says he is?

Maybe the Northern Irish phone number is his home phone? Maybe the Anguilla phone number was—Well, I can’t explain that part of it.

If this is a con, it is either one that got aborted by the real death or a real mother or a really elaborate one, which has yet to reveal itself.

After I get done wondering who Austin is, I start wondering who I am, what my motivations were (erotic dalliance in the senior citizen, we dwell in the shadows of mortality, days?)

How do I feel? I no longer have any idea. I have been smitten, and rhapsodized on walking off into the sunset over the Azores with Austin. I have imagined introducing him to friends, imagined the shock they would not be able to disguise. Even—the envy?

The only constant for me has been my great sense of curiosity. Whether I feel that I am deeply in love or deeply in lust or afraid or fascinated- I want to meet Austin.

One last confession: reading back over the correspondence, I find myself noting stylistic notes that jar my ears, that can’t be explained by a foreigner’s English- “Giggles” was one I found

unattractive. Also “Baby.” There is not just the “German” accent to reckon with, some of the ways Austin uses language suggest English is not his native language.

But who do I think I am? One of the early scenarios, which I forgot to mention, was the scenario in which the woman tells the young man that she’s on to him, that she knows he called first from Northern Ireland and then from The Valley, Anguilla.

But she doesn’t care. And the young man reveals to her his tangled, troubled history as testament to his love for her.

Sigh. Maybe this afternoon I will research “Austin Nissan” and see what I can learn. Maybe I don’t want to know.

However, it is to be explained, Austin and I—well, I, at least—have had a wonderful adventure these past two weeks. I have felt alive and young and had something to look forward to, a mystery to solve.

PS (Fidelity Investments has no record of Austin Nissan as working for them. There is an Audrey Nissan, but no Austin.)

to be continued....

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