My friend was thrilled to report this morning that she is due a modest tax rebate – to be transferred to her account tomorrow.
“What perfect timing!” she exclaimed. She was radiant. Positively post-coital.
“Did they email you?” I ventured reluctantly.
“And did you give them all your account details?”
If J makes a mistake she always sucks in her cheeks and looks ahead quizzically, as if she’s counting sheep, before remembering to look cheery and changing the subject. This morning her ponderous expression lingered. It was mixed with disappointment and still twitched with hope.
I told her to pull up the email. It said it was from HMRC but was peppered with spelling errors and an unlikely speech about rebating tax to the honest majority while making sure that the dishonest minority didn’t get away with whatever they were trying to get away with.
But how could she have noticed any of that when she was so busy filling out her card details to facilitate a refund?
I never understand how these outrageous spam scams find enough fools to function: “you have wun munny”; “get unbending erections”; “he’s away, come ASAP”; “shy neighbour waiting for you.” Maybe I don’t understand because I know two inches isn’t enough to make me a man. Perhaps I’m not vulnerable to this kind of phishing because I haven’t been pining after my shy neighbour. Although now that I think of it, I did have a neighbour once, who was so good-looking he made taking the rubbish out exciting for a year. Perhaps if I had received a “shy neighbour waiting for you” email back then I’d have knocked on his door or sent my bank details to the Ukraine.
There’s no doubt that when you’re looking for something anyone can take advantage of you. Because you’ll believe anything. Years ago when I lived in a garret in Paris I came back to London for a few days to catch up with friends. At one party a bohemian read my palm. She was full of praise and positivity. I admit I was pretty pleased that my future looked so promising. Few people could see past the fact I was aimlessly waiting tables mid existential crisis – until now.
About a year later I met the same girl again. And I could barely contain my excitement and sceptic cool. Sure I was still waiting tables, but maybe I would soon be doing something else in gay Paris, like mixing cocktails or cleaning toilets. Again she read my palm. This time she was extremely negative. It didn’t bother me. I always think criticism, particularly harsh, personal criticism, is a warm up to a compliment. But she stopped talking. She turned away. She turned back. “I can’t go on with my reading,” she said.
I’m not a believer. I don’t believe in hell or damnation. I was never shaken by the Ouija board experiments at school. I boldly step on cracks. Sometimes I recklessly throw salt over my right shoulder instead of my left. But now I was afraid. For the next few weeks after my return I lay on my thin single mattress in my chambre de bonne listening to the broken window bat against the ledge in time to my trembling heart. What could go wrong with my perfect life? What terrible thing had she seen?
I was tortured. Full of fear like a Catholic in lust with her brother-in-law. It was nonsense. But I couldn’t help it. Until one day I did. I just decided not to believe in an idea that was making me unhappy. And I was cured. It was as simple as that.
Today when I really want something I try and remind myself that I have to make it happen. I am responsible. It’s the only way to avoid the dragnet of those dangerous phishermen. But we are all sometimes vulnerable to a ruse. Maybe I’ve even been offered an improbable tax rebate by email myself.
Anyway, J cancelled her card. And I’ve bought her a lottery ticket. Nothing wrong with keeping hope alive.