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L.A. Affairs: She’s 35 and wants bitcoin. I’m 74 and a widower. Is this really love?

(Marina Esmeraldo / For The Times)

I have never been lonely. I was married for 20 years to an angel, Lucille. She became an angel suddenly — and on her birthday — in 1997, leaving me with a broken heart. Since then, the gaping hole in my heart has scabbed over, and it continues to beat despite its beating.

Being alone doesn’t mean I’m lonely, though. My life has been full.

I was a litigation specialist at my own law firm for 42 years before I retired a decade ago. For fun, I take pedal steel guitar lessons, and I’m designing a line of men’s jewelry. I’ve also collected contemporary Latin American art (Lucille’s passion, which I inherited). I bike and hike and religiously walk my three rescue Chihuahua mutts every day. I grew up in Los Angeles and have been all over the world.

Most of all, I still believe in love. So it was with trepidation that I read the lovely compliment on a new L.A. restaurant review I’d posted on Yelp, where I am a regular contributor, having posted 427 reviews. I thanked Angela for her kind words, which led to a few more brief correspondences between us.

He was a white boy from Los Angeles. I was a Blerd from Queens, N.Y., and a lifelong Democrat. He was a registered Republican. We didn’t dwell on our differences — at first.

Shortly after this, Angela asked for my email address so that our communication could be private. Skeptical by nature, I thought: What’s the harm? They’re just meaningless pleasant emails.

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As soon as I gave her my email address, my inbox overflowed with lovely, charming messages. Angela shared her history. A troubled childhood. Sent to live with a grandmother in northern Spain. On her own since 18. She told me that she lived in Southern California but was currently in New York.

We had much in common. She was as vulnerable as a pound puppy yet resolute and determined to find what she needed to live the life she wished for. I was drawn in by the exciting possibilities.

On Day Five, I froze after reading “What do you look like? Will you send me photos?” And, worst of all, she added: “How old are you? I am 35.”

What to do? I took 40 selfies until a few passed scrutiny. Her profile had a picture of a dazzling young woman. My Yelp page had photos of beef tartare and linguine vongole.

I didn’t want to reveal my age. I didn’t want her wonderful letters to end with an “Oh, I see. I’m sure you have many friends and I wish you the best.”

I became a dog dad and a husband. Does life get any sweeter?

“I’m 74,” I confessed. She responded almost immediately: “You are a handsome man. Age is not important to me. Honesty and commitment are what count.”

She told me that she appreciated my emotional accessibility and willingness to be completely open with her. “So many men think women like men that are brick walls. They don’t. At least, I don’t.”

I looked at her photos repeatedly until I began to notice slight differences. Short hair in one, long hair in another, minor facial feature anomalies. She assured me they were all her and all had been taken about the same time. I pushed my concerns aside and carried on.

On Day Six, she said she wanted to travel with me, to spend all her time with me. She wanted to be close on rainy days, held by me until she fell asleep and enjoy endless “kissing sessions.”

People meet online every day, don’t they? Gold is where you find it, isn’t it? I checked my computer constantly for new emails from her.

On Day Seven, she added a request at the end of the intriguing list of things we would soon be doing together.

“Would you be able to do me a small favor? Perhaps buy a few thousand dollars of gift cards for Google Play, Amazon and, oh yes, some bitcoin too? I want to give them to my business colleagues for year-end thank-you gifts.”

“Why don’t you buy them online?” I asked.

“I don’t have a credit card,” she replied.

He planned a wonderful first date at Exposition Park. Then I noticed he didn’t eat the cookies I had brought him.

“You can buy a blank Visa card and put the exact amount of money you want on it for specific use,” I wrote. “It’s easy.”

“Credit cards cause problems and complicate transactions,” she wrote back. “If you’re worried, I can wire you the money first. I just need to know which bank to transfer the funds to.”

That cast a pall over my intense and growing affection for her.

Suspicion began to gnaw at me like a hungry rat. I checked her activity list on Yelp. There were more than a hundred conversational threads — all with older gents. She used at least three different names. I inquired about her “friends.”

She was vague and evasive, and the next day her activities were scrubbed and deleted.

I also asked her about her aliases. She responded that she had one name for church, one for her personal use and one for business communications. Of course, that made perfect sense, who doesn’t have at least three names for everyday use? She stressed that it was me and only me she was interested in and that she was ready and willing to commit to a life together.

I fantasized about being with her. I envisioned all the things she wanted us to do as a couple. Travel, fine dining, theater, concerts, cooking dinners, adopting a puppy and lazy Sundays in sweats reading the paper.

Stranger things have happened. Why couldn’t something magic and special happen to me?

Sanity snapped back like a rubber band and kept me from following a manufactured dream down a rabbit hole, slipping into the abyss of make-believe. I didn’t give Angela my banking information. I wouldn’t know what to do with a bitcoin if it bit me in the ass. After a week of emails and her stated desire to spend her life with someone she never met (moi), I decided it was time to put an end to all the nonsense.

I let her know via email that this adventure was not for me. She immediately erased and deleted her Yelp page and disappeared into the ether with my blessings.

For me, over the years, love had become an elusive soap bubble floating out of reach. Loneliness showed up for breakfast, lunch and dinner frequently, and often it brought its life partner, sadness.

Hope still swings by for dessert every now and then, but hope is two-faced. Hope can be the ultimate mood elevator or simply offer a shimmering mirage.

Either way, Angela let me know one thing: My heart is unlocked and wide-open. I just have to make sure the screen door is shut.

The author is a freelance writer living in Orange County. He has written two novels and a collection of short stories. He’s on Instagram @mroatie1224.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email [email protected]. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.


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