Belmont Club


An Australian court is hearing a case against a dating company which allegedly bilked lonely men of exorbitant sums to meet non-existent women. Some of their clients were newly bereaved, mentally handicapped, deaf or otherwise impaired. “A New Zealand man who had lost his wife to cancer paid more than $683,000, believing a woman named Angie wanted to marry him. He came to Australia for their wedding but she phoned to say she was flying to America, where her daughter had been in a car crash.” When he phoned the dating agency to apply for a refund, who should answer but “Angie”.

Among the 11 men claiming services did not eventuate or fell well short of what was promised are two with intellectual disabilities, one who is deaf and another who was pursued by debt collectors and attempted suicide.  Two clients were promised nights out with Penthouse Pets. Three paid thousands of dollars to meet women on holiday in Fiji; the trips never went ahead.

Whether it is Moose Molloy looking for Velma or Anna seeking her Sailor From Gibraltar, a fair percentage of the world is evidently embarked on finding a cure for loneliness. Often they find the balm is worse than the disease. Derrick Bird, the British taxi driver who went on a shooting rampage, was allegedly pushed over the edge by a rejection from a Thai woman he met at the Spicy Girls A-go-go. Already deeply in debt, Bird gave her thousands of pounds in the expectation — who knows why expected it — that she would marry him.

Derrick Bird’s Thai lover dumped him by text message a few weeks before he went on his gun rampage, friends have revealed.

The overweight and balding 52-year-old was obsessed with the woman he knew only as ‘Hon’ and had sent her thousands of pounds.

He met the 32-year-old on holiday in Thailand three years ago and she had promised to move to England to be with him.

How can people make such blunders? Well they can if they’re looking to make them. The Indian Matrimonial website says “people always try to overcome their mistakes. Nobody wants to repeat mistakes everytime,” and offers them a chance to “marry again” through the services of their website. But in reality maybe the opposite is true. Perhaps people don’t want to break with an unhappy past so much as to relive it; to return to some point on the road to ruin and make the one change, the single alteration that would make it all turn out differently. It’s a condition that afflicts more than the mentally retarded or just the losers. For Jay Gatsby overcoming loneliness meant fixing the one thing that would make the ending different.

“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly. “She’ll see.”

He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was. . . .

. . . One autumn night, five years before, they had been walking down the street when the leaves were falling, and they came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight. They stopped here and turned toward each other. Now it was a cool night with that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes of the year. The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees–he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.

Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something–an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man’s, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever.

It wasn’t Daisy, but Velma that Moose was looking for that morning on Central Avenue when Philip Marlowe found him staring up at a joint that had always been seedy. He wasn’t looking out at the green light across the water, but he could have been Gatsby. He could have been anybody. Florian’s wasn’t called the Spicy Girls A-go-go, but it might have been.

It was a warm day, almost the end of March, and I stood outside the barber shop looking up at the jutting neon sign of a second floor dine and dice emporium called Florian’s. A man was looking up at the sign too. He was looking up at the dusty windows with a sort of ecstatic fixity of expression, like a hunky immigrant catching his first sight of the Statue of Liberty. He was a big man but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck. He was about ten feet away from me. His arms hung loose at his aides and a forgotten cigar smoked behind his enormous fingers.

Slim quiet Negroes passed up and down the street and stared at him with darting side glances. He was worth looking at. He wore a shaggy borsalino hat, a rough gray sports coat with white golf balls on it for buttons, a brown shirt, a yellow tie, pleated gray flannel slacks and alligator shoes with white explosions on the toes. From his outer breast pocket cascaded a show handkerchief of the same brilliant yellow as his tie. There were a couple of colored feathers tucked into the band of his hat, but he didn’t really need them. Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food. …

“I ain’t seen Velma in eight years,” he said in his deep sad voice. “Eight long years since I said goodby. She ain’t wrote to me in six. But she’ll have a reason. She used to work here. Cute she was. Let’s you and me go on up, huh?”

Dante believed that loneliness was the memory of happy times lost. And for perhaps that reason, the demand for love will always be greatest among those who have only heard rumor of it and glimpsed it, fleetingly, but once.

“No Way In” print edition at Amazon
Tip Jar or Subscribe for $5