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Post details: Photographer's Portfoolio

Photographer's Portfoolio

Some of my friends are a source of knowledge, some are a source of entertainment and some are a source of adventure. And that is the case with a friend of mine, whom I will call Xena, although she is not really a warrior princess. In fact, Xena is an au-pair for an Austrian family in Bethesda and her inamoratos always provide plenty of opportunity for some spine-tingling swashbucklery.

Not so long ago one of her boyfriends of roughly Turkish heritage was kind of very non-committal in returning her passport to her. So much so that one Monday night at 11:30pm I had to drive to a rather shady part of Arlington to personally retrieve it from him. When I arrived to the rendezvous place, a poorly lit and poorly populated shopping plaza off of Wilson Boulevard, I found three swarthy looking characters sprawling silently on the hood of their car in a manner vaguely resembling West Side Story. It all turned out well, but when I drove there I did some second-guessing on my resolution to cope with life's adversities without the use of firearms.

This time around her boyfriend of two years left the country under rather suspicious circumstances. His story - LIVE from Prague - was that he was deported for trying to bribe an official while taking the driving license exam. But we found too many leaks in that story: the Embassy had no record of his arrest, his home computer showed signs of looking for Prague accommodations well ahead of time and his friends were incommunicado. It seemed that the only link to his rather mysterious private life was his ex-girlfriend Mila from Baltimore, who contacted Xena shortly after he left.

So one September Sunday we braced ourselves and drove to the given address in Baltimore on a little investigative mission. We arrived at a simple 4-unit apartment building located in a neighborhood where I'd dare to live only if I had a platoon of Saddam Hussein caliber bodyguards around me. A three hour discussion was very helpful and included a short, but interesting, virtual tour through the boyfriend's photo album and through his bank account, which he shared with Mila. As we were uncovering the missing pieces of the puzzle, we realized that the life of the guy we both knew for more than a year was immersed in an elaborate cobweb of lies. Somewhere along the way, the career of an aspiring photographer took a nose dive and landed on the floor of Target's graveyard shift. At the end, the web became so suffocating that he himself could not keep up with it, so he pinched some money from both Mila and Xena and skedaddled quietly to his hometown in Czechoslovakia, leaving the hornswoggled girls to their own devices.

No wonder he always came up with an excuse when Xena wanted to see his place. He shared an apartment with his ex! Apparently he had two completely separate lives. One that we knew, and one that we learned about from Mila. In the latter one, I turned out to be a "guy from a photo club" and Xena was just a nanny of his "buddy" Andreas. But that little detail was what did him in. Mila did some good detective work and found Andreas' phone number, leading inevitably to Xena and to the uncovering of both hemispheres of his fraudulent existence.

How exactly he kept track of all his fibs is beyond me. My brain circuitry would overheat from all that smoke and mirrors. I had my doubts about the guy before, but I never really voiced them. I usually try to be supportive of my friends' decisions. But this taught me an important lesson: niceness has its limit - a little dose of sober reality is sometimes worth more than blind support.

smoke

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