I left the building and reached into my bag for my cell phone. As I pulled it out it was buzzing and binging liking a pinball machine. I thought, oh no I must have opened some stupid email or text message and now I have some kind of virus. I didn’t even notice who the messages were from. It was insane. I barely get one text a day, never mind 2 or 3. This was unreal.
As I got into the car. My phone was ringing. It was my sister. I picked up the phone and said hello. But before I even finished speaking she was going on about some ad and some picture that had to be me. I had no idea what she was saying or what picture she was referring to. Finally, I was able to get a word in and asked her what she was talking about.
As she went on to describe the ad and photo she texted it to me. It was me. It was me back in college but it wasn’t me in the ad. The ad was for some kind of transgender surgery site. Apparently, my 20 year old face was the “after.” I was speechless. I said I had to go and would call her later. I called my husband, he was telling me he was getting texts and emails all day. A bunch of friends from our childhood had seen it and were texting him. He said, maybe it’s not really you but a girl who looks a lot like you. He went on to reassure me that it was just a look alike. He reminded me of the time we were at that BBQ and the people hosting had a photo on the fridge. It looked just like me when I had the spikey short haircut. She was even wearing a sweater I owned. We laughed and said this would blow over.
As I drove home, my phone range. It was Pam, my college roommate. She said she had seen it too and was wondering how I was doing. I told her I really hadn’t know much until a few minutes ago. She reminded me of that day we hung out at Faneuil Hall. She said didn’t you ever wonder what happened with all those pictures that guy Leonard was taking. Leonard was someone we had met a few times on campus. He was enrolled in the school of fine arts and was studying photography. One fine Saturday, we had run into a bunch of BU kids and had a few drinks at one of those outside bars. Leonard was snapping photos of passersby, us, dogs, and the way the sun flickered through the tall buildings surrounding the restaurants and shops. He offered us $50 to take our pictures just looking at him or smiling, or looking out toward the crowds. It was fun and we thought nothing of it. We figured we’d be fused into some kind of photo story or project for one of his classes. Pam suggested maybe he sold them to Photo Stock. The online free stock photo site. You know the place they get photos of people for bank websites, doctors offices and happy pet owners. We used the $50 to buy drinks for our friends and some pizzas. We were rich and thought nothing of it.
That had to be the case!. Where else would this photo come from. But something even weirded happened after that. It appeared that from that point on that photo had a life of its own. My friend Sherry was traveling in Europe and passed a youth hostel. The poster outside was my face photo shopped onto some girl in leggings and Lady Gaga t-shirt. It would seem my 20 year old face looked like the typical backpacking across Europe coed. Another siting came from my friend Patti in Spain. She traveled back to the US to visit with family for the holidays and her cousins had purchased new picture frames and my face was the photo insert. This could be you. And it was! It was me. Somehow this photo had some kind of resurgence and continued to appear all over the place. When logging in to my Hotmail I noticed the ads on the side. The ones that basically, target you with all the online searches and shopping you have done. Well it was my 20 year old face on the body of the woman wearing the gray Marino wool sweater I had clicked on at Nordstorm online. It continued for awhile and then it seemed to die down.
My husband joked and said, you should blog about this. Daily Face. Post the sightings and what the face was advertising. It seemed this face had traveled the world, gone scuba diving, had a sex change and was well dressed. At least by my tastes. I didn’t make the blog but laughed at the absurdity of it all and was glad this pic was finally disappearing.
Years went by and we hadn’t seen nor heard of any sightings. Until one day, there was a major news story that broke. Headlines read, “Top officials involved in Sex Trafficking Scandal; Women kept as Slaves for years.” And the photos they featured of all the women who were supposedly part of this horrible scandal were displayed on the nightly news. There is was again. My face. Under it was a name I did not recognize. Stacey Flannigan. They claimed this woman was now about 30 years old and this was a photo of her taken about 10 years ago in college. By this time I was nearly 50 and it wasn’t me. But the horror of any family or friends whom I may have lost touch with over the years could possibly believe it was me. Since the name was below the photo and nobody reads that stuff. I sighed deeply and said, “Fuck you Leonard, I hope the Photo Stock company screwed you for more than the $50.”