The dies of March (typo intended)On the first week of March, one of my RL cousins passed away, probably because of his heart condition.
The last time I saw him and his twin brother was when they were preteens. I got married and moved away from California. My mom and I went to the memorial that Saturday and reconnected with many relatives.
In the memorial, his friends talked about him. Bulky men, intimidating in their size and demeanor, all with shameless tears and mournful cries to a lost friend. Through them, I had a glimpse of who my cousin was as an adult -- warm, kind, and generous with his time and friendship.
I saw many of them again the following Wednesday (after work) for the scattering of his ashes.
Two days later, I received a message in FB that one of my SL best friends passed away irl. That hit me stronger and it still hits me. This is the first time that anyone close to me in SL passed away irl, and I'm seeing the practical consequences of this.
The unravellingI thought I could lay low and grieve privately. But, that day and in the days that followed, many things unravelled. Especially last night....
I have been very open about my SL relationships in this blog and in general. However, I've also tried to protect the privacy of the people with whom I have been involved. In this blog and in my book, I gave nicknames to important lovers and some casual lovers. Each nickname was significant and carefully chosen; it either indicated some characteristic of that lover, or it referred to some important event or an inside joke or a private term of endearment.
My predicament is in talking about something as significant as the real-life death of someone very important to me and its consequences in SL, while protecting the identity of the deceased and the secrets of the living.
This post was prompted by the unravelling of my own secrets in the wake of his death.
Twelve confessionsTo be clear, I still won't mention names, either RL or SL, but those involved would recognize each other and maybe discover new characters they didn't know about. And I hope that these revelations would help heal their pain and clear the fog around a man who was important to each of us.
That best friend who passed away was my first partner in SL. I referred to him as mfpwtff. I met him more than seven years ago through my sex alt. I created Alt#9 for him the following day, because I worried about him being seen with my sex alt by her random one-night stands. A short while later, he created a new alt just for me. Two fresh alts exclusive to each other: no baggage, no interruptions, complete privacy.
After a few months, we broke up so he and his RL wife could work on their marriage. But we partnered those alts before we put them to sleep. Then I left him alone. Three years later, we woke up those alts for a dance on our third anniversary, then again on our sixth anniversary, and finally this year on our seventh anniversary. (Hmmm. Another seven-year coincidence for me.)
While he and his wife were working on their marriage, he said that part of their reconciliation was that he had to confess his other affairs. And he told her about Opal (which got me worried), but he kept his promise to keep the private alts secret.
His wife joined him in SL, but she eventually met someone else, so they divorced and she remarried. (Codename: RLex)
He told me that he started a new relationship with someone he met in Facebook. (We connected in Facebook after he learned my RL identity.) And he wanted me to meet her (codename: FBgf) . This was a surprise to me, because it really was none of my business. It felt as though he wanted my blessing for that relationship. Either that or he worried that I'd be surprised to see his relationship status change in FB, but that wouldn't have bothered me either. Anyway, it felt like an honor that he wanted me to meet someone important to him, and I connected with her in Facebook when she reached out to me. So, then I had *the two of them* telling me about their relationship and their meetings. Funny.
Last year, he told me about a new relationship in SL (codename: 2015partner). Again, he told her about me, and he invited me to their wedding reception. (Their SL wedding was just the two of them.) Again, it felt like he was asking for my blessing. So I went to the reception and took pictures as a wedding gift. The odd thing was, as I was saying goodnight at the end of the evening, he called out "Love you!" in public chat. I knew that he did, and I loved him too, but it wasn't something to shout out in public during the reception of your wedding to someone else! I figured he must had been drinking. Soon after, they broke up.
I think it was during our sixth anniversary dance when he remembered something we said when we broke up. At that time, we imagined that maybe there'd be a second chance for us someday. He remembered that while he talked about how my book had triggered him to work on making himself a better man. But I had also changed, maybe for the worse. I had already decided that I couldn't be exclusive to anyone. Long-term commitments make me panic. The woman who had wistfully hoped for another chance with him had slowly faded away in the intervening years. I am a different person now. But we had a very strong and satisfying friendship, and he said he was glad that we could easily pick up where we left off, even if we didn't talk to each other for months.
Last month, he postponed our seventh anniversary dance to the following day. And he had only about an hour. I learned that the reason was a new SL affair (codename: 2016blues). He said he met her at one of the blues clubs in SL. She lived only 2.5 hours away from him irl. He hadn't met her irl yet, but he said it's not likely that they'd meet before the end of this year, because he wanted to take it slow. Very slow. He was happy where he was (living near his daughter) and as he was (living alone with his freedom). But he gushed about her.
Now, the connections.
FBgf was the one who told me that he passed away. She last spoke to him the Tuesday of that week at 11pm. He didn't respond to her messages the following day. She contacted his mom, but his mom was reluctant to call the police because it was possible that his computer just broke down (which happened before) and he just didn't have mobile access where he was. On Thursday, FBgf still hadn't heard from him, so she contacted the apartment manager to check.
While we talked on Facebook chat after she told me the news, I absentmindedly said that I was just talking to him two weeks prior. It was a very innocent remark, but it turned out to be very significant to her. She thought that he hadn't been going into SL anymore, and it made her suspicious (jealous?) that he would come into SL specifically to see me. *sigh* So, I had to explain the anniversary dances. He didn't tell her that he and I used to be lovers a long time ago. So, she asked probing questions to make sure that those dances were innocent and that he wasn't having an affair with me since he started his affair with her.
I thought, .... If she panics like that about an honest-to-goodness friendship, how on earth do I tell her about the last two romances that I know about? Is it even my responsibility? Do I keep his secrets even now that he's gone? Does it still matter?
I figured I'd better notify 2016blues. I hadn't met her yet, even though he said he wanted me to meet her. Luckily, he gave me her full username. When I found her and told her the news, her first question was strange, but not so strange for SL.
2016blues: how did you receive that news, may i ask?
Opal Lei: A mutual friend in FB.
2016blues: his ex wife in rl already pretty much told me that, but I was waiting for confirmation
I was reluctant to contact 2015partner. I worried that his "Love you!" outburst might have contributed to their breakup, so she probably wouldn't want to hear from me. And, even though he didn't give me details, I got the impression that their relationship ended badly.
But it felt like a loose end, so I eventually contacted her. It took her a while to believe me, I think. I wondered if she thought I was being his accomplice in a scheme to hide and disappear. A sad commentary on trust and trustworthiness in virtual worlds, but that's the way it is.
From her, I learned there was another girlfriend, whom he didn't mention to me. So, she left her an offline message to give her the news. She only mentioned the other gf's first name and she didn't seem willing to give me her last name, so I left it at that.
I mentioned in past blog posts that I have a tracker so I would know when lovers logged in, so I could log in to meet them, even if I was working on something outside SL. Sometimes, I kept them in the tracker after the relationship is over, just to know if they're ok, assuming that something is wrong if they hadn't logged in for a long time. Ironically, it was less intrusive that way, because an IM could stir up old pains.
When I learned of mfpwtff's passing, I wondered if it mattered having him in the tracker anymore. But I left him in it anyway.
Two or three days ago, I noticed that someone was logging into one of his more active accounts. I figured that someone had gotten into his computer and was contacting people in his friends list. FBgf mentioned that mfpwtff's son and his first wife were going through his apartment and sorting things out, so I figured it must be his son going through his computer.
Then, yesterday, I noticed that someone logged into the private alt that he created for me. When I noticed that he was also removed from a private group intended only for that private pair, I panicked. Not so much because our secret was discovered, but because whoever it was could delete that account or end the partnership.
So I left an offline message from Alt#9 to his private alt BF#2, hoping that it would be read by whoever was logging in:
Please, whoever you are, please leave this account alone. He created [BF#2] only for me, just as I created [Alt#9] only for him. If you are a member of his RL family, I ask for permission to take over his account. It is the only memory I have of him. You can take all the Linden $s out. You can take all the transferable inventory out. I just ask that everything else be preserved as is. Please.
The irony of it allMarch 22 was a very long day for me.
I woke up around 3:30am because I had switched to a 5am-2pm schedule to avoid rush-hour traffic. A quick read of my email showed some IM messages from Wolfgang (details in my next post), which started my day with tears while getting ready for work.
Work was a blur.
I arrived home at 3pm and spoke with Wolfgang, until my sister and family (who are visiting from Oregon this week) arrived for dinner around 5pm. They left around 9pm.
After some inner wrestling, I decided to send the message above from Alt#9, then I logged off and got ready for bed. As I was climbing into bed around 10:30pm, I saw a response when I glanced at emails on my tablet. It was just a "hello" from BF#2's account.
So I quickly hopped out of bed, turned my computer back on, and logged Alt#9 back in. BF#2 was still logged in.
Alt#9: Are you here?
BF#2: hi there - this is [name]
Alt#9: Hi, [name].
Alt#9: Your name is not familiar. How are you related to [mfpwtff's RL name]?
BF#2: I am his ex-wife
The woman I had avoided for seven years out of guilt and whose wrath I feared. And she held the key to his private alt -- the single, most secret, most intimate, most cherished memory I have of him.
Alt#9: I'm sure you hate me.
BF#2: I don't hate you - I don't hate him...
Alt#9: Thank you.
BF#2: it just made me a little more sad than I already was
"Do you have time for a long story?" she asked. It was 10:46pm.
First, she asked if I (as Alt#9) was also Opal. She wondered because BF#2 had only two friends -- Alt#9 and Opal. It turned out that she had even seen Opal's Flickr pictures.
Her daughter asked if she could have her dad's computer, but because their daughter is still a minor, RLex wanted to clean it out before handing it over. Also, she was warned about hackers who could log in and steal original content, so she was going through his accounts to delete his original works from his inventory.
She didn't know any of his passwords, but she was able to get in because the passwords were saved on the computer.
He had told her about Opal, but he never mentioned our private alts. So she was surprised to find BF#2 among his login accounts. She updated the profiles of his other accounts but she left this one alone, because she didn't know about this one, and it is the only account of his that is partnered.
What made her sad was that mfpwtff was supposed to have told her everything when they were working on their marriage but he didn't tell her about our private alts.
I asked if I could keep BF#2's account because those alts were "like mementos". She said "of course". She understood what they meant to me, and she promised to keep them secret. I was overwhelmed.
By the end of the conversation, Opal had befriended her, and we were talking about mermaids. After she logged BF#2 off, I tried the old password and it still worked. So I changed his password and the associated email address.
And both alts went back to sleep.
This eclipse [on March 23] could easily put the spotlight on a one-on-one relationship, such as on your partner in love, marriage, or business. A friend may have a role to play too, one that is integral to all that goes on.
- Susan Miller on AstrologyZone.com
Post-mortem, literallyHe wasn't perfect, I knew that from the start.
Secrets are eventually revealed. Death has an uncanny way of pushing them out.
We're all looking for love, for affection, for meaning, for anything that makes living worthwhile. And we can't really judge people for how they seek what they're looking for.
The truth really does set you free. Sooner or later.
You can love someone without wanting to live with them.
Expressing love can be exclusive, but feeling love is never exclusive. They can truly love you while loving someone else too.