To coincide with Second Life’s tenth birthday, I thought I’d put down a few reflections on my own SL, focusing on some of the things that are no longer present. I’m going to start with friends.
‘You never forget your first friend in Second Life’ is a phrase I’ve heard used exactly zero times in SL, but I’m willing to bet that if I dropped it in to an appropriately philosophical conversation I’d receive nods of earnest agreement from all my fellow participants. Dizi was my first SL friend and I couldn’t have asked, paid or emotionally blackmailed for anyone better. With a fine knack for intelligent, irreverent banter, a quick grasp for the technicalities of the metaverse and a wonderfully clear way of explaining things, Dizi was exactly the right catalyst for turning my vague meanderings in the virtual world into something with some sort of purpose. She taught me how to build, she taught me how to emote and – perhaps most importantly of all – she taught me the pleasure of a tango at Bogart’s. She also bought me my first pair of decent shoes, which might be an odd thing to list in any context, but I mention it here because it illustrates so perfectly her nurturing manner, not to mention her eye for the aesthetically pleasing (especially when it came to shoes).
Dizi eventually moved on from SL and I miss her enormously, but we still keep in touch from time to time via email. I’m lucky to have known her during her time inworld and I count hers amongst the most important friendships I have ever formed.
medi was introduced to me by Dizi and I can honestly say that I’ve never met a more actually laugh-out-loud person in SL. This incredibly intelligent and literate woman adopted a porcelain doll as her avatar and dressed it up in all manner of outrageous outfits – blue and white gingham being a particular favourite design. Her condemnations were hilarious. Her insights were profound. I will never forget a conversation we once had where she told me she can’t avoid in RL looking at how light falls on objects; I can’t forget it chiefly for the reason that I have never looked at light in quite the same way since.
medi was ardently against sharing any sort of RL details, taking the view that this tarnished the illusion created by SL. Voice communication in particular was absolutely out of the question. It wasn’t that we used this in our trio anyway, but when I did one of my first ever readings in SL she turned up (to show support) but refused to turn her speakers on, saying that hearing my RL voice would ruin the voice she had allocated to me in her head.
medi announced one day that she was leaving SL and that was the last that either I or Dizi saw or heard of her. She didn’t leave in anger or sadness, and I rather suspect that she left her announcement until the last minute in order to avoid any drawn-out goodbyes. Much as I miss her, I can’t help but grudgingly admire the way she managed this exit. But then, medi was magnificent in every way.
Nancy was my first reader. We met in rather embarrassing circumstances. At a dance club, I was browsing her profile and saw an entry in her picks for an SL comedy club. Fascinated by this idea, I immediately clicked on the teleport button only to discover that the club didn’t yet actually exist and she’d created the pick in her own house. In and of itself, turning up unannounced in someone’s house isn’t a total toe-curler on the embarrassment scale, however what I’d failed to notice whilst reading her profile was that Nancy had left the club before me and was partway through an outfit change in the moment that I materialised in her bedroom.
Nancy, however, was a wonderfully friendly and laid back person, and a moment’s worth of awkwardness soon dissolved completely once we got chatting – the subject of which quickly became the Second Life novel I was halfway through writing at the time. Perhaps because of my memorable entrance, she read AFK the moment it was finished and became the first person to give me positive feedback.
I wish now I’d spent more time with this kind, gentle, lovely person. Nancy and I would occasionally IM each other and chat, and after a while she started coming to the Blue Angel Poets’ Dive on Sunday evenings for the open mic poetry sessions I regularly attended back then. It was on one of these Sundays that she told me she was going to be away from SL for a while for health reasons. It never occurred to me that these would be the last words we would exchange, and Nancy died just a couple of months later.