Thursday, June 16, 2011
Death of an online friend
We never met in person.
But in a dozen emails in January, you called me "my new friend," and we talked about me driving to your city, to have lunch. I sent you this picture of a painting by Franz Marc, because I thought you would like it, and you loved it, and that was fun.
Yesterday I went to your Facebook page. I'd been thinking about you, and wanted to see what you were up to, and to say hello. At first all I saw was that you hadn't posted in a while, but then I saw how many of your friends had. And how rueful and loving and full of memories their posts were. I read on and on, and saw that you'd left us.
You weren't sick, that I knew of. You were younger than me, and healthy. A dancer, a yogi, a hiker. It was so puzzling. I sent a message to one of your real friends on Facebook, and she said I would need to ask your family. I don't feel I can do that. I don't feel I could step into that inner circle and explain.
So sitting here in this same spot where I sat when we corresponded, I just wanted to say goodbye. I posted this picture on your Facebook wall, even though I felt a bit our of place. None of your real friends know me. And online friends aren't like real friends. Are they? So why is the pain and sadness and confusion I feel about your death so real?
I'm not a stalker, or a scammer, or a guy on a laptop in Russia trying to steal privacy information. I'm not a troll who will say awful things.
But how could they know that? They never saw the friendship in our emails.
They never saw that on a winter day, from cities hundreds of miles away, we smiled as we shared a painting of a little blue horse.