I lost an acquaintance on Tuesday.
His unfamiliar face greeted me when I logged on, beaming an entirely inappropriate grin. In a community which holds anonymity sacred, portraits bear only bad news.
We moved in different circles, but shared the same interface. We met often but briefly, semi-strangers smiling pleasantly as we passed, exchanging small talk.
But anonymous small talk is rarely small. Chat of work or home is taboo, too risky and revealing. This leaves the meatier questions of hopes and dreams and deeper truths. In hiding our selves we reveal more of our soul.
He had laughed and cried aloud amongst ghosts and stranger-friends. He had made a family of electrons and spirits, but it wasn’t until he was long gone that I realised I had become part of it.
It had taken the admins two months to confirm what many had suspected and feared. Two months during which I had noticed neither his absence nor the quiet questions of whether anyone had heard from him.
“Reply to Pat” had sat on my to-do list for ages. Now it can never be ticked off.