So Tony is dead. I’ve never met him. We’ve been friends for more than a decade. He lived in LA, I live here, and everything we’ve ever said to each other was said through a keyboard.
He was part of a weird little online community of Beloit College alumni that I tripped over back in 1990. It seemed like a fun group, so I started chiming in. Then started doing more than chiming in. Traffic has died down the last few years, but for a while there, hell, I think I knew the people in that group as well as I knew anyone. I’ve met a few of them in person over the years, when we happened to be in the same place at the same time. I travel a fair amount for work, and LA, it’s a big city. Always figured one of these days, I’d end up out there and I’d meet Tony. But I never did. Now I never will.
When someone close to you dies, and, virtual friend or not, Tony qualifies in his way, you start running through your memories. Here’s the weird thing. The archives for the alumni group, they’re all right there on line. I don’t have to remember anything, I can scroll back through the posts and re-read every conversation we’ve ever had – every post, every exchange, every letter and syllable of our virtual relationship. There are some other communications, some private e-mails we’ve exchanged, but I still have those, too. It’s as if a friend died and every moment you ever spent with him was available on video.
I don’t know quite what to make of that, or if there is anything more to be made of it than just another of those occasional realizations that technology is changing everything about our lives all the time. Even death. But the idea that Tony will somehow be able to haunt me in as corporeal a form as he ever had so far as I was concerned, I think that would amuse him. And it will comfort me a little.
So long, ARM. Hope the void is more than you thought it would be.