So this morning I found an IM waiting for me. It was a group notice from a friend of mine saying that she was done with SL, and wasn't coming back. She couched it a bit more nicely than that, but that was the gist. The IM was accompanied by another notice, this one from the system, telling me that I had been ejected from her group. When I scanned my friends list, her name was also gone from there.
No reasons were given. I hadn't been around her place in a while, and don't know if it was burnout, disinterest, or the result of relentless unwanted attention from the multitude of dickweeds that I know to be out there.
Or some other reason entirely, for that matter.
I seldom clean out my friends list. Every now and then I catch the name of somebody coming on or going offline, and I'll smile at the memories. Even if I don't have time to sit down and talk to them, knowing that they're out there somewhere in this little universe of ours is a source of comfort to me.
Other names I never see pop up. They lay on the bottom of my friends list, forever unbolded and forlorn. People with whom I've joked and laughed and cried, who just logged out one day and never logged back on. I wonder where they are out in the world, and if they ever think of me the way I do them.
I've also had friends who had a pre-planned date of departure, a tidying of affairs and final gathering of friends. A funeral for an avatar, if you will, only the dearly departed is actually only the "nearly" departed, and still able to answer questions and exchange tearful farewells. The end result is the same, the same void in one's life as a friend casts aside the name he or she took here, to take up the one he or she was given at birth.
And that person is a stranger to me, just in the way that my friends who know me as "Abel Undercity" would not recognize the man typing up this post.
Of course, "gone" doesn't always mean "gone forever" in SL. Sometimes, as a notorious direct-to-video Stephen King trilogy points out, they come back. It's that hope that keeps me from clearing out my friends list.