A TRUE STORY
I was new, not good with computers, and bored. I was wearing a short skirt and blingy chest rings, blinging far and wide through my freebie leather jacket. It seemed that was the thing to do. Second Life appeared to be lacking in depth and communication and I saw males running around wearing unmentionable attachments. (I had clearly been to the wrong places).
“There must be some sensible people here somewhere” I thought. “Maybe there are some nice people at a yachting club”. I searched and found Nantucket Yacht Club and teleported onto a jetty.
There was a man.
No silly attachments, no fancy skin, no chat up lines. And very oddly… no talking at all!
I said hello, but he did not answer.
Now, when you are new in Second Life, you don’t understand about chat lag, AFK, invisible avatar… so I believed this person was truly ignoring me.
I said “hello” again. No answer.
Off I walked and viewed the boats. Up one jetty, down the next. Then I arrived back where the man was. I said hello again.
Still no reply.
Determined, I asked “Do you have a yacht here?”
I walked away pretty much in disgust really at being ignored several times. Then… as I was leaving… I saw very faintly on my screen…
Maybe he does not speak English, I thought.
Then the next word from him…
This was odd, but clearly this man was asking if I wanted to sail in his boat! I accepted and followed the man as he walked along the jettys to his yacht.
The sailing was just amazing! (Although in silence!)
I had not experienced anything like it! I asked him if I could take photographs. He said yes.
The sea, the land, the turns, the commands, a skipper on a small yacht, sailing it just for me. After a long time out to sea, we returned to the jetty.
The man stood up and walked away — without a word — to the clubhouse.
Well, as I like to talk, I really couldn’t accept this. I followed and walked to him and asked “What language do you speak?”
It was puzzling.
There were others in the clubhouse. Ravishal Bentham sent me an IM.
“Have you read his profile?”
I was new, why would I think doing of that?
So I did.
That was the moment that changed my Second Life.
The man's name was Djduerer Zou.
He described himself in his profile:
✲ Friendly, kind, tall, bedridden, sailor.
✲ Can barely type.
✲ Difficulty seeing, too.
✲ It gets worse in the afternoon SLT time.
✲ I use gestures to speak.
✲ In my life I am terminally ill (soon dead) with progressive brain disease, OPCA also known as MSA.
✲ No regrets, lived passionately.
✲ SL is my life.
I couldn’t imagine to have ever read such a thing or met such a person in SL.
The reality of the situation made my mind whirl. I had been sailing with a man who was living the last days of his Real Life here, in Second Life, living the Real Life that he had known. As a sailor.
My computer was a blur. There was something different here.
Djduerer managed to type:
“I think he is asking you to dance,” wrote Ravishal in an IM.
After the short dance, I walked outside and stood my avatar looking out to sea.
I logged off Second Life with a hollow feeling inside but at the same time — a spark — a feeling that there was real life here in these avatars.
After this day I returned twice to see Djduerer, and both times he took me sailing. I dropped the bling chest rings and lengthened my skirt!
I talked to him, not expecting a reply.
I remember once as we were sailing saying to him,
“You must have had a wonderful Real Life at sea."
His answer made me happy and sad at the same time…
”Yes!!!!!!!!!” he said.
Then, a couple of weeks later, I heard that Djduerer had passed away.
Four years — or more — later, when I am helping new people, this experience is never far from my mind.
At no time has anything in Second Life ever taught me so much as the day I met Djduerer Zou and discovered who was really behind the avatar.
I have used my experience of meeting Djduerer to explain to others about Second Life and to help them to have an open mind.
I doubt my presence here meant much to Djduerer. If I kept him company for a few sailings, that makes me happy, but Djduerer’s presence in Second Life meant so much to me.
He taught me the most important lesson I have learned here, and I am grateful for that moment we met — it showed me what online living can really mean.
- Treacle Darlandes
Published with the kind permission of the real-life widow of Djduerer Zou.