There are people that come into your life that you sometimes take for granted. You rather expect that they’re always going to be around, and you’ll have time to meet them, see them, or just interact with them, and kick yourself when they die unexpectedly and rob you of that opportunity.
Will Perlis was that sort of person. He and I met online, on a system called Compuserve that existed back in the 1980s and 90s. We met on a forum called HSX, which stood for ‘Human Sexuality’ (yes, even back in the dark ages such things existed) but more specifically there was an interior forum called “12b” which was hosted by a woman named Gloria Brame, and it was the forum where the kinksters hung out. The nerdy kinksters, I guess you would say.
This was the place where you could feel comfortable interacting with those that were (secretly) like yourself. It was certainly where I spent a good deal of time with my then girlfriend, who eventually became my wife. Everyone had nicknames on there, much like they do on Fetlife, or other types of message boards and forums. Back then, I was known as YM or ‘Young Mark’ because my girlfriend (Christabel) was a bit older than I. Sort of a May/December, robbing the cradle or dating up as the sayings go. But I digress
Will’s nickname was HWill. Ok, not so much a nickname as some were, but it was what we’ve been calling him, even 35 years later. HIS girlfriend at the time was named ‘Kait’, and they were thick as thieves. For them, it was a long distance relationship, but they got to meet at Christabel’s and my wedding. In a rather intricate quirk of fate, Will was pressed into service as my best man, since I actually forgot I needed one. Living in a different part of the state, not really having anyone that I thought would be prudent for such a thing, I was informed it was necessary and traditional. HWill was amused but willing to step in at a moment’s notice since the Justice of the Peace insisted someone stand there with me at the moment of truth.
A year or so later, Will moved to California to be with Kait. They lived quite happily in LA for many years, and as Compuserve wound down, we still kept in touch with them through the Interwebs, and were informed in 2010 that Kait had passed away from a sudden heart attack. Which left Will devastated, and the impromptu father figure to two mischevious cats named Izzi and Kiri that were originally hers. In the ensuing years Christabel would be more in contact with Will than I, every year on our anniversary he’d send her a message, addressed to us both, and she’d forward it to me. I’d respond to the email, and it would be quiet again until the next year.
Will and I were friends on Facebook, as well as Fetlife. Facebook was a bit more of Will’s place to post in the last 10 years, since her wasn’t interested in a new play partner after Kait’s passing. I often wondered what he did with his BDSM toys, he answered that question a couple of years ago when he posted a thought/question on Fet about what are ‘your’ plans for when you’re gone, how are your toys going to go over with the person(s) that are going to be picking up after you’re gone. He gave away his toys and various items, his computer and files are password protected and probably will be erased or trashed so there’s no electronic trail after his passing. His children were aware of his activities (I think), so there’s probably not going to be any embarrassing discoveries in his apartment (aside from Kait’s ashes in a glass jar sandwiched between two reference volumes).
I was skimming through Facebook last evening when I happened upon a post of Will’s. It was a bit confusing at first as it referenced ‘our father’ and it mentioned he died in his sleep. Will’s Dad had died many years ago, and then the quarter bonged in the bottom of the box. The post was by his kids. Will had passed away. Christabel was seated behind me and I turned around and said ‘Will died”. She didn’t understand me. I repeated it; “HWill died.” She reacted pretty incredulously and asked me to send her the link. Which I did, but Facebook, after being notified of someone’s passing, closes the public profile for whatever reason, so she wasn’t able to see it. Being the technokiddy I am, I was able to screenshot the post and send it to her. I posted to his profile a bit about our mutual history and offered our condolences to the his kids.
I’m left wondering what happened to his cats.
Rest in Peace, Will. Thanks for everything.