It’s hard to know how to tell this story, because it’s about someone I have never met and yet I feel devastated over their death. The only thing I can liken it to is feeling extremely sad upon hearing of the death of Princess Diana.
In September 2008, I broke up with my husband after 18 years together. The thought of living on my own for the first time since I got my HIV diagnosis made me wonder what lay ahead. How I would introduce the subject to possible dates was a big question. Another was who would I talk to about issues that came up with HIV. I was afraid.
I heard friends talk about dating sites and I laughed at the prospect of meeting a complete stranger “on line”. But as time went on, I became curious and wanted to take a look at one, even though I had no intention of ever dating. And so my adventure started in the murky depths of Plenty of Fish!
I decided to look at profiles of people from outside my town. I was a little worried someone might recognize my photograph and announce to the world of online daters that “This woman has HIV!!!” and I just wanted to peek into the fishbowl., not go fishing.
The first profile I came across was a good looking man from Montreal. He had dark eyes, dark hair and a good build and he had what every woman likes - a guitar! I read his profile; I felt it showed a good sense of humour and kindness. What I didn’t realize was that unless you hide your own photos then another person can tell you are looking at them. Within no time at all, I saw a box appear; Mau was trying to “chat” with me. I was flummoxed. I had no idea what to press, whether I should respond and was in a bit of a panic. The chat box went away... relief! But then, there it was again, like an annoying phone caller who wouldn’t hang up! Finally I noticed something that said “ACCEPT” and I pressed it.
“Hi, how are you?” Mau wrote.
“OK, this is my first time using this thing!”
It was a beginning.
Mau and I started to chat often on Plenty of Fish (POF). I told him very quickly that I had HIV and he was wonderful; “there’s lots that can be done now, no?”
Finally, we moved to Hotmail Chat and then to Skype. Facebook was barely a whistle in the wind in those days. Mau would play me the latest song he had written and we would chat about men or women we had been on dates with. We became friends, but more than friends. We always ended with “goodbye xoxox love you!”
Two years ago, Mau moved to Costa Rica. He often asked me to come and visit him but I had no money to hop on a plane. What if we didn’t get along “face to face”... what if I were stranded in San Jose? But still I longed to meet Mau one day, one day... it could wait.
We had now moved on to the big leagues: “Facebook”. I was able to see Mau’s photos and his conversations with his friends, written in Spanish, and with his mother and aunts in Swedish, I didn’t bother translating it but looked at his photographs of beautiful Costa Rica and dreamed of palm trees and a sandy beach.
I was now dating full-time and it wouldn’t be appropriate to go flying off to meet another man. Mau and I still chatted and talked a lot about our friends and family.
Mau: When are you coming to see me?
Me: Someday Mau!
And then an amazing day arrived when I won an Air Canada contest. I was very happy and surprised. The 75th Anniversary contest was to fly 75 people to any destination they chose in Air Canada’s world and I had written a poem and put a place down I wanted to go. Just as I received news of my fabulous prize, a message came in on Facebook, it was Mau saying hi. I was elated, but I couldn’t remember where I had indicated that I wanted to go with Air Canada. I had to write to them to find out. I felt it was a beach holiday because my poem was about that but then I started to dread that I had put Calgary because it was so close to my town. Mau and I laughed!
DENISE: omg... I am crossing my fingers and toes!!!
i would take some days vacation
if you come here
that would be incredible
we would go to the beach
and forget about everything :)
you would love it here
Then I found out. I had put Maui. There was a certain radius that I could use the coupon for New York, Jamaica, Aruba - all incredible places, just not Costa Rica. It was a shame but then we would meet someday, eventually! It didn't even occur to me I could fly to a place close to Costa Rica and then get another plane.
Christmas 2012.. Mau sent a message: Feliz Navidaaaaaaad!!! <3 <3 :) :) :)
More messages every week or two then on Valentine’s Day . . .
MAU: “Happy Valentine’s, you are number 1!”
In March, I didn’t hear anything from Mau and knew he sometimes went on vacation to see his family in Sweden.
On April 6 I sent him a message: “Hey Mau, what have you been up to?”... Nothing..
Maybe Mau had a girlfriend who was jealous of him talking to me?
I saw more posts in Spanish and Swedish on his wall. I wrote again on May 15: Hey Mau, where have you been??? Nothing.
Now, I was worried, he had a big heart and we always said we would keep in touch, no matter what. I commented on a few of his photos, no reply. Then I wrote to a friend of his from Montreal who I had once seen at Mau's house on cam... his name was Brian.
“Hey, Brian.. is Mau OK? I haven’t heard from him.”
“No, Denise, Mau is not OK, he’s dead. I’m so sorry”
My mind raced. Was this some crazy joke?
“What happened? I can’t believe it”
“In March Mau went camping and was bitten by a spider. He had an asthma attack and suffocated to death... it’s terrible”.
I went back to look at the posts on his Facebook wall. I pushed the translation button and realized everyone was expressing their sadness at this death! I felt incredibly sad and sick. Why hadn't I been to visit him, why?
Yesterday, I was going through spam messages on Facebook, deleting them, when I came across a message; it was from Mau’s aunt, dated March 4, the day he died.
MARIA: “Denise, call me immediately. It’s Mauricio’s aunt;call me anytime, night or day.. here is my number... It's urgent!”
OMG.. they had tried to reach me and the message was in my spam file. I cried a lot when I read that.
Facebook, Twitter, social media... making friends with people who you've never met. To be so sad over that person - is it even normal? This is a question I have asked myself over and over. I can’t explain it, I don’t want to. I feel bitterly sad that I never took him up on his offer to visit him.
When I felt isolated, or just sad, Mau would come onto Facebook and a smile was soon on my face and that is what Facebook Friends do for you; they fill a void sometimes or they give advice.
I miss Mau.