Alts are one of the more fascinating aspects of Second Life. They can be a harmless way to put some variety into a bored avatar’s second life, or they can be the monkey wrench in the works; shadowy doppelgangers who spy and cheat and deceive. Or in some cases, they can be a second chance.
Jonas WrongAnswer met Gabriella Saville at a popular ballroom. He was dark, handsome, and intense. She was smart, edgy and beautiful. They came together like two electrodes, and the sparks that crackled between them were bright and breathtaking. It was hand meet glove, yin meet yang, fire meet gasoline, and within hours they were back at his place and in each other’s arms.
Clothes flew and the sex was hot and amazing and went on for hours. And in between they talked. They were both smart and had been through the Second Life wringer and they didn’t want to go through that again. Not this time. So they opened themselves up and decided to work with what they had.
Jonas told her he was partnered to a woman he’d lost passion for but wasn’t ready to break up with. This woman was well-off in RL and SL and paid most of their expenses, but she was also quite ill in RL and away from SL for days at a time. She very vulnerable and emotionally dependent on him and he felt an obligation to care for her. Breaking up wouldn’t be easy. He needed to be very sure.
And Gabrielle had been burned so often that she’d left SL for several months. She’d come back determined not to get emotionally involved this time, and to play the game just for fun. She didn’t want to partner. She didn’t even want a commitment. She was satisfied to be his outside woman and guilty pleasure until they had a better idea of how they got along. The affair had hit them so fast and hard that they were both a little stunned, maybe even frightened. The both agreed that this kind of heat and intensity couldn’t last.
With the ground rules laid out, they spent the weekend setting each other on fire, going out to dance or shop only to rush back to bed and scorch another set of sheets. They were right: this wasn’t just another affair. They were wrong: the intensity did last, and got even stronger. After a week, they were inseparable.
But they were both true to their words. Jonas didn’t break away from his partner, while Gabriella still made no demands. Not for a while at least, though it was obvious her pledge to stay emotionally uninvolved and just play around had become as empty as the hours she spent apart from him. The time he spent online with his SL wife when she couldn’t see him or even IM were especially galling and painful. She quickly started to feel like his dirty little secret, his bimbo.
After no more than a week of this, she told him she wanted something. Just one simple thing. She wanted him to mention her in his profile. Just a picture, a few words, so people would know they had a relationship. She wanted him to give her some recognition, to show the world she was more to him than a woman on the side, and that she meant something to him.
Jonas refused. Putting her in his profile would wreck his partnership, and he wasn’t ready for that. She insisted. She was the one he loved, why couldn’t he admit that publicly? He held firm. It became a matter of principle for him, not to give in to emotional blackmail.
They argued with the same ferocity with which they’d made love. Things got nasty. Finally they broke up in a fit of bitterness and resentment.
Newton’s third law says that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction, and that seems to be true in love too. As much joy you feel when you fall, that’s how much pain you’ll feel when you break up. And that was true for Jonas and Gabriella. The acrimony was intense, especially from Gabriella. She defriended Jonas and vowed never to speak to him again. Jonas was angry too and put her on mute, then decided to hang up his Jonas Av for a while and switch to his alt, Bryce.
Bryce started going out, looking for someone who could make him feel the way Gabriella had. And about a month later in the same ballroom, he met someone—Celia Royale. Amazingly there was the same instant connection, the same flying sparks. Celia was smart with a wicked wit, and had Gabriella’s same breezy confidence and sexuality. After a few dances they both knew what was going to happen, and when he invited her back to his place she immediately said yes.
He tp’d her onto the mansion’s roof garden where they could dance, and Celia seemed suddenly quiet. They danced for a while and then Celia asked, “Do you know Jonas WrongAnswer?”
Jonas/Bryce was stunned. They were on Jonas’s roof, so he could hardly deny some connection.
“Kind of,” he said. “Why?”
“I’ve been here before. This is Jonas WrongAnswer’s house. Are you Jonas?”
“Well…” he improvised. “I’m a version of him, yes. Do I know you?”
“I’m an alt too,” she said. “But yes I think you know me very well.”
He’d been very active since the break-up. She could be anyone. He started stalling, searching frantically through his friends list, looking for names and trying to jog his memory. If he guessed wrong, he’d not only insult her, but expose himself as a man-slut who couldn’t even tell one lover from another. But the past month was a blur, a series of one-night stands. It was all too much.
He stood up off the dance ball. “I guess you’ll want to leave now.”
But Celia kept on dancing. “Why would you think that? You’re not really the person I was here with. He was an asshole. You’re someone else. Come dance with me.”
He got cautiously onto the ball again and they started to sway.”Did we at least have a good time together?”
“For a while. For a while we had the best time I’ve ever had. Then you turned into a real dick. I never want to see that guy again. Ever.”
The clouds parted. Light streamed in.
It was so obvious now. He felt a surge of confused emotions: relief, joy, amazement, dread.
“No,” she said. “Celia. I’m not the same person either, Bryce. We’re new. Strangers.”
“This is unbelievable! What are the odds…?”
“I’ve missed you. I hate him and never want to see him again. But I’ve missed you.”
“But I’m him. I mean, I’m the same person. I’m still–”
She shook her head. “No. You’re not the same person. You’re Bryce. It’s not the same.”
Jonas/Bryce didn’t quite understand. He decided to proceed cautiously till he had a handle on what was going on.
“Yes. I’ve missed you too… Her…uh…you! You know what I mean. I’m sorry the way things turned out. I never hated you. Her. How have you been, Gabriella? I mean, Celia?”
Celia said, “You know what this means? It means we can start over again. We can have a second chance. We won’t make the same mistakes. We can make this work!”
“Who? You and Bryce? Bryce and Gabriella? Jonas and—”
“No! Our two alts! I don’t want you to even mention his name again. You and me. Bryce and Celia. We’re different people. We’ve learned from our mistakes. We can make this work! Oh, Bryce, It’s like fate!”
“Yes. It is. Like a sign. Like we’re meant to be together. Yes!” He didn’t understand, but he didn’t care. He had her back again, whoever she was, and that was enough. He’d figure things out later.
They staggered off into bed and made love feverishly all night, and it was good again. As good as it had been last time, although a bit more confusing. They vowed to make it work and avoid the petty bickering, the ego, the selfishness and manipulation. They vowed to make it work.
And it did work. For about 2 weeks. And then the same problems came up. Celia wanted some recognition and respect. Bryce resented her unreasonable demands and emotional blackmail. One day the IM’s and notecards just stopped and no one bothered to revive them. A week later, a plaintive “I miss you” from Celia, and then silence. The second chance ended like the first. Their alts were different people after all.
But the story begs a lot of questions. First of all, what are the odds of two people falling in love, and then have their alts meet as strangers and fall in love all over again? What are the odds of a relationship between alts occurring after the same relationship between primaries failed so miserably? If you’re in a failing relationship, might changing your avatar help? Would your partner love what’s new about you? Or what’s old?
Are you still the same person when you’re your alt? Or are you someone else? Which is the real you?
Just what does it mean to be an alt?
Only in Second Life…