Of course, like everyone else I didn’t believe it at first. I didn’t think it was possible, or if it was, it surely couldn’t last.
It was a virus that never had a name I guess, only a number. Can you lose everything you ever wanted, everything you hadn’t yet become, because of a number?
When the internet died… I still remember that morning, I guess we all remember that morning. I kept wanting to check the news to find out what was going on, but there was nothing to check, the internet was gone. We had to learn how to look at each other again. I could feel my look as a kind-of sticky glue that stayed on someone else’s face long after I stopped watching them. We used to have movie stars and famous musicians. Now we had each other.
When the virus came it didn’t take away my future, it took away my past. My history was the internet: my phone, my pictures, my shares. You know? My people. All that was gone. And that meant that I was gone too. Four drunk women walk towards me, bump into one another, as if the point of their being together was to remind themselves that they have bodies that can be judged, and dismissed. They’re laughing, but it’s a laughter has a lot more to do with menace than joy. If they wanted to, they could become the kids who used to bully them back home.
You learn nothing by being bullied, but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget.
I don’t believe the internet is really gone. When I was on it, when we were all part of it, we grew a second skin. You know what I mean? A digital skin. It was part of us, it’s what held us all together. I wonder, is it just a coincidence that computers spread everywhere at the same moment of the AIDS crisis? I wonder if part of the urge to escape feeling, to plug the need for contact with the drug of perpetual attention, comes from the anxiety that we will one day be the last ones left.
Some people still go see fortune tellers, not so they can catch a glimpse of the future, but to remember the past. That’s not me, ok. But in the golden age, when we still had the internet, in the golden age we lived with gods. We talked with gods, they were just part of the neighbourhood.
Now a god could be could be wearing slacks worn out at the knees or boots that had walked too many miles. Could be homeless, could be sleeping in a tent in the winter time by the railroad tracks. You just couldn’t be sure. So when someone held out their hand you took it, when strangers waited outside the corner store you asked: how can I help you? Because you couldn’t offend a God, right?
In the golden age, whatever was offered, whenever someone was in need, you would say…
My friends and I get together more often now, and when we do we find that each of us can recall the tiniest fragment of a song, or the way light fell across the floor in a video clip.
It’s as if the memory of all those hours of looking were still there in our faces, all fallen asleep, and now we were trying to wake them up again.
If every memory were put together, every last fragment joined up, I guess the internet would be alive again, wouldn’t it?
Our children, maybe our grandchildren, will live together in the memory of our memories. They’ll have the internet again, or at least, our version of it.
But that won’t happen for us. Not for you or me. Right now all we can do is to preserve our fragment. Hold onto our small part.