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I would listen for the siren noise of start-up whirr and ping and click, the sound that meant the world was getting larger.In novels about fantasy adventures, stories in which lonely teenagers escape their dull lives into magical realms only they can access, there is always a ritual to getting through the known world back to the unknown—the Pevensie children have to find a wardrobe to get to Narnia, student wizards have to run at a particular piece of brick wall in King’s Cross Station, Will and Lyra have to cut a doorway in the air with a magical knife.
I knew nothing about the people behind these names, and so I could imagine them into infinite possibility.
The modem start-up noise was, for me and for many people of my generation, the ritual that permitted the crossing from the mundane realm to the fantastical one.
The long static of the dial-up modem resolved into a friendly chime, and I was online.
This was before , and I was able to accumulate a list of people out of chat rooms who had chosen me to talk with privately, collecting rectangular windows of alternating text. We moved from private chats to long emails about our days (still, to this day, the primary form of intimacy I understand with another human being).
The thing I liked most about him was how much he liked me.