Computers came to me early, but the internet came late. There were games on floppy disks when I was four, five, but never MySpace, never chat rooms, never other humans. I preferred it that way. I was never fully convinced that the outside world was worthier of my attention than what was already inside my head, and I had been firmly convinced as long as I could remember that the adult world in particular was something tawdry.
The closest I ever came to an online community before the close of the 216-color age was the game Neopets, where I picked a pet in an off-yellow shade. I don’t remember when exactly. The only thing that anchors it firmly in time for me is that I named him after a small city in Uttar Pradesh. “Faizabad.” I had opened the dictionary at random and placed my finger on a word. And at that time, there were no echoes—say, Jalalabad, Islamabad—to render those syllables anything other than utterly neutral, empty, in my mind. The wars would start after the towers fell when I was ten, eleven. But history was still over, then. The walls insulating me from the world were so thick, wonderful and terrible.