Precious summer hours spent holed up, working on my first custom Xanga template. Sea blue on royal blue with a starry banner; Hogwarts aesthetics. I teach myself how to tinker with the HTML and I’m addicted. My mother cuts off our cable but not the Internet after my Dad leaves her with the mortgage.

It’s slow and so loud that my brother can hear it from his room. I try to muffle it with a pillow and then I figure out there is a modem command that will stop the noise. Our remaining parent has forbidden more than an hour of web time daily but has no surveillance mechanism to enforce her edict. It doesn’t matter because my brother never tells on me. I’ve lent him my Harry Potter books. Conspiratorial latchkey kids, a kind of sibling solidarity.

I log into chat rooms (IRC, AOL, whatever I can get) for Potterheads, a soda at my side. I parrot the UK colloquialisms I’ve read in the books in different forums. A game: I want to see if people in England can tell I’m not from there. Cheers. They believed me, or at least they played along. I always confessed that I was a fraud in the end, delighting in their confusion at my strangeness.

Muna Mire is a writer, fact checker and a contributing editor at Mask Magazine.