I’d been studying theory of new media but was trying to understand tabular data in hypertext markup instead of reading Life on the Screen. I worked on a small gray Toshiba that my parents had bought me before I left. It was overstuffed with anti-virus software, its deficiencies many.
The engineers had put a small orange button in the middle of the keyboard, between Y, G, and H, a kind of pencil eraser, a lurid nub. The idea was to use it as a navigational tool, with your index finger, like an amputated joystick. It was an obscene user interface.
At a concert watching a band I didn’t care about I stood on a table with my professor. We were there to get a better view, though the room wasn’t crowded. I thought myself adventurous; I wore black stockings with glitter woven through them. Over email two years later he told me that he’d wanted to hold my hand that night. For a semester I worked as his TA, marking up student papers. Someone taught me the finger protocol and I spent a long time monitoring crushes on the server.
It was a lonely time and the inside of my mind was sleet blue, a slate tile, the dim glow of an old laptop screen.
Frances Duncan is a free-range web strategist and designer.