in 2000 I taught myself HTML

and found a secret community: a vast network of teenage girls, each with her own multi-page site made from scratch. your hits mattered. your guestbook mattered. but it was a game we played together: learning how to make the internet obey.

we traded tips freely, filled sites with the only content we had: report cards, CD collections, inside jokes. complimented each other, challenged each other. pasted links to friends’ sites on our own. called each other sisters, even though I never heard their voices, never saw their faces. made cliques like sweet’ness, 3lite, *glitter. anyone could join. all you had to do was link.

should’ve been lonely but it wasn’t. we were carving out space, staking claim. we couldn’t drive to the movies or wear spaghetti straps to school, but we could make something out of nothing in a language not even the adults understood.

when we left, we never said SHUT DOWN, we always said HIATUS. sometimes we came back but eventually there were other responsibilities: school, sex, work.

making layouts, I often returned to this color. just like now, when I’m stuck, I return to this: how we helped each other gain fluency in the most abstract and modern of languages, how we took without asking for permission.

Taryn Tilton writes fiction and translates from Spanish and Chinese.