The bearded figurehead of the Grateful Dead died and my father was ever-quick to tribute, making his very first email address jerrysdead and some numbers at AOL dot com. It was 1996 and our white trailer was stationed on the right side of an open field uniformly divided by a driveway hued to the color of clay which would divot and split into miniature rivers when rain would come. When the beeeeee-boo-bu-dun-bu-dunDA would cloud our landline and connect us to the World Wide Web, he’d watch over my shoulder in an effort to protect that doubled as a chance to see newness. None of us knew the depth or shape of the Internet. The computer and its clickclacking keyboard came as a break from the stiff air outside.

A handwritten schedule that allocated times of use for my sisters and me hung on the faux wood-paneled wall to the left of the heavy monitor. Usernames were selected carefully so as to avoid the advances of child predators. During one of my first log-ins I accepted an instant message from jerrysdead, but one with different numbers. How could it be? Typed lines met each other and hit our wide eyes from a box on the screen:

why don’t you answer me?
you know you want to

Alli Maloney is a writer.