I didn’t understand the internet at first. Maybe I still don’t.

I knew I had to ask permission, I knew it meant unplugging the phone, I knew it meant that horrible screeching noise, and I knew it meant games.

I spent most of my time on Nick.com, where I experienced flash animation for the first time. It was also the first time I heard a swear on the computer (a fat cartoon boy on a slow pony said ‘this SUCKS’ and I actually jumped in alarm).

When my parents said no, or when they weren’t around and I was still scared of the consequences of being caught, I had another game to play.

There was a wheel at the bottom of the monitor. When I spun it—carefully, slowly, then faster—the screen would change. The blinding whiteness of the background would go from a hazy pink to a deep red, and back and forth and back and forth again.

The wheel was made of the same kind of plastic as the monitor’s casing, but it got dirty and crusty from my fingers. Crumbs got lodged in the wheelhouse, and spinning the wheel turned those crumbs to powder.

Sometimes I would forget to fix it, and left the monitor burning crimson until it shut down.

Kyle Amato is a writer who lives in Somerville, MA and can be reached at kyleamato@gmail.com.