Patent oxfords with chunky heel. Flares in khaki, low rise. V-neck cotton sweater. Hemp choker with silver beads for luck. Raspberry lip gloss. Hair down.


But really, I was always 16/f and somewhere chosen for its name. Nayak, Boca, Malibu. Desire was not for the “guy” on the other end but for the girl assembled with friends. For how, in describing, we, together, became her.

On 9/8/98, I also wear a Targus backpack containing a Toshiba Satellite. Eight pounds. It’s my first day at a “laptop school.” My mom worries about strain to my back. I practice carrying the fatter of our two cats around the apartment. Mom says it doesn’t count; a living being is different.

There are five steps outside our building. I jostle the Targus. It pulls me face first. On the bluestone landing, torso ringing from smacked-out air, I undo the Velcro, say silently pleasepleaseplease. The screen’s not cracked, though a thin blue stripe shimmers there.

From the two halves of my screen, the plain-to-see glitters in opacity: marital; Boolean; a gorgeous lyric phrase—morning wood—from classmates decidedly non-gorgeous; the modem song; wet with a sexual meaning; pork not meat; if you don’t forward this something bad will happen; a hieroglyph of a drowning man, lol.

Allyson Paty's poems can be found in Boston Review, jubilat, Kenyon Review, Tin House, the PEN Poetry Series, and elsewhere. She is from New York, where she is, with Norah Maki, co-founding editor of Singing Saw Press and, with Emily Skillings, co-curator of the Earshot reading series.