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October 11, 2020


Joe Aguilar

The Museum of Endangered Sounds offers a recording of dial-up internet, a chain of rapid, jarring, alien modular shifts I hadn’t heard in years: It starts with a brief dial tone, then seven blips of numbers being entered, a modem looking for another modem. Next comes a pause—suspense—until a wheedling needle of noise signals two modems meeting to negotiate (I’m at this speed; well, I’m at a different speed: How can we make this happen?), and at last, the modems begin their final, crashing dance into a steady rasp of static, after which the modems fall silent, together, at peace. You’re online. They helped you there. Late at night, in junior high, when anxiety wouldn’t let me sleep, I’d sneak into my parents’ office, close the door, and cover the desktop’s tower case with my sweatshirt to muffle the noise of me and the modems, reaching out together, into the night. But the unremarkable ease with which I can reach the internet through my phone, my consciousness dissolving into vastness, over and over, is lonelier. There’s no noise. No ceremony. You’re here one moment and suddenly you’re everywhere, like death.