My hard drive is full of ghosts.
I've been on the internet, or what came before, for over twenty years now. In the mid 1980s I found my way to HSX100, Section Eight, Genderline on Compuserve. To my knowledge, that was the first nationwide discussion board on trans issues
Just like the days when the NY State Liquor Authority demanded we wear one piece of gender appropirate clothing, on CIS we had to wear TV or TS on our screen names so people would be warned about us.
In those two decades, I have met lots of dead people. You see, when I stop hearing from someone on the net, I have found it easiest to assume that they are dead. Sometimes I get a delightful surprise when I find out my assumption is wrong, but mostly, it has been ships passing in the night.
This is one of the most slippery bits of being internet virtual. We have the power of reinvention, but we also lose the power of accountability, of having to act from a knowledge that we have to live with the consquences of our choices. It keeps the interactions from having context, and that means we can do the same thing over and over again.
Those ghosts on my hard drive, the disembodied voices, though, they walk though my mind. So many people, so much text, all threaded through with the energy of the moment, all now abandoned and unconnected.
Obon, the Japanese festival of the dead, was feaured on last night's Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. The Japanese come home and gather as families twice a year, on Obon to honor the ancestors, and on New Year to honor the future, but these are two sides of the same coin, inseparable. How can we have a future without having a past, and how can we have a past without the echoes of people now gone to build upon.
This is my moment to honor the internet dead, all those people who came close to me, shared a bit of themselves and then died, hopefully to live a next life on the internet, a fuller incarnation to explore something newer and deeper.
I know that I am a porcupine, bristling with the quills that have the intensity of knives, existing only to cut away callous from living tissue, to separate the protective walls of death from the still vibrant. That leaves me raw and tender, sure, but it after five decades, it seems to be who I was created to be.
But still, people have come close, and then they have gone away, out of my vision, living on some new plane, somewhere.
And to you, all the ghosts on my hard drive, the spirits who have entered my world and left again, on this day I remember you.
And thank you.
But it is, she said, still lonely here without you.
It's not easy being a porcupine.