The Imagined Life of a Horrible Internet Commenter
When the Horrible Internet Commenter wakes up, he eats toast. He does this because on the outside he resembles a normal human being with regular hopes, dreams and wants — like toast. He drinks coffee and scoops a handful of star-shaped cat kibbles into a gummy red bowl for his cat. He brushes his teeth.
He gets on the train, coffee thermos in hand, headphones jammed in his ears. On the train, he notes how much of a hipster loser the boy to his left with the plaid shirt looks. He mentally notes how the woman sitting down would be a little hotter if she was a little thinner and how the old woman on the right should fold up her walker so it doesn’t take up as much space in the aisle. He notes these things but says nothing. Here is not his place.
He’s not particularly unhappy about going to work; he doesn’t love it but accepts unsatisfying careers are a part of life. He works on a computer where he does things like sell stuff for his company.
He talks casually to his coworkers. They’ve long decided going deeper than small talk is a bad idea because of the quiet scowl that crawls across his face when he disagrees. They talk about the weather, the sports games, the fact that people should adopt dogs rather than buy them. He likes it this way. It’s easier to avoid subjects that require him to express an opinion which is an exercise in restraint and is frankly uncomfortable.
On the way home, the Horrible Internet Commenter sees a billboard he does not like. It promotes something he disagrees with, something he is completely opposed to. He turns around, wanting to tell someone how stupid he believes it is. But there is no one. He’s alone. The hatred for the billboard smolders inside him, how can anyone agree with what it’s supporting or advertising or using his tax dollars on? He wants to release a violent yell and tear it down. But he is not in his place. Later.
When he returns home, the Horrible Internet Commenter waters his bamboo plant. Then he kicks off his shoes and grabs a bag of Taco Doritos, shuffling over to his computer. As he presses his index finger to his laptop’s “on” button, a power surges through his arm.
When he sits down, his white cat hops onto his lap and he pets it, stroking its silky head as he decides where to begin. He hops onto a page he regularly visits but something catches his eye. Something he does not like.
His gut tells him he hates it before he can logically understand why. But he does not agree with the writer’s stance; he’s sure of that much. Then he notices it was written by someone he does not find sexually attractive. Perfect.
His keyboard begins to clack, his apartment dark minus the blue glow from his laptop and the nightlight he leaves on for the cat. He tells the blogger that he thinks she is ugly, which is clever, and that what she wrote was stupid. He continues to make his rounds, spinning deeper and deeper into comment boards and using his thesaurus for the most biting insults he can muster.
When he comes upon an article he actually likes he finds an idiot commenter who does not feel the same. He tells him the planet would be better off without him, which seems fair since he expressed nearly the opposite opinion of The Horrible Internet Commenter.
It would be a crime, really, to not share his enlightened opinion with the world, so he keeps typing and typing and scrolling and clicking and panting and brushing Dorito crumbs off on his sweatpants. Every page just begs for his opinion, pleading for his response.
Sometimes, he wants to stop but he just keeps finding things he doesn’t like: stances on politics, essays on traumatic life experiences, opinions on this spring’s shoe trends.
He is angry, furious even, at the evidence he keeps finding that there are people in the world who do not think the same way as him. Screaming at them, his fingers flying away, gives him the power to make that not true.
After he brushes his teeth and applies his tooth-whitening strips he bought on sale, he brings his computer to his comfortable bed and puts it on his belly like an otter with a special treat.
He clicks on his heated blanket, something he could never manage to give back to his parents after they lent it to him years ago, and continues to tell strangers he hates them. He does this for hours; he can’t stop. He must keep commenting on the things he doesn’t love because it’s the only time all day he gets to scream. Doing so in public would draw the ire of the police.
But behind the screen and under his blanket, behind his fake names attached to fake emails and blank photo boxes, behind the opportunity to submit his rage anonymously, he is safe and warm.
Will it feel the same when you tell me you love me over the phone? Will the peacefulness of those words still floor me from thousands of miles away?
By Hannah Allen
I was conflicted. It felt like one eye was trying to look away while the other soaked it up. I felt the heat rise in my face. This was wrong. But it didn’t feel wrong.
By Albert Pham
Any nervous flyer knows the progression of descending panic: bile, sweaty palms, social awkwardness and self-induced sedation.
By Kate Vorys
I know how it feels when the weight of darkness crashes down onto your chest in the middle of the night, and how you wish things would stop spinning because the axis seems tilted now. I know, love, I know.