For some reason, my iPhone asks if I would like to connect to a network called “HOME” whenever I am in one of Manhattan’s most expensive neighborhoods. It happens on Elizabeth Street, by one-room boutiques that sell $3000 sapphires from Malawi. I couldn’t tell you why, since I have never connected to this network and don’t count myself among the loft-dwelling plutocrats who do. It first happened about a year ago, after my mom told me she sold the house I grew up in and moved to a condo behind a Toyota dealership.
“Would you like to connect to HOME?”
I’ve never connected to a network called “HOME.” When I first moved to New York, I paid $400 per month to get Wi-Fi from an actress in Washington Heights. Her last job was as an adolescent kangaroo in the touring production of Seussical, and I slept on her couch. She was a devout Baptist, and her Wi-Fi was strong. Its name was HelpMeMrJesus. I was looking for jobs, and I called out to it every morning when I woke up on the couch: Give me your megabits, MrJesus. Help me to receive your WEP and walk in your wireless grace.
A year earlier, in college, I stole Wi-Fi from a neighbor. She was an RTVF major with a black bob and Cadillac-red lipstick. Her name was Lynn, and our studio apartments shared a wall. Lynn had loud sex once a week with her macroeconomics-major boyfriend, Bruno. Her network’s name was The Nipple Network. Here are some of The Nipple Network’s vital stats:
✓ It never worked. Or maybe not never, but rarely.
✓ Sometimes it looked like it was working — all the bars were up — but web pages still took several lunar cycles to load.
✓ The router was cheap — Netgear, the size of a sardine can.
One night, I knocked on Lynn’s door. Bruno opened it. He was wearing a tee shirt that said “Economists Do It With Models.”
“I’ve been stealing your Wi-Fi,” I said.
Obama had just been elected and I wanted to stream his acceptance speech, but the network was down. Bruno restarted the router, but it malfunctioned during Obama’s opening line: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possib—
Buffering. Obama was frozen in time, a kind of grin on his face as I struggled to latch onto The Nipple Network.
Last November, I wanted to connect to the Wi-Fi in my parents’ new home, but my mom could not find the password. She opened every drawer in the dining room dresser. I had it a second ago. I really did, I swear. I’m so, so sorry baby.
My mom calls me baby when she can’t find the Wi-Fi.
OnyxWillow. FashionGrrrrl. Angelino5. TellMyWifiLoveHer. UnicornsMakingLove. canugivemesomehappinesscanu. We take our self-expression where we can get it. An artist recently illuminated the electromagnetic signals from people’s routers in rainbow and neon. The signals shoot up in streams of light. They’re doing it right now: plumes of Wi-Fi connecting us to seventy-seven percent of the developed world. We hardly even notice.
Finally, she found a red Verizon envelope under a pile of bills in the dining room. No password. She hadn’t written it down. We’d have to restart the router with a paperclip. And someone was buying a Toyota across the street. You could hear the doors closing, the ignition igniting, the flywheel flying.
I want to break into that network called “HOME.” Want to hack it, crack it. Want to try a million passwords, all the combinations of letters and numbers and non-letters and non-numbers. Want to bang my fingers against the keys on Elizabeth all night until they’re numb. Done. Connected. In. I’ll get the router surgically woven into my heart, a strong signal, and stand on the street. People will ask for the network’s name and password as they walk by. “HOME,” I’ll tell them. It’s just HOME.