Deleting History

brandon-mead.jpeg

There’s a laptop slammed on the table next to my kale wrap and Tyler, lanky armed and out of breath, suddenly asking me if it’s possible to delete browsing data from a shopping website.

This place smells like bulk black tea and hummus, it sounds like atmospheric hip hop and conversations about astral projection. Half the time the wifi doesn’t even work, but here’s Tyler pushing his Hanson throwback hair behind his ears, gripping his computer, pure panic speckled with sweat.

He’s tapping what I’m certain is morse code for “fear” out on the black shell of his personal technology with long nervous fingers and frantically repeating, “how do I do it? How do I delete my history?”

The thing about sharing an online shopping account with your entire family is, everyone is going to eventually see what you’ve been virtually mulling over putting in your basket. And at some point, based on that window shopping, it’s going to start showing you products just like it.

So, if you’ve been perusing the “Happy Bottom Giant Butt Plug,” collection then there’s a chance you, your parents, and your older brother’s son who just wanted his video game to qualify for two day shipping- may also enjoy the “All American Eight Inch Extra Veiny Dong.”

They probably won’t. I mean, not when they were looking for novelty spatulas or essential oil diffusers and suddenly they’re bombarded with reviews about how the suction cup on the All American Dong really can take a decent amount of abuse. Five stars.

It’s never our banking information or proprietary work details we’re trying to erase into the ether when we’re in incognito mode. When you’re edgy cousin posts a meme on social media that says, “when I die, please delete my internet history” he’s not worried about someone stealing his Fantasy Football line-up.

We grew up jerking it to Sports Illustrated and descrambled HBO Real Sex episodes, but while we progressed from tapes to DVDs and straight into virtually free high speed handheld internet porn, we still haven’t managed to evolve out of our own shame.

You can leave every torn sticky Playgirl or boy page in a dark trash bag somewhere between the late eighties and nineties, but that terrible pit feeling right after you cum, that’s what it feels like when you think your parents are about to find out you put weird things in your butt.

When the internet was still young, AOL chat rooms were everyone’s slightly older sibling. The equivalent to that neighbor kid who taught you about sex. The Boy Scout camp counselor you wanted to ask for advice and then bang in a tent after.

People complain now about getting unsolicited dick pics, but back then, you still had to ask. It was a struggle to see a partially naked photo of someone you only knew online.

If someone sent an image you would have to wait all day at school while it unblurred line by line, one pixel at time over the phone lines. You’d leave for school with the same file from the chat the night before still loading, and be lucky if it was finished by the time you came home. Just one pic. And it could be anything, but more often than not, it was a big fat hairy cock.

With just minor conversation, a little a/s/l, technology taught me what other people’s dicks looked like hard. What got them off. How many dirty pictures we could send each other knowing the chances of us ever hooking up in real life were close to zero. Pick the reason why. Age, sex, or location. Maybe all of the above.

I spent months meeting guys in poorly regulated chat rooms and getting the kind of amateur porn that had to be scanned in. This was before my family’s computer, the one that came in a big box with cow print on it, preinstalled with two games and a Weezer music video- just stopped working. “Crashed,” the guy with the ponytail at computer store would say.

I would find out later when I had been accepting all these pictures from strangers- they were downloading and saving to the harddrive, bytes on top of bytes eventually overloading the cutting edge thirteen megabyte high-end consumer grade system.

My dad was livid after spending thousands on this thing and took it to the guy with the ponytail, screaming about the warranty. I was thirteen years old and had no idea I was sitting on a time bomb full of mushroom heads and unshaved pubes.

Instead, I started visiting my grandparents a lot more. They had a computer that only weighed fifteen pounds and could be moved to any room with a phone port in the wall. If they weren’t home and I forgot my key, I’d climb the garden fence into the courtyard and find a window to slip through. I’d snuggle into the desk chair with the orthopedic cushion and download pic after pic of volcanic eruptions in every skin color. Not jerking off, but just taking it all in.

Then there’s one day, I’m alone, and just the peak of this uncut mountain is coming through, square by square. I’m eyeing it like fine art being painted in real time, listening to the Spice Girls, singing “Tell me what you want, what you really really want” when suddenly, the screen goes black. The cooling fan stops. It’s the day I learned the multiple meanings of Trojan Horse.

My grandparent’s computer, the one my grandmother was using to write a book about our family genealogy- the book she didn’t back up because she didn’t know how, that computer was on its way to the guy with the ponytail too. Plastered with half a screen of frozen flesh torpedo I knew, there was no way I was going to survive this.

Cut to Tyler, twenty years later in a different town, but the same disaster- and he’s telling me his mom saw it first and thought his Dad was cheating on her. She bought everything in the recently viewed and suggested items, everything Tyler couldn’t clear, just trying to save her marriage.

Tyler’s Dad obviously told her he hadn’t been the one looking at the vibrating prostate massager, the ribbed silicone sleeve, the pocket booty that looked a little like a GMO nectarine in an ice cream cone. But it didn’t really matter by then- and Tyler says, “I think I’m the reason my parents are getting divorced.”

The easy thing would be to tell them. To say, I’m sorry I forgot to log out, I’m sorry I’m a sexual deviant or a pervert, or whatever we’re afraid of hearing from the people we don’t want to disappoint.

But he can’t bring himself to do it. Even when his mom tells him his dad won’t be joining them for Christmas dinner, he says nothing.

The guy with the ponytail, he told my dad the warranty didn’t cover a harddrive so packed with stuff it literally melted the thick plastic shell of the desktop. But kind of guy my Dad is, he said he had spent too much to let them trash it, so we hauled it back in the minivan. Two-thousand dollars on a credit card, that system sits in that same cowhide cardboard box in my folk’s garage to this day. A cobwebbed symbol of poor decision making for multiple members of the family.

My grandparents eventually got their computer back too, my grandmother started re-writing her book from memory. They never asked about the dicks.

Years later, when I brought my first college boyfriend home. My more official coming out, my grandmother whispered in my ear “I always knew you liked boys.”

I started to ask her how, expecting stories about dancing to New Kids on the Block songs in my underwear, or the leopard print bodysuit I insisted on wearing for an entire summer. Maybe the poster of Devon Sawa on my bedroom wall in middle school.

She was gesturing towards her office before I finished my sentence. Saying, “there’s a lot more space on that new machine but probably not enough for those giants you like.”

She looks at my boyfriend, smiling. A real in-the-flesh non-pixelated man sitting at her dinner table, and she says, “don’t make anyone live up to your expectations. It’s a lot to ask of someone you love.”

Back in the tea house with the kale wraps and hummus, I’m trying to tell Tyler to come clean. That there’s nothing he’ll regret more than knowing his parents could still stay together if he just admits to being the mystery shopper. That he can’t let his broken family become his own personal dusty computer box in the garage, just suspended over his head for eternity.

Tyler’s only half listening. His nervous fingers tapping out “remorse” tapping out “shame,” spelling out in clicks and rests, “I’ll never survive this.”

He makes me want to reboot that old melted 90s computer and turn that whole hard drive into a coffee table book. To never delete my browser history. To leave this world, all Pornhub titles and dick pics behind, without a password. Openly welcoming whoever finds them to simply, enjoy.

Written By Brandon Mead

Bio: Living on the other side of the split lifeline on his left palm, Brandon Mead is a Central Florida author and online contributor just trying to write something that won’t embarrass his parents.

Social Media: @bameadpro - Website: brandonalexandermead.blogspot.com