MQR Reader Connor Greer responds to Christine Rhein’s poem “Against Leaving Him” from our Winter 2021 Issue. You can purchase it here. To read Christine Rhein’s poem “Against Leaving Him,” click here.
I spend a great deal of time on the internet.
I imagine this is true for most people, or maybe that is what someone says when someone spends a great deal of time on the internet.
Much of the time I spend on the internet, I spend reading.
I read about sports on the internet. In particular, I read about the Houston Texans, an NFL team.
I read about the Houston Texans because I am from Rochester, NY, and there are not many fans of the Houston Texans in Rochester, NY.
The closest football team to Rochester is the Buffalo Bills, based in Buffalo, NY. The fans there, i.e., the “Bills Mafia,” hold uproarious tailgates outside of the stadium before games. They have a tradition, as I understand it, of setting up tables, which, after getting drunk enough, they throw themselves onto, one-at-a-time, from the backs of trucks and the tops of RVs, smashing the tables into pieces. (Note 1) Sometimes, the tables will be lit on fire before people jump. They stand in a circle and grip each other shoulders and yell and chant.
I did not know any Texans fans in Rochester, NY, and I do not know what traditions they have in Houston.
I follow the Houston Texans because cows were my favorite animal when I was a child and the Texans’ logo is a cow. Cows were my favorite animal because I read the The Far Side and because I thought they were the gentlest animals alive and because I liked to eat steak.
If you pointed out the contradiction between my love for cows and my love for eating cows, I would have told you that they liked to be eaten. I would have been joking. I haven’t stopped eating steak.
I read about the Houston Texans on the internet because the internet exists, and Rochester is very far from Houston—as is Ann Arbor, for that matter—and in a world with internet, it is natural to seek out those who are like you on it.
When I was young, I convinced my parents to take me to a Bills-Texans game in Buffalo. I went in my jersey and my hat, and we sat among the Bills fans. They yelled and screamed, and they ribbed me, gently, I am sure, kindly, but I could not take it. The Texans were losing. I wept and wept and made my parents take me home before the end of the first quarter. I felt like the only one of my kind.
When we got home, I found out that the Texans had won the game in the end. But none of it was ever about the game.
What I am trying to say is that place can be simulated, but the simulation has limits. My Dad was born in Detroit, and he was—and remains—a fan of the Detroit Lions.
The Detroit Lions are perhaps the worst team in NFL history—the first team to have a winless season.
I remember watching him pace back and forth as the Lions lost again and again. I remember him swearing he would not watch any longer and then continuing to watch. I remember him scrolling through the comment sections of Detroit Free Press sports articles, posting comments with others, commiserating in the team’s pain across a vast distance.
He did not grow up in Detroit, but the place still lingered with him. It had some amount of presence.
I have been to Houston twice in my adult life for unrelated reasons. I may have seen the stadium once from the highway, but I could not tell you for certain.
I read about the Texans on the internet because my Dad read about the Lions on the Detroit Free Press website, and I love my Dad dearly, and when I was young, I strove to imitate him.
What I am trying to say is that I believe there is a fundamental distance involved in total interconnectedness.
Initially, I read about the Texans on the Houston Chronicle website because my Dad used the Detroit Free Press website. I thought that newspapers were where one read about such things.
At the time, if I remember right, the people in the comment sections on the Houston Chronicle website primarily wrote long, incoherent diatribes peppered with various slurs.
I did not like reading about the Texans on the Houston Chronicle website. I did not wish to be a part of that world. I sought out other places.
In high school, I was introduced to the website “Reddit” by a friend, and I began to read about the Texans on the Texans subreddit. The people there do not use slurs and appear to hold beliefs less odious than the other places I have seen the Texans discussed. Memes of Bernie Sanders are posted, for instance.
I read about the Houston Texans on the Texans subreddit because I imagine that the people there are more like me.
What I am trying to say is that this is how other worlds are created.
But I do not know these people. I do not know if they post often. I do not recognize usernames or have any kind of relationship with any individuals. Rather, they are a kind of mass. They are not exactly human to me, though there are moments of humanity that move me greatly.
The Houston Texans are an organization that I believe to be dealing in evil, or something very close to evil, insofar as they are a part of the NFL, insofar as the NFL is a part of the American ideology machine, insofar as the American ideology machine is in the service of every manner of contemporary oppression I can think of. I believe the NFL to be a politically odious institution. I believe it to be a microcosm of a social structure centered around competition and violence.
Watching football is an experience in moral nausea. Watching football is the experience of inscribing ideology into the mind with a knife. Watching football is watching equally the barrage of advertisements for cars, beer, gambling applications, personal injury attorneys, Amazon warehouse jobs, and the United States military.
I believe we create worlds together, like dreams, and we love each other in them, but that the world cannot dream with us because it is the world.
Being on the internet is also a way to inscribe ideology into the mind with a knife. I can choose what the knife looks like, I can make it appear the way I want, it can move me, transport me, and I can feel connected to others on it, I can make myself a part of a mass, but the meaning is somewhere else, in the structure, in the code, in the likes and dislikes and the way the mind reacts to them, in the money flowing along the wires, in the distance from this to that side of the screen.
What I am trying to say is that I believe this world is always also that world.
What I am trying to say is that I believe, on the internet, we are trying to jump on tables together, but the tables are made of code, and we fall through the ground, and we may fall alongside one another for a time, we may fall forever, but we rarely touch, and when we do, we are increasingly terrified. The world continues without us.
What I am trying to say is that, on the internet, I feel like I am grieving the portions of an older version of the world that were themselves forms of grief that have been passed down to me, grief for a different world entirely, a world I cannot properly imagine, a world not based in violence or possession or competition, but in mutual knowing, in being together, a world that, in truth, has never existed, and I believe that many other people are doing this as well, in many different ways, and when I scroll through the portions of the internet that I do, I believe I am grieving with them and yet, in doing so, I am also propagating the circumstances of and reasons for this grief. Perhaps technology only advances to make the hilt of the knife transfixing enough that it does not matter what it is being used for.
What I am trying to say is that we have all joined online support groups.
What I am trying to say is that I am an EverQuest Widow, same, I imagine, as you.