A Eulogy for AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) by Rachel Zhao

my late hamster’s name + my birthday + my horoscope sign. and quite reluctantly, the rusty hinges of my young adolescence are opened. there’s a lot of crap in here, and that’s really what AIM has become- a possessor of scraps of conversation, fanfiction and statuses of unfinished poetry. and i have become a concerned family member reaching into the depths of the dilapidated house of their hoarder of a distant relative.

my memories of AIM remain in hazy halcyon that i can only remember when insomnia pinpoints my brain to thoughts ive valiantly tried to repress. my screen name was a mess oF rANdom lEtTers and my profile photo was a banal quote, either about the trappings of normalcy or rage against the status quo or perhaps it was just one of those avatars of a cartoon dinosaur and a cookie that were popular at the time (i was straddled between the personas of “angsty girl who felt too much and listen to simple plan” and “special snowflake who doesnt wear make up or dress up, and was debatably too immersed in her harry potter fanfiction”). the first time the ping of a message sounded on my computer intoxicated me with the knowledge that my friend was able to reach for me beyond the confines of distance and curfew.

AIM was revolutionary in its own way, creating the jumbled letters that built the language of the millennials that cantankerous baby boomers fumble over with their memories of the days of ink-splotched fingers and long, handwritten letters. it trained me in the politics of emojis and punctuation, of the anxiety of long silences, and the manifestation of tweenage insecurity into passive aggressive responses of one sentence “k”s.  

AIM was a witness, an empty participant in the corner of my young adulthood, onto which i tossed my mental vomit. it facilitated the first betrayals of friendships, exhilaration of post exams, the tears of a first heartbreak as my chest stiffened, cracked and released words that condensed from thought to screen to rants against jody baker for kissing henry foster behind the swing set. the dial up tone became a dissonant lullaby, as i sat in my family’s small, dilapidated apartment, as my sister slept and my parents worked to the early hours of morning. and in considering the sizes of the oceans my parents have crossed to reach this country and the speed of my friend’s messages about her quickly devolving relationship, i felt peacefully small for the first time in a long time.

and with nostalgia clogging my arteries, i slowly watch my childhood branded as a relic, and as AIM is being retired and i reexamine, in the light of day, the life of a girl i dont recognize anymore, i bid a fond farewell to both. ty AIM…ty.