I really like the work of Joey Comeau, particularly Overqualified, a book that tells its letter through a series of wildly inappropriate cover letters. I decided to write my own cover letter in a similar style.

Dear SAP Technologies,

I am writing to apply for a position as a web programmer and have included my resume which details my extensive software development experience. What my resume cannot cover is my long and personal history with building web pages.

When I was 11 years old, my father bought a computer. It was big off-white box with an old CRT monitor that was warm and flickered if you ran your finger across it. He told us that we could only use it for an hour each day, and only before 8pm. He also warned us not to talk to anyone on the internet. Stranger danger. At first my little brother and I just used it to play games, but I saw greater potential.

I wanted to know what was out there, and I had realized a fatal flaw in my dad’s plan to control us. Our parents would always stay up past our bedtime, so trying to use the computer after they went to bed would have been futile, but no parent expects their 11 year old daughter to be awake at 4am.

That was how I did it, I would wake up at 4am every morning and look for things on the internet, and by 6:30 the computer would be shut off and I would be back in my bed. I found websites and forums about everything, music, books, sex, computers. I found it all. But there was one group that fascinated me the most. It was a group of people all making little websites, some for their businesses, some just to show photos to their family and friends.

I wanted my own website, so I started learning. I made a page that said ‘hello world’ and hosted it on my family’s computer. I hid it deep in a nest of directories called ApplicationProgramConfiguration or WindowsButtonMetedata, my parents would never look there. I started adding more pages. My website told a story. I’d spend all day at school thinking about what I was going to learn or add the next morning.

And I started talking to people. On the forums I could find people who could teach me anything, and soon I wasn’t just learning, I was teaching. Most of them were only there to make a site for this or that, but sometimes I could get someone to talk. One person in particular wanted to make a website for a comic they were writing. They wanted the background image to repeat as you scrolled down. I started helping, at first just on a public post, but as we got into details we started just messaging each other.

We shared our thoughts about the internet and about comics. She drew comics about the little everyday things that happened in her life, and we would talk about them. I knew she could have been lying about being a girl, and about being in middle school, but I didn’t think so. Every day I’d wake up at 4am, and every few days I’d have a new message from her. Sometimes she could manage to get up early and we’d chat directly. At one point we decided to merge our sites. I did the programming and design, she’d draw the comics. We told stories together.

I learned that her name was Kelly. She lived somewhere in the southeast. As close as we got, we never shared exactly where we lived. I guess our parents' warnings stuck with us. When I graduated middle school, I had to go to the big district high school. No one there knew me, or cared to. Everyday I’d sit in class thinking about what we were going to talk about after school. My parents had relaxed their computer policy. We got to chat every night.

I remember one time, it must have been in 10th grade. I’d just done really poorly on some assignment. I can’t remember what it was to be honest. Kelly wasn’t online, so I just wrote a message to her saying how crushed I was and how high school was just tearing me apart. I woke up early that morning hoping she’d responded. She sent me a picture of her with a little half smile on her face with the caption, everything will be ok. I believed it. I must have looked at that picture over 100 times.

We never really officially started dating, but somehow she just became my secret internet girlfriend. I took my parents' camera one night and sent her a picture of me. She did the same. It felt adventurous, and she was beautiful. Sitting there at the computer in the middle of the night admitting to her that I liked girls, and that I liked her. We’d known each other for years, we could talk about anything.

Then one day the forum site went down. There was drama with the admins and then just like that, poof! It was gone. I’d let the loading icon spin for minute after minute hoping that somehow I could connect. I tried to email her, I tried to find her, but nothing worked. I spent hours wishing that I’d just gotten her real last name, or the name of her school, a phone number or something written down that could lead me to her. And I know that she’s got to be out there too, searching for me, but I was far too careful with my own information, and I don’t think I ever told her enough to find me.

It’s been over 15 years now, SAP, but whenever I see a comic or a piece of art I like, I think about showing it to her and how much she’d have to say about it, but then I realize I can’t. I have a girlfriend, we met in college and live together in a one bedroom apartment. But lately, when I’m in lying there next to her, I start thinking about Kelly and what it would feel like to be sleeping with her instead.

Maybe if I start making websites again, I’ll find her.


Zoe Simmons