Dear You,

They arrive in my inbox like little nightmares. They fill the thing up. They swarm like flies on the carrion of my former happiness.

SUBJECT: DodgingROger Sent You This Page! DodgingROger Sent You This Page! DodgingROger Sent You This Page!

At first, I didn’t mind. The original email came late on a Tuesday, and when I saw the automatically generated subject line, I thought, Well, that was nice of you. You thought of me, and sent me something. So I did what I would inevitably regret doing a thousand times over to this email’s innumerable descendents: I opened it. I opened it! And that time, I laughed. I mean, who doesn’t like an adequately Photoshopped image of a trio of squirrels having a climactic lightsaber battle?

It was funny. So when a matter of hours later, another email arrived, I opened that one, too. A group of miniature donkeys at a zoo, one of which launches himself into the crotch of a man taking pictures, and bites him in the wiener. Or something. They all blend together now. But I laughed. That’s what you do when a creature bites a dude in the wiener and you haven’t seen a creature bite a dude in the wiener in some time: You laugh.

And then another one came. Cartoon baleen whales wearing suits and Victorian finery. Which was OK. But then more came. And more. And time passed. A year! Two! And they kept coming. And they never stopped coming.

Here is a wildly incomplete list of the many links I have received, preceded by the death sentence “DodgingROger Sent You This Page!” I hope that in some way, this conveys to you what I’ve been through.

• Puppy taking a dump on a cat, with inset IMPACT font message about the superiority of puppies over cats

• Cat taking a whiz on a puppy (presumably no connection to Item 1)

• Bloated man at Wal-Mart with a cart full of what seems to be hundreds of containers of coleslaw

• Image of a pine cone that looks like the Death Star

• Video of a frat dude hitting another frat dude in the head with a corn dog

GIF featuring BIG JOHNSON T-shirts of yesteryear

• Stop-motion animation of a Dostoevsky action figure fighting a tapir and then puking on Indiana Jones (?)

• Throbbing techno rendition of an auto-tuned Nicolas Cage from Bad Lieutenant muttering “Where’s the kibble?” over and over and over

• Video about ethanol gasoline being a conspiracy, narrated by an 11-year-old boy petting a Maine Coon

JPEG of my name on a grain of rice

These links, “DodgingROger.” These links. I just can’t do it any more. I can’t open them. I’m sorry. I think things. I ponder things. Why do these exist? What does it mean that they exist? What does it mean that you search for them all day? What the hell is StumbleUpon? Why do nearly three-fourths of them tend to involve ball-shots and bodily functions and Star Wars? What has happened to me that forces me to open 95 percent of them—some morbid sense of hope that this particular one will be the last one, or, worse, that it will somehow rekindle the magic of those first duelist rodents?

Moreover, what they’ve done to my psyche is unspeakable, having opened my email, literally, hundreds and hundreds of times, anticipating a useful message—a job offer? A love note? A bill?—to find a JPEG of a shirtless man whose stomach appears to be making a face. My internal sense of digital hope and possibility is now represented by a black hole from which no light shines except the glowing photos you sent me of the half burned out neon signs saying things like “Fuddruckers” and “The Vagina Monologues.”

After thousands of these, StumbleUpon has become our only means of communication. I see your name, and get excited because some part of me thinks we’re in daily contact like we used to be in high school. But then I get all weepy, because I realize instead it’s like you’ve been reaching out, to reconnect, give our friendship new life in some magic way like Michelangelo’s painting of God and Adam in the Sistine Chapel—a metaphorical touching of fingers. But in the end, you just ask me to pull yours every time.

And then there was the cow. Oh Jesus, the cow. The cow was when I knew things had fucking changed. When I knew it was time to draft this letter. The cow. I got the email: “DodgingROger Sent You This Page!” Numb, my normal state of mind now, I moved in with my mouse, like I always do. I clicked.

And there, I’ll be damned, it was. It was just a photo of a cow, standing in a field, doing nothing. You couldn’t even see his balls. He wasn’t kicking anyone or peeing or pooping on anything. He was just standing there. It was amazing. I crossed my eyes to make sure it wasn’t a Magic Eye. I scanned the picture for anything—a cloud that resembled a vulgarity? A chipmunk giving me the finger? Speckled cow patterns resembling an ice cream cone or labia?

But there wasn’t any of it. It was just a cow, standing in a field.

That’s it.

A Cow, in a field.

And then that little light came on my phone again.

DodgingROger Sent You This Page!
DodgingROger Sent You This Page!
DodgingROger Sent You This Page!

I wish you hadn’t.

James Roland