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Unemployed

“How’d it go?” he asked me.

Before I was down the street, I had called my husband, stopping to strip off my blazer with my briefcase tucked between my legs. The Friday afternoon sun bore down on me, slowly melting the makeup on my face.

“Really well!” I told him, excited. “…Of course, that probably means I didn’t get the job.”

He let out a mirthless laugh.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” I said. “It’s so perfect for me. Honestly, it hasn’t even been two weeks since my retrenchment.”

He paused. Only three days before he had been the symbol of strength, telling me to leave the money worries behind and focus on me.

“So tell me all about it,” he finally said.

Monday morning at 8am, I received the call. “How’d you think you went?” the recruiter asked.

I knew from the question I had won the position.

I was right.

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New Year Adventure

2019 started with an early morning dog walk. It was midway through the walk when I received a call from hubby that he was trying to catch a dog that was running across the streets where he was walking our other dog.

I raced home to get the car, grab the keys, put my girl (dog) in the backyard, and took a lead. The dog was not collared, hubby had said, and I was willing to bet not microchipped either.

I found hubby on the corner of a main road with our boy sitting very patiently and the stray wagging her tail in hubby’s arms. She was a beautiful, young, red Kelpie with sagging teats. It took us both to put her into the car and strap her in safely.

At 6:30 in the morning, there weren’t many options available to us. I tried calling the RSPCA, but after 30min, I was still on hold. Meanwhile we brought her to our house where she terrorized our cats and was too scared to play with our big dogs. We couldn’t keep her, but it was also a public holiday and likely not much would be open.

Hubby called a local vet at 7am when they opened, who said they could take her if she was microchipped only. I finally got onto the RSPCA who told me that they didn’t take lost dogs, but they did put us on file as having found her in case the owners called. The Pound wasn’t open on public holidays, but they had metal drop boxes for lost dogs that were checked periodically through the day.

We took her to the vet first. But we were right. No microchip in her. So they told us to take her to the drop boxes or keep her until the owner called the RSPCA.

By this point, I’m so sad for the little girl; it seemed no one wanted her. She was a gorgeous dog with a big smile and constantly wagging upright tail. I swear she was still a puppy, but she wasn’t trained at all. I was pretty certain she was just used to be bred. So a giant part of me just wanted to rescue her from the made-up life I had created in my head.

We drove over to the drop boxes that both the vet and RSPCA told us about, and I was instantly in tears. These metal boxes had very little light in them, were small and cramped, with no water in them. They looked so inhumane. We were lucky that another lady was there before we arrived, and had blocked the entrance in hopes of catching one of the after hours employees as they tried to come into work. And it worked, just as we arrived.

We didn’t have to put the little darling into that horrible box, and we were able to see her be taken straight into the kennels. We left, both sad for her but happy we had hopefully saved a life on New Year’s Day.

Two hours later, the RSPCA called me. The owner was looking for a dog fitting my description.

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Best and Worst of 2018 (Pop Culture Edition)

2018 has been a wild ride in TV and film. There have been some amazing new intellectual properties and old. What’s more, it’s been a great year for diversity, with the likes of Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Killing Eve, to name a few.

Every year, I make it my mission to watch a vast majority of the movies on most top ten lists, and every year, I miss a few that I just can’t get because of release schedules and distribution rights. This year, I haven’t been able to see The Favourite, Green Book, If Beale St Could Talk, or Widows. Nevertheless, I’ve found that my taste is widely different than most critics. You won’t fine You Were Never Really Here on my list, even if it has been nearly universally lauded as one of the best of the year, because, quite honestly, it wasn’t for me. I will admit that the direction was great, the subject material well-handled, but the sound pulled me out of the movie, and the non-linear story-telling (which I generally can follow) made for a jarring cinematic experience for me.

My list is also not a top ten, because I genuinely struggle with number rankings. I prefer to look at it from a genre level, because it’s not really fair to compare Aquaman with A Star is Born (don’t worry, neither of those are on my list, give me a little credit).

Best Movies

Best Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

So many great documentaries came out this year, like Quincy, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, and RBG, but this one about the late Fred Rogers, of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, filled me with so much hope. I watched Mister Rogers when I was a child but watching this show helped me understand how important he was my development and the development of so many others. He was a beautiful human being, and that shines through every inch of this doco.

Best Historical Fiction: First Man

There’s a scene in First Man, when Ryan Gosling, playing Neil Armstrong, is sitting in the Gemini 8. You see his eyes and then the focus of his gaze as it shifts from one jagged edge to a possibly loose screw to the door and back, and the sound of the ship exiting the atmosphere is deafening. In a moment, you can see how incredible it was that we ever landed on the moon. But more than this, you get insight into the man behind that mission, and see his humanity, rather than a hero.

Best Foreign Film: Roma

Alfonso Cuaron’s love letter to his home is a masterpiece. You are transported to 1971 Mexico through the eyes of a domestic worker, during a time of unrest. It is a raw and honest film, that shines a light on the class indifferences within a Mexican household. Cleo, the housekeeper of a fair-skinned Mexican family, spends her days, waking at dawn to get her employer’s children up and ready for the day, cleaning dog poo from the cobblestone entrance, and tucking the kids back into bed at night. They show her some love and affection while still keeping her at arm’s length. The movie is paced slow and deliberate and gives extra attention to the beauty of a Mexico most may not even know.

Best Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Disney doesn’t get my top spot this year, though Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet were both fun movies, but they were nothing compared to Into the Spider-verse. From the superb comic book animation to the introduction of the multiverse and its versions of Spider-man to the story, this movie has everything that I want from a superhero movie and just proves that not everything needs to be live action in the comic book world.

Best Popcorn Movie: Avengers: Infinity War

I feel I need to talk about Black Panther for a moment here. It was an incredibly important movie. It suffers slightly from a rushed third act, but nothing should discount the importance of representation in cinema. It is an immense triumph, and the $1.3billion it made in the box office proves that.

For me, Avengers: Infinity War was the best popcorn movie of the year, though. It is the culmination of ten years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they delivered in an emotional punch. Thanos is easily the greatest villain, and his arc is believable (as much as a big purple dude’s can be). The movie is far from perfect, but it is by far one of the best in the MCU to date.

Best Comedy: BlacKkKlansman/Sorry to Bother You

I couldn’t decide between these two. They are both a darker brand of comedy, but each had important messages. Sorry to Bother You is quirky, with a distinct almost music video flare to it, tells the story of a telemarketer and tackles subjects of racism and slavery in a fresh and inventive way. BlacKkKlansman is borderline depressing in its dark humor. It follows Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve in Colorado Springs Police Department and shows him leading the infiltration to the local chapter of the KKK. It tackles 1970s race themes that are unfortunately still very real today. By the end, there will be no laughter to be had, making this a tough genre entry to quantify.

Best Horror: Hereditary/A Quiet Place

These are two completely different movies, but their originality lands them on this list together. Hereditary takes the concept of heritage and family and delivers an emotional and unnerving tale that breaks genre conventions. Toni Collette is incredible, and if she doesn’t get an Oscar nomination, it will be a travesty. Whereas A Quiet Place, devotes its run-time with a family living in silence with a largely unseen enemy. It is tense and disquieting across its 90min run-time. Neither movie has an abundance of cheap jump scares, rather relying on the tension of the situations to build the suspense. I wish more horror movies were made like this.

Best Sci-Fi: Annihilation

Paramount famously decided this year that this movie would not make enough money if sent to cinemas outside the US and sold it to Netflix to stream it worldwide, so unfortunately, I was forced to watch this gem from home. I know I lost something in that, too. This movie deserved to be seen on a big screen with true surround sound. Nevertheless, it was a haunting and beautiful movie. The all-female group were each standouts in their own way. I was thinking of this movie months after I had seen it, and while it might not be for everyone, it is by far my favorite sci-fi since Arrival.

Best Action: Upgrade

This movie came and went with very little fanfare, but it is brilliant! It is easily one of the best action movies in recent memory, with frenetic and tense fight scenes that make you cringe and feel every intense blow. Logan Marshall-Green gives an amazing performance as a man with a computer chip installed into him to help him walk, which slowly takes over his actions. He puts in a double performance, with body and limbs looking mechanical while his face shows surprise and fear at what he might do next. If you haven’t seen it, find it, watch it, and come back to me and tell me if I’m crazy or not.

Best Drama: Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade lets us remember the awfulness that we felt in eighth grade through the eyes of a quiet and socially awkward 13-year old Kayla. The movie follows in Kayla’s footsteps through the last week in middle school. It shows, what I imagine, is a very real portrait of what it must be like to be 13 in the late 2010s, with social media scrolling and YouTube vlogging. It is refreshing to see these things as not a negative and allows us to remember that not all things on the internet are evil. It’s not a movie for everyone, and I feel it’s incredibly important that for women, it should come with a trigger warning. But I think they handled the subject material very well and can only hope more movies like this could be made..

Worst Movies

I try to avoid the worst movies of the year, if I can, but sometimes I think a concept is really good, or I’m invested in a franchise, so I see a movie against my better judgment. This year, four movies managed that for me.

The Nun

The next chapter in the Conjuring universe. I thought the idea of the Nun in Conjuring 2 was really cool, and the subject material would make for an interesting movie. But this was a terribly lost opportunity. Cheap jump scares, an inconsistent villain, and characters that continuously make bad decisions, made this movie the worst in the franchise yet. Still, it made money at the cinema, so I’m sure they’ll try to fix it with another prequel, a la Annabelle: Creation.

Rampage

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ended 2017with a bang, so this year, it seemed he could do no wrong. That is until this movie came out, and then Skyscraper not long after it. He brings his standard charisma and badassery, but it’s not enough to save this lackluster blockbuster.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I didn’t love Jurassic World. In fact, since the first Jurassic Park, the quality has incrementally gone down. I want so bad for the magic of the first one to be recaptured, but now I’d just be happy to have an even plot and characters.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

I loved the first Pacific Rim. It was basically a live-action Gundam, and with Guillermo del Toro helming that first one, it was just short of perfect. Then this one came out, because: money, and was a giant disappointment.

Best of TV

I’m seriously behind on some shows. I have seen a single episode so far of Killing Eve (I plan to fix that soon), I haven’t watched any of Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 yet, Maniac, or Atlanta. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen some great TV shows. In no particular order:

Castle Rock

This new “horror” (very loose use of that word) anthology series was great to watch and try to guess what was going on after every episode. The finale left me with unanswered questions, but I enjoyed the journey there. If anything, Episode 7, titled “The Queen”, is simply my favourite episode across any series this year. It’s perfectly acted and told and well worth watching just to get to it.

Haunting of Hill House

This horror series was loosely based on the novel of the same name by the phenomenal Shirley Jackson. It follows the past and present events surrounding a family that lived in the house. While there are ghosts aplenty, the real ghosts are those that linger within the characters themselves. If “The Queen” was my favourite episode all year, my second would be Episode 6, “Two Storms,” from this series. It’s just so perfect.

Everything Sucks!

This Netflix original series has flown somewhat under the radar. The series follows a group of AV and drama club members in a 90s high school. It is laced with a serious amount of nostalgia. The soundtrack alone brought me back to high school, with Spacehog and Tori Amos rounding out a great mix of alternative rock. Unfortunately, Netflix have cancelled the series, but I still think the first season is a complete story in itself.

Nailed It!

If you’re ever feeling down or listening to too much news and politics and just need a pick-me-up, Nailed It! should be your go to show. This Netflix original series started this year, and while it is a cooking show, it is about the people that fail at making the most extravagant baked goods available, but they have fun doing it. It’s hilarious and fun and reminds you that there is still joy in the world.

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Top 100 Movies of All-Time – A list challenge

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I have to admit. 2018 has not been a great year for my writing. Whilst I’ve consumed a lot of media throughout the year, I haven’t written a great deal. But for 2019, this will change. I am going to watch and write about the top 100 movies of all-time, because what better way to get back into writing, than to write about the thing I love the most?

I have always been an avid movie buff. I consider myself fairly well-rounded. In the early 2000s, I was certain movies were my future. In fact, I was accepted to film school at university, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to attend. Still, my love of movies has never faultered, and I am so grateful that I grew up with a film buff for a father – the man who showed me Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and Citizen Kane before I was even 10.

Back then, AFI came out with a list of the 100 Top Movies of All-Time, but that list is far too dated to use now. So many great movies have come out in the past two decades. So my first task was to find the right Top 100 Movies list to use, and a quick Google search showed me far more than I had expected. There were possibly too many options, and the more I looked at each list, the more incomplete each seemed. Some lists had Captain America: Civil War in the list, which seems crazy to me, but then great movies like 2001:A Space Odyssey were completely removed. I could never quite feel right if the list I used was wrong. So early on in my quest, I decided I was going to do something different.

I’m going to admit something now, which might make me seem like a super nerd and I’m totally okay with that, but I love analyzing data. I love taking information and finding patterns, so I thought, what if I combined ten of the best lists I could find and ranked the movies based on overall placement across those lists? Sounds simple enough, until I realized that no matter how I ranked, the movies I really want on the list won’t be there, like LA Confidential. It is by far one of my favorite movies, but it didn’t end up making the cut thanks to my “algorithm.”

I took all 10 lists and placed them into a spreadsheet. I combined the lists together to get a complete list of 400+ movies, and removed any that appeared in only one list. That left me with 201 movies to rank. Then the fun began.

But first, I’m going to talk about which lists I used.

There were six publications, one IMDb user list, and three aggragate sites. I have given more weight to the first seven, as aggragate sites are not great, which I’ll get into more below.

  1. Hollywood’s 100 Favorite Films – Hollywood Reporter
    This list was collated by industry professionals via THR. This list was among the better that I found, but still a few were missing that made it feel incomplete, like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
  2. The Top 100 “Must-Watch” Movies of All Time That You Won’t Regret Watching – Sinemia
    This list was ranked by scores on Sinemia and IMDb rankings. There are some fantastic movies on this list that do not appear on any other, like Das Boot, Oldboy, and Grave of the Fireflies. But that means some movies, like Wizard of Oz, Jaws, and Gone with the Wind was not on it.
  3. The 100 best movies of all time as chosen by actors – TimeOut
    As the title suggests, these were ranked by actors as the best movies for their performances. Some fantastic entries appeared on this list, like Being There, the fabulous dark comedy/political satire starring Peter Sellers. This list might be one I revisit in the future, because I loved the hidden gems. It just didn’t meet the brief for top 100 of all time.
  4. The 100 Greatest Movies – Empire Online
    This list was ranked by readers of Empire.
  5. The Best Movies of All Time – Ranker
    Ranked by movie experts and film fans alike on Ranker.
  6. The 100 Best Films of All time: The Ultimate List – Newsweek
    This list was ranked based on Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and IMDb user scores. It’s
  7. Top 100 Greatest Movies of All Time (The Ultimate List) – IMDb user ChrisWalczyk55
    To quote his list, “The movies on this list are ranked according to their success (awards & nominations), their popularity, and their cinematic greatness from a directing/writing perspective.”
  8. Top Rated Movies on IMDb
  9. Top 100 Movies of All Time on Rotten Tomatoes
  10. Best Movies of All Time on Metacritic

The last three come from aggragate sites, and even some of the other lists above are generated by them. While I see value in these and the overall usefulness they provide when new movies are released, the ratings can be manipulated. Hardcore fans tend to use multiple accounts to generate higher scores. Additionally, critics in the past were less likely to provide higher ratings to movies than they do now, or completely miss the movie altogether, such as in the case of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Take the Rotten Tomatoes list. Over 20 of the Top 100 Movies of All-Time are from 2015 and beyond. I’ll admit that there have been some good movies in the last couple of years, but included in that is Baby Driver (a movie by Edgar Wright, who has a large and rabbid fan-base), Spider-man: Homecoming, and Finding Dory. Missing from that list are Pulp Fiction, Schindler’s List, and The Godfather Part II. I’m not even lying. These movies are far superior that the formers, yet they don’t even get a look in.

So once I collected all my data together, I decided that the easiest way to score the movies was to give weight to the movies that had the highest ranks, their average ranking (across the first seven lists), and the number of times they appeared on a list.

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The scoring is as such:

  1. Total List Points: Total List Appearances (Column M) x Total number of appearances in the top 7.
  2. Avg Rank Points: Average Rank of all 201 movies based on their Average Rank in Column N
  3. Top 5 Points: Column P x 5
  4. Top 10 Points: Column Q x 4
  5. Top 25 Points: Column R x 3
  6. Top 50 Points: Column S x 2
  7. Top 100 Points: Total List Appearances from 51-100

Total Score was Column T x Sum of Columns U to Z.

I did try this a few different ways, but I ended up having movies like Three Colours: Red (which appears once in Newsweek and once in Metacritic) in the top 100, while Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which appears in three lists and the IMDb list as well) missed out. I had to figure out the best way to give the movies that landed on multiple lists, while still giving focus to movies that were in the top 10 and top 5, as that is a mean feat.

It’s not a perfect system. Movies like Inglorious Basterds, which was on 4 lists, but had an average rank of 73 across those, didn’t make the cut. Additionally, all lists are very Western-focused, which means there is a significant lack of diversity. Future me would love to do a top 100 foreign films list someday. Nevertheless, I’m fairly proud of the list that I’ve created. I would not call this my top 100 but rather everyone in the Western world, and what excites me, as well, is getting to revisit movies I haven’t seen in years (some I have totally forgotten) or ones I’ve never watched, for one reason or another.

More about this challenge. I will be watching each of these, even if I’ve seen them before (in some cases dozens of times). My plan is to watch two movies per week, with a post about each on Sunday and Friday, if possible. Some weeks, I may do more, as I know there will be some times when I might fall behind, due to work commitments, etc. I will be watching the movies at random, unless they are part of a series, and then I will watch them in order of their series (a la Star Wars, Lord of the Rings). Lastly, I will be making my best attempt to find these movies on Australian streaming services Netflix and Stan, Apple, or on Blu-Ray, DVD. I recently learned that when format changes occur, ie VHS to DVD, DVD to Blu-Ray, a percentage of movies never make the shift. Australian distribution rights are another issue. I’m hoping that none of this will affect me, since these are universally recognized as great movies, but if I exhaust all of the above, then I may have to just skip it.

And finally, here is the list:

  1. The Godfather
  2. Casablanca
  3. Citizen Kane
  4. Pulp Fiction
  5. Schindler’s List
  6. The Godfather Part II
  7. Apocalypse Now
  8. Goodfellas
  9. Star Wars: A New Hope
  10. 12 Angry Men
  11. Psycho
  12. Taxi Driver
  13. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  14. Singin’ in the Rain
  15. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  16. It’s a Wonderful Life
  17. Gladiator
  18. Rear Window
  19. The Shawshank Redemption
  20. Lawrence of Arabia
  21. The Wizard of Oz
  22. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  23. Saving Private Ryan
  24. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  25. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  26. The Silence of the Lambs
  27. Jaws
  28. Dr Strangelove
  29. Back to the Future
  30. The Dark Knight
  31. The Shining
  32. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  33. Gone with the Wind
  34. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  35. Vertigo
  36. Some Like It Hot
  37. A Clockwork Orange
  38. Fight Club
  39. The Matrix
  40. To Kill a Mockingbird
  41. Forrest Gump
  42. Alien
  43. Toy Story
  44. T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  45. Chinatown
  46. The Usual Suspects
  47. Inception
  48. American Beauty
  49. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  50. Seven Samurai
  51. Se7en
  52. North by Northwest
  53. Raging Bull
  54. Fargo
  55. All About Eve
  56. Jurassic Park
  57. Blade Runner
  58. Annie Hall
  59. Sunset Boulevard
  60. Spirited Away
  61. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  62. The Philadelphia Story
  63. On the Waterfront
  64. Leon: The Professional
  65. Titanic
  66. A Streetcar Named Desire
  67. The Departed
  68. Aliens
  69. The Lion King
  70. Braveheart
  71. Wall-E
  72. Modern Times
  73. Amadeus
  74. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  75. Rosemary’s Baby
  76. The Green Mile
  77. Rocky
  78. The Big Lebowski
  79. Memento
  80. The Third Man
  81. The Sound of Music
  82. Die Hard
  83. Reservoir Dogs
  84. The Princess Bride
  85. Life is Beautiful
  86. Cinema Paradiso
  87. Pan’s Labyrinth
  88. Whiplash
  89. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  90. There Will Be Blood
  91. Interstellar
  92. Once Upon a Time in the West
  93. The Grapes of Wrath
  94. Good Will Hunting
  95. Double Indemnity
  96. The Maltese Falcon
  97. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
  98. The Lives of Others
  99. American History X
  100. City Lights
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Midnight Dreamer

IMG_20170522_054502Awake. Again. At midnight.

Tears cover my pillow. I wipe my nose, not daring to sniff in fear of waking someone.

Why don’t you like me? I’m fifteen. Shouldn’t I have a boyfriend by now?

But the trumpet player doesn’t like me that way. Instead, he looks right past me. His gaze falls on my friends. Their perfect hair, perfect skin, and perfect breasts are as far from me as can be. I’m so cool, though. He tells me so. I play games with him, watch movies, talk about all the things he likes. It’s gotta be the way I look – my acne-riddled face, my big nose, my tiny mouth, and my ridiculously small boobs. That’s why no guy wants me, least of all him.

I close my eyes.

Across a crowded room, he enters.

His blue eyes search and fall on me.

His mouth widens in a smile.

Ignoring all else, he comes to me.

“Hey.” “Hey.” We say.

He leans in.

Noses touch.

Lips touch.

*****

Awake. Again. At midnight.

My pillow and mattress are damp with sweat. I stare at the ceiling as rivers trickle down from my eyes to my ears.

Why do I like him? I’m eighteen. I’m running out of time to find a boyfriend.

But just as before, the theatre major doesn’t look at me that way. His hazel eyes graze mine. He’s the first boy to look at me, not through me. We talk and laugh while we work. The days go by so much quicker when he’s there. But he’s not available. His girlfriend frequently shows up to brighten his day. I hate that I wish they would break up.

His head is on my lap.

I run my fingers through his hair.

We pretend to watch TV. But…

We are content to stare at each other.

His hazel eyes hold all the secrets.

*****

Awake. Again. At midnight.

My pillow is over my head, stifling what would be a full-on sob by now.

Why doesn’t he love me? I’m 22. I’m out of time to find a boyfriend.

But just as every time before, the roommate doesn’t look at me that way. His brown eyes are closed in the room next to mine – closed to me. He looks above me, scared to meet my gaze. We talk, we laugh, we play games together and watch movies together. On the days that he’s happy, everything is awesome. But on the days he’s not, all the weed in the world won’t help me forget.

He’s available. He doesn’t look at my girlfriends. He must like me. Why doesn’t he like me like that?

Black lingerie on, I step down the stairs.

His eyes fall on me.

Without words, he says, “Come here.”

I don’t.

I lay down on the couch.

Show him my curves.

He doesn’t wait long.

He crosses the room.

*****

Awake. Again. At midnight.

My neck pillow is no help. Tears of joy stream down my face as I stare at the tiny monitor in the seat in front of me and watch Mrs. Henderson Presents.

Why does he love me? I’m 25. I thought I didn’t need a boyfriend anymore.

But I found him. He found me.

His blue eyes stare back at me through a webcam. He talks to me, never at me, and for hours, we discuss everything from our day to our past and future.

I’m nervous excited about finally meeting him in person. In a few hours, I will start my life with him.

It only took ten years to have a partner. I hope I don’t screw it up.

No dream tonight.

In fact, I never have to dream again.