The men at the NSA must be giggling as they see my Google search history over the past year.

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But today, it ends. I took off my heels, put down my keys and purse, and slumped on my couch pulling out my phone.

It was therapeutic to clean my phone of each of the dating apps that so terrorized my life. My phone was now clean and streamlined, and free of baggage.

Yet I was still single.

Bibi chirps, and reminds me I am not the only living organism left in the apartment.

"Bibi, it's just you and me now. We're gonna take on the world together." I open her cage, and she flies out to take her favorite spot on my shoulder. I take her to the living room and flip on the TV as I pretend that the 4-inch parakeet filled the empty space beside me on the loveseat.

"We're going to travel the world. What I've been mistaken by up until now is that your life doesn't start until you're married and begin to start a family. You need to find a life partner to travel with you, and until you've got that, you're constantly on the hunt."

Bibi, understanding every word, clambers to my other shoulder and begins to attack my earring.

"Well I'm going to do big things now. Screw this pressure and anxiety about finding a man before I get too old. I don't need one. I've got bigger fish to fry. "

Bibi clearly indicated her agreement as she hopped to the back of the couch to try to destroy the curtains.

"I'm going to take the Thailand mission in March, and I'm going to work at the elephant rehabilitation center. I'm going to find my own purpose in life, and my life is going to start."

Unimpressed, Bibi flew over to her jungle gym, made a dookie, and began to attack a ball of twine.

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However, March meant surviving a winter alone. Winters were always my weak spot, as cuddling up with a hot chocolate is much less satisfying than cuddling up with another human being. Ignoring the advantage of companionship, I had exceptionally poor circulation, and it was always nice having a human space heater with me.

The snowy Friday nights were the worst. On one such night, I became so frustrated with the loneliness, I went back into my vet's office, and brought home the body warmer, normally used to keep the dogs warm during surgery.

"Bibi, meet George, George, Bibi." I wrapped the body warmer around a body pillow and stuck him between my sheets. Bibi was also loving the warmth, and we had a glorious night.

George was an incredible addition to my life.

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I ordered a new one off Veterinary Equipment.

"If yours is broken, you are still covered under the warranty and we will send you a new one."

"Yeah, it's for a private customer. Some rich lady who wants her dog to be warm."

"That's an awfully expensive dog warmer."

"Well it's the only warmer that conforms to the shape the dog wants it and stays that way. The dog warmers online are just mats."

"These dog ladies get crazier every year."

Having secured my own George, I slept better. The third week in of November was a particularly snowy and miserable one, even for Chicago. We closed the Veterinary Clinic on Friday, and I stocked up for a week alone.

By Tuesday I was dying.

"Bibi, I'm bored."

"Bibi why don't they have emergency snow Netflix shows. They know everyone's at home on Netflix. Why don't they add more shows."

"Bibi, why did I pay an extra 500 a month for the larger apartment, when there's just so much empty space now."

"Bibi talk to me."

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I had friends to talk to, but as they were all living and working in cities who didn't have horrendous amounts of snow, no one had the time to entertain me on a random Tuesday in November.

I wanted to talk to someone – anyone - to get me away from this cabin fever.

Talk to someone online

Immediately, I realized this would be included on the list of "mistaken google entries"

But the third entry down caught my eye.

"Lonely? Female? Dozens of men waiting – the price is right – open all night."

Despite the ridiculous amount of cheese, I was intrigued. There was a man on the other end, who I could pay to chat with me. They were likely trained in role play, and there was a certain role I wanted.

Slogging through the pictures of half naked men posing with phones whose eyes promised more than just an innocent phone call, I finally put in my credit card number and got the phone number of "Mark."

I looked at Bibi. She looked at me. "I know Bibi. I am officially ridiculous."

I braced myself and dialed the number.

It rang twice. I wondered whether they were trained to wait a few rings or whether Mark was finishing up someone else's call.

"Hello?" The smooth, deep voice sent shivers down my spine. I marveled at the training.

"Hi Mark!" I realized at this moment that I had no idea what to say. "I'm Jess. I'm a veterinarian in Chicago and I'm snowed in and I was just bored and wanted to talk to someone so I googled it and now I got your number from the 'price is right open all night' phone sex website. " I paused, mentally kicking myself for squeaking a little. I guess in the phone sex world that's the equivalent of tripping and falling on your face in the bedroom. "Anyway, so I don't really want to have phone sex, but I just wanted to chat with someone about things. I figured you guys role-play all the time so you can just role-play that we're friends and we're chatting."

There was a pause.

"Hi…Jess was it? So my name is actually George, and I'm not sure what kind of service you were trying to use, but this number isn't it. However, I'm also stuck in this hellish snowstorm in Chicago, and I have plenty of time free to chat, if that's okay with you."

"Wait…really? This is great! Where are you in Chicago? Wait don't answer that – that's too creepy. But you don't have like a wife or girlfriend or anything do you? Or are you gay? I mean homosexual. I'm really sorry I'm usually not this idiotic, it's just that I'm not good with talking with new people and I'm still really nervous about calling randomly. Phone calls are not my strong point I don't know why I did it."

His chuckle broke my relentless verbal diarrhea, "Relax, Jess. No, I'm currently unattached, but not looking. I'm just George from Chicago, and I want to chat."

I let out a sigh of relief. "Good. Lets chat."

"So you're a veterinarian. That's amazing. What kind of animals do you usually deal with?"

We chatted for hours, sharing story after story with each other. I told him of my broken engagement, how I let my work consume me, how he let his work consume him, how we came home two empty shells with nothing left to give each other. I told him of the crazy lizard lady who kept bringing in litter after litter of newborn lizards that she kept breeding.

He deflected all questions about his own life. "No offense, but as I actually have no idea who you are, I'd rather keep a little mum. However I will tell you stories about my nutso co-workers."

We talked late into the night as I cuddled my in-house George. "Did you know I actually made my own pseudo-man out of a surgical dog warmer and a body pillow? And of all the coincidences, his name is George. I hope this doesn't freak you out or anything. It's just a coincidence."

"In all the best ways possible, you're a special breed of human. But I think there are plenty of people out there who would buy something like that. You should sell it."

"Maybe I'll pitch it to some venture capitalists one day in the distant future when the snow's thawed."

"At the rate of snow here they'll have invented virtual reality before you get to pitch it."

I woke up the next morning, cell phone plastered to my cheek. Disoriented, it took me a few seconds to realize what happened. Bibi climbed over, and I stared at her. I had fallen asleep last night, teeth unbrushed, Bibi out of her cage, and phone call un-ended.

I looked at the call log – we had talked 6 hours. I sat up on the couch, wincing at joints that would undoubtedly be sore for the next few hours. I stood up, then stopped. It was still Wednesday of the snow week, and I had nowhere to go.

My hands, unbidden, went back to the phone and pressed the call back button. Two rings.

"…hello?" the newly familiar yet groggy voice came through the phone.

"Hi." Not sure what to say, but comforted by his voice, I began preparing some oatmeal for breakfast.

"I always thought I was a bit of a bore, but it was never confirmed till last night."

"Bibi thanks you for it. She got to fly around and leave her droppings everywhere while I was out."

"You need to potty train her."

potty training parakeets

"Hmm…it looks like too much effort. She might be too old to learn too."

"Well I've got to take Hyde out to do his business, and I've got to do some business as well."

The microwave announced the completion of the oatmeal.

"Ok, call me back."

He paused.

The tired neurons in my brain made a little fizz as they processed a thought, "I mean unless you're busy today. Or have more important things to do. You don't need to continue to entertain me. I just…figured."

"No, not at all. My phone screen is broken, so I'll need your number to call you back."

"Oh, sure." I was delighted at the unspoken implication that I now had an official phone buddy.

We chatted as I cleaned Bibi's gifts to me all over the apartment, as he took Hyde on a walk.


"Yeah he's a fucking terror."

"Do you mind if I ask what kind of dog he is?" I wasn't sure whether this counted as personal life or not, but it felt almost as if we had reached the morning after on a one night stand, and he was obligated to divulge more about himself.

"Yeah see I would tell you, but Hyde's got a special kind of clever maliciousness that borders on Satanic possession, and if I told you the breed you might recognize me when he makes the 8 pm news again."

George 8pm news

"You have to give me something about you. A conversation needs to revolve around mutual interests, the kind of 'oh yeah that happened to me too' business."

"We talked for how many hours last night?"

"Well our conversation has run its natural course and now to continue on to level 2, we need you to add a little bit of George flavor."

"How about this. I'll tell you about my brother Don. He's got enough character that we'll have conversation fodder for the next year."

"But –"

"Don is a divorce lawyer and spends his days reading through the private emails and texts of some of the worst humanity has to offer," he said.

"Tell me!"

Don divorce lawyer

As he regaled me with stories to destroy my trust in all other human beings, I did the laundry, mopped the floor, and sorted papers on my desk. I didn't have enough resolve to ask him what he was doing while we chatted with the fear that he'd realize he had better things to do. Suddenly it was lunch time.

"What should I eat?" I asked, staring into the dark depths of my empty refrigerator.

"What do you have?"

"Expiration dates are recommendations right?"

"Says the veterinarian."

"I have great hope in the hygiene hypothesis. What about some pasta and spam?" I pulled them out, checked the expiration and shrugged.

"You need some veggies too."

"What are you eating for lunch? I couldn't possibly figure out who you are by the lunch you're about to eat." I failed to acknowledge the lack of anything green in my refrigerator besides the potential bit of mold in the back.

"I'm having a kale salad with eight croutons, and a half cup of tofu sprinkled on top."

"Oh no. You're one of them."

"I've told you too much."

I hear a familiar beeping from his side of the phone. "You lie! Your microwave just beeped. That's no salad."

"You got me there. I'm eating hot pockets."

As dinner neared, I became more and more curious. Was this really a man who had as isolated a life as I did? I understand the single life, but I led an especially lonely life after the broken engagement. It was easier to phase people from my life than to face the pity and the curiosity.

"Any plans for dinner?"

"I think I hear another hot pocket calling my name."

"That's just sad."

"And you, Ms. Social Calendar of the year, are having?"

"Leftover pasta and spam. I may jazz it up with some dried parsley."

"Don't get too carried away."

I sat down to enjoy my leftovers, but suddenly the concept of eating dinner over the phone seemed too imposing, too intimate. Dinner was for families or for dates.

"Let's watch a movie."


"Oh no, not in person. I mean we'll watch it on our respective electronic equipment."

"You are such a dork."

"No, no it'll be good. Let's do…" I couldn't choose a chick flick – that'd be too romance-y. "Frozen."

"What are you, an 8 year old girl?"

"Fine, you choose one."

"Let's watch The Shining."

"I'd like to sleep tonight."

good non-romance movies

"Let's do Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

"The good one you mean right?" He said.

"Of course."

watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Gene Wilder

As I typed, he murmured, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Johnny Depp"

"No way." I said. " You can't be serious."

"Yeah I'm kidding. Okay I'll count to five."

We simultaneously started our movies. Dinner was saved.

As we watched the glass elevator soar over the city, I began to worry. What do we do now? Despite the lack of romance, it was feeling suspiciously like a date at this point. Clearly there was good night kiss to worry about or walking someone home, but what if he needed to shower, or had someone else he needed to call. I didn't want to be rejected, but I didn't want him to leave.

There was a little silence as the credits rolled.

"Good movie." My voice sounded banal in the silence.

"Yup." I had a little bit of a shiver hearing his voice after not hearing it for much of the movie.

"Did you finish your hot pocket?"

"Hyde stole a good half while I was pre-occupied with the oompa loompas."

And then we were back to our normal bantering. Apparently we were not yet comfortable with silence, but our conversation flowed normally.

As I brushed my teeth, I felt a little more daring, as I could always pretend the tooth bushing garbled my voice, "Do you sleep in a twin or a queen bed?"

He laughed, and after a pause, "I sleep in a king."

A million questions came up – why did he need a king, did he roll in his sleep, was he divorced, and more, but I suppressed it. I would take the little victories.

"Do you sleep in the middle or on the side?" The question burst out of me.

"You're just pushing your luck now aren't you."


"Hyde likes the giants share of the bed, and likes to nip me if I try to move him off."

"Is he there now?"

"Yeah I'm on the leftmost bit of the bed, and he's got the majority."

"George takes up a good half of mine, " I patted the warm body pillow next to me.

"If only I could." His deep voice drifted through so quietly I almost missed it.

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