Level 87 cleared. Enemy space-bugs dispensed with in record time. Victory. Victory over the red moths, the blue bees, those flying things that look a bit like scorpions, is once again mine. And yet, there is something still missing, I fear. There is an emptiness here. A growing void. One as deep and as infinite as the great Galaga universe itself.

Yes, special bonus stages included.

Lo, if I only had someone special with whom to share my space adventures. An extra life would I happily sacrifice for that kind of joy. During these past 20 years, I have experienced much. I have known the satisfaction of achieving a near perfect Hit-Miss ratio. I have tasted the sweet triumph of blasting an entire squadron of green ships, in perfect order, as they closed in on me from above. I have even known High Score.

But what is any of it worth, I ask you, without a special someone to share in the glory? Without a loving companion? A Player 2, flying tandem, in the game of life.

No, I do not mean Greg. I'm talking about a woman, for crying out loud.

Indeed, love is the rarest of all creatures, more rare even than those yellow stingrays that zip past you at supersonic speeds. It is stronger, and draws you in faster, than any tractor beam imaginable. Love will make you the fool, will make you act unlike yourself. For instance, instead of waiting by the leftmost edge of the screen in order to pick off incoming space-bugs, love will make you wait in the center—the very nexus of enemy fire.

Still, it would all be worth it.

There is so much inside of me that I have to give. So much that I long to share. The 3,000 entrance patterns I have committed to memory. The hidden cheat that will disarm all enemy fighters for the remainder of the game. How to double your firepower by rescuing a captured ship. All of it, I dream of one day whispering into my sweet inamorata's ear. Except maybe the hidden cheat.

Do not mistake me, I would treat my lover, whoever she happened to be, like a toadstool princess. Spoil her as she ought to be spoiled. Pour more quarters into her than even that Ms. Pac-Man machine at the Cumberland Mall. Her name, or at least her initials, I would carve atop every High Scores list I came across. There they would stay, a fitting tribute to our love for all of time.

Unless, of course, that jerk "AXL" came along, at which point her initials would probably be second on the list, which, I suppose, is still pretty good.

But woe, all of this—this addled rambling—is nothing more than a pipe dream. I have long lost my turn at romance. And, if I do not soon depart, I will also lose my turn in the Galaga tournament currently taking place at Zack's Arcade. There is a $300 grand prize for the winner, and this silly freckled girl, Jenny Shapiro, has been holding my place in line for several hours now.

Ugh, what an absolutely terrible arcade player she is. She can't even reach the factory level on Donkey Kong. I can't stand her.