LABELED: Take Off the Socks by Alexander Rose
Specific details have been omitted to protect the innocent (pssshhhhhh whatever).
His picture wasn’t that clear on OKCupid. Before I left my Silver Lake apartment to venture Eastward, I took one more quick scroll through his posted photos on the matchmaking website. There was something about him that I found attractive, otherwise we wouldn’t have been talking. But most of his snapshots were all “artsy,” as in distorted. Lots of sunbeams cascading around his semi-nude, sinewy body; houseplant tendrils snaking around his torso; close-ups of big, green eyes that were meant to hypnotize. I was less hypnotized and more horny. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference. Sometimes there isn’t a difference.
Through our texts I found out he was Mexican, French, some other thing, and given his poorly worded messages, English was not a first language. OOO la la Mr. French Man. I was excited. He invited me to his apartment for our first meet-up. While that’s usually not how I roll, he mentioned he was pressed for time. We could go out later. “Sure”, I thought.
Journeying into the crumbling, concrete spread of Echo Park, I made sure to text my best friend a reminder of where I would be, address and all. Always assume: me, you or someone you know could be murdered on any of these online blind dates. However, I was optimistic about this one. He seemed kind.
My friend responded: HAHA. Ok.
I always wondered if my various buddies would follow through on my clear instructions: if you don’t hear from me by midnight, call the police.
My Honda crept up a steep hill towards a series of apartments that looked like they’d seen better days. Clothes hung out to dry on all the balconies reminding me of third-world country, which isn’t unfamiliar in L.A. It was more dark than usual around here. White LED light emitting from ancient lampposts illuminated only some dim corners. The rest of the street was consumed with shadows. I parked awkwardly and texted the dude. I really had no idea what I was getting into. It’s around these times that I start having mild panic attacks. So I did, then calmed myself.
Come on up, he texted. I was a little annoyed he wasn’t coming out to greet me.
He was probably waiting in his place with a machete like Jason fucking Voorhees.
I tiptoed up some exposed stairs. I could still bail.
I knocked instead.
He answered. His figure was obscured by a metal screen door. He was still a mystery.
“Hey,” I said politely.
“Hello,” he mumbled, trying to hide his accent. He pushed open the steel panel revealing a 5’8, stick-skinny, longhaired, shiny-eyed rocker-type. His black locks cascaded across his shoulders.
BUHHHHHHH <------ my brain. He was sexy.
I quick-scanned his skin-tight black jeans, leaving almost nothing to the imagination except the outline of his cock. It was hidden under a loose, charcoal cut-off tank that draped to about mid-thigh.
“Come in,” he said. He was awkward, or embarrassed. Or maybe just shy.
I practically dove into his living room, and if there’d been a bed there, I’d hoped to land on it. Instead it was a perfectly manicured space. A royal club chair sat at one end of the carpeted room.
“I hate the floor,” he grumbled, thinking that I was criticizing the worn carpet in my mind. But the joke was on him, because my first thought wasgetting naked. The second thought I had was actually the temperature. Heat clogged the unit. I had to handle it for now, for the sake of this man’s own heat-index.
“It’s cool,” I said, touring the space with my eyes. I salivated -- there was a huge vinyl collection (we had initially messaged each other because we both liked John Maus’ recent release of B-sides). Adjacent was an antique record player.
Plants littered the apartments but were flourishing afterthoughts. I could only think I had a cactus once that died, and I’m pretty sure it killed itself because of my ownership.
“You want to get high?” He mumbled again. His accent thick, hopefully like his dick, I thought.
“Do I?!,” I exclaimed. Besides beautiful men, weed is my second favorite drug.
He broke out his bowl piece. We smoked. I lost myself in the comforting haze, then gazed up to a large painting perched right on the wall in front of me. The art was composed of red streaks over an otherwise blank canvas. It was as if someone had clawed it with blood. The shower curtain Janet Leigh’s character clung to in Psycho came to mind.
“I painted that.” He seemed proud of the product.
“Oh, wow.” That was the best I could come up with for a response.
“Nude. I covered myself in paint and threw myself onto the canvas.”
I burst out in laughter.
“Who are you? Julianne Moore?,” I said.
“She is beautiful but I do not understand.”
“Have you seen the Big Lebowski?”
“No.” Oh, dear.
“It’s a funny movie.”
“You are a funny boy?,” he asked.
“I like to joke around.”
“You are funny boy.” Now it wasn’t a question. He was labeling me.
He took another hit of the bowl.
“I am not a funny person. My friends aren’t funny people either. I am not used to someone like you. We talk about art.”
“I don’t think I’m that funny,” I lied. Was being funny uncool now? Was I missing something? Fuck. The heat was now affecting me. I had trouble breathing.
“Can we go outside? Smoke a cigarette or something?,” I asked.
We stepped out onto his balcony. He inspected my hair. He did hair. He had done famous people’s hair. I wasn’t really impressed.
Back inside, I started taking selfies with cool things around his apartment while he chose a record to play. He asked if I knew the musician Diamanda Galas.
“Who?” I feared sounding like a philistine.
“She’s an opera singer. She is possessed by Satan on stage. Then performs. It’s beautiful.”
“Satan, huh?” He spun the record. I also noticed a light-up, wall-mounted Virgin Mary that I plugged in. Divine lights showered the Mother of Christ while Diamanda hissed and croaked through the ancient speakers.
I looked at him, sitting in his regal chair, preparing another bowl to smoke. His cool was perfectly curated. My inferiority swirled and bubbled, and he kept calling me, “funny boy.” His accent made it sound like “fanny boy,” which was equally unappealing.
We smoked more. It got warmer in his apartment. I didn’t think that was possible. It’s like we were at the gates of hell with Galas shrieking about something in unintelligible Italian. I became delirious. I couldn’t make any more jokes, and I was running out of steam. Maybe he was trying to sweat me out of there.
I JUMPED up. Crazed. Overheated -- the temperature intolerable. And clearly this wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t even know about Dead Can Dance (another band he played). It was time to leave.
“I need to get out of here!” I was shouting for some reason. He intercepted me, surprised at my decision, and took me into his arms.
“Why are you leaving? And why are you yelling?”
“It’s just too hot in here. I can’t deal with this.” That was more than half true. He started to kiss me. Softly. Like I was some delicate creature. I pushed him away.
“Do you want me to stay?,” I wondered aloud. Sweat was beading up and sliding down my back. He just nodded. I leaned in for more kisses.
“Should we go to your room?” He nodded again.
Entering his room, we quickly undressed each other. I saw an animal tattooed alongside his torso. It was a rotting corpse of an animal. As I slipped off his socks –
“Wait,” he said, alarmed. “No. Don’t.”
What? I stopped.
He continued, “leave on my socks.”
“Your socks?” I was confused.
“Yes. I get cold.”
“Alright…” He wanted to keep socks on during all this? Not to mention it was 1000 degrees in there. There was no way he could possibly be cold.
We rolled around his mattress. Nothing could keep me focused on the event. All I could think about, all I could feel, were his cotton socks rubbing against my bare feet.
At some point, it was all over, and I was practically in flames. Even his open window, which framed a crescent moon, couldn’t cool me down. Did I have to sleep there? I remembered where my car was, what time it was (some time after 2am), and I was too frightened to let myself into the night. So I stayed. I couldn’t sleep. I just stared at the moon until it faded into early morning.
The next day, I woke up and gathered my things. The whole place was still weighed down by heavy air. Stepping out into a new day, my skin was finally cooled. I found my car and got in. As I drove away, I knew exactly what had transpired. I probably wouldn’t hear from him. It was a little bit of a bummer. He was an interesting fellow after all. But even so, as I pondered a future where we might meet again, the image of his small feet, sheathed in worn cotton, wiped the fantasy from my brain. Even if you’re that cool do me a favor (and the rest of us) - take off the socks.
ABOUT ALEXANDER ROSE
Alexander is a writer living in Los Angeles. Aside from documenting infrequent sexual escapades, he writes a gastro-blog detailing his obsession with local restaurants called EAT PRAY SH*T (omgalex.wordpress.com). Famous in his own mind, Alex is clearly homosexual and single.