Title: First Impressions
Author: Josephine Myles
Publisher: Torquere Press
Characters: Jez, Steve
POV: 1st person
Genre: Short Story/Romance
When ugly socks attract.
Surly artist Jez just can’t help staring at the brightly colored socks of the businessman who sits opposite him on the train every day. He weaves a whole history for the mysterious stranger in a vain attempt to stave off his attraction, but it only ends up feeding his bizarre obsession. Then one hot morning, Jez finally snaps and starts sketching…
We judge. It’s what we do. It’s in our nature to observe and form opinions of others based on appearance. If it weren’t ingrained into our make-up, we would never have been warned of the dangers of judging a book by its cover or cautioned that we don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
We see strangers on a train; we either ignore them entirely or assess them surreptitiously, especially those whose appearance draws, demands attention. There, in a seat on one side of the aisle, is a bohemian artist in battered army boots and tattered jeans, with blond dreadlocks falling the length of his back. He rarely smiles; sometimes he even glares; recently he has taken to observing, with his artist’s eye, the man seated across from him.
The man is buried in his work, even as he makes the trek to his office in the city from the dull suburb in which he surely lives. He wears his capitalist uniform—a natty suit, a Windsor knotted necktie, conservatively styled hair—and he looks like any other automaton, plain and unremarkable, on his way to the office to pour over balance sheets and sum up the bottom line.
The artist’s eyes travel bluntly, appraisingly over the businessman, judging and condemning him and his…freaky, ugly socks…socks in colors not found in nature, socks in every color of the rainbow, and suddenly the first impression is obscured by the need to know what those socks mean and what they say about the man who wears them. The artist becomes obsessed by the man and his socks, socks like the feathers of a peacock designed to attract a mate, fantasizing about what the man would look like wearing nothing but those socks, and soon the allure escalates; the artist must sketch the picture of the man that has evolved in his mind’s eye. The artist sees beyond the surface to reflect upon the man himself, and he is seduced to cross that invisible line on the train, the one which separates strangers, to make contact in hopes of connecting in a personal way.
Jez takes a chance in giving Steve the sketch that he has drawn as they sat across from each other. Jez takes an incredible risk, signing his name to the picture and including his phone number. He’s made himself entirely vulnerable to a man with whom it would seem he should have nothing in common, when in fact, their commonality is rooted in the simple human need to connect with someone special.
Creating a plot involving two incredibly appealing characters who quickly draw a reader into their story is an accomplishment. Succeeding in accomplishing it within the short story format is impressive. Following those characters through their everyday lives and making them interesting enough to want to spend more time with them is not an easy task, and Josephine Myles has done it beautifully in First Impressions. Jez and Steve are characters who are so incredibly charming and likable that they should be revisited soon and often, in my humble opinion.
There is a short (FREE) follow-up called “Fuzzy” on Josephine’s website: http://josephinemyles.com/free-reads/fuzzy/ that is well worth the few short minutes it will take to read, but only after reading “First Impressions”.
Reviewed By: Lisa