Grey lay on the bed, eyes closed, and waited for the soft and silky Tamar with the delicate baby powder scent to join him. Though time and use had dulled some of his brightness, Grey hid his frayed edges and sucked in as best he could the stretch in his middle that had recently appeared. Sounds of fabric rustling.
He couldn’t bear the suspense a second longer. Opened his eyes. Dammit! How had he ended up in the black sock pile, when he was 50 shades lighter, a deep grey? And instead of Tamar, mothball Marge, fuzzy and shrunk, her once high-thread cotton practically worn through, lay next to him.
Having been exiled in the odd sock bag for quite a while, which was not unlike being sat at the kids’ table at a bar mitzvah though you are well past your 20s, Grey had decided that if he didn’t get paired with Tamar, he would take last season’s off-black sock, Chana. Roughly the same size, Grey was intrigued by rumors of Chana’s playroom. No one would look at them and wonder, ‘What kind of a match is that?’”
In fact, these days, blatantly mismatched socks purposely mated, whether deliberately or driven by desperation. Grey still believed you had to have standards, though he at times cast covetous looks at the gentile socks. Perhaps finding one’s ideal match was an outdated and unrealistic expectation. Indeed, Grey had heard whispers about some of the “perfect” pairs. One of the black tux socks was, without her partner’s knowledge, supposedly whispering sweet, socksual nothings to one of the supple ski socks. And there was the whole unpleasant business with Asher and Rebecca, the two sports socks who’d seemed absolutely right for one another, but it turned out one was almost entirely worn through at the heels, the other was not, and they argued bitterly. “You hid this from me!” and the humiliated reply, “You knew I walked to shul every week! You saw what you wanted to see.”
The next time they came through the laundry, they were separated. That was the thing, though. The fear of not making it past one cycle. Or of another sock coming between you. For example, what if Grey ended up with Miriam, the dusky blue sock, while her real bashert remained out there, searching in vain for her?
Getting matched was a messy and unscientific process, a combination of being sorted and sorting, quickly, before your choices dwindled. Grey envied the ones like the cute tennis socks, Roger and Steffi, who’d had the sense or the luck to find their double — love-love — early on and remain a set. Sports sock Sandy, would surely find his match. Likewise, Sydney the lavender sock, who had an uncanny ability to shape and color shift, usually came out of each cycle paired. It was unclear if Sydney was male or female. Being a chameleon, and willing to adapt to a short, grumpy, kosher-keeping grey or an exuberant, non-observant pink, provided Sydney with a plethora of socks to roll into a ball with.
Not so Grey. He couldn’t cozy up to the stiff navy blues nor the wishy-washy taupes, and certainly not the white, indistinguishable sports socks nor the dour and dreary, uncommunicative black dress socks, even when they attempted to cotton to him.
At least he wasn’t a theme sock. Decorated with pumpkins or Dalmation dogs, they were unique and special, but unique and special was particularly difficult to match. You could make one black and one grey work, if you had to, but golf balls and owls?
Yep, a couple of the sports socks found their matches, as did the black ones with faint vertical lines running through them. They were an odd couple, Grey thought, appearances notwithstanding. They never talked, no touching, nothing. He didn’t even want to imagine them going through the spin cycle together, wrung out flat against each other.
Miriam was leaving, going to — Sydney? Seriously? And the white socks with red hearts, OK, Cupid didn’t have to make much of an effort to pair them. They embraced, heart to heart. Grey wanted to puke.
Then Grey found himself measured against, oh, no, not Marge, please God, no! He couldn’t bear the thought of going through even a quick wash cycle with her, let alone a slow spin. After a long moment’s hesitation, Marge remained on the bed while Grey was tossed into the odd sock bag, along with the rest of the halves that had not found the one to make them whole. Grateful, not to be dumped out because they were useless, and hopeful, even still, that they would find their sole mate. There was that baby powder scent. And somebody smelled of sweat. Steffi? “Love-nothing,” she tossed the words out and they bounced, bounced, bounced inside the bag.
Angela Himsel has three bags of mismatched socks stashed in her closet. She lives in Manhattan.