I always hated zombies. But I liked Gordon.
He was going to be at my friend Jaime's annual Halloween party in Hollywood. I loved Halloween, and I never missed her party, but I was in New York working on a TV show. Homesick for my friends in L.A., I thought: What better reason to go back for the weekend?
Gordon and I had met six months prior in L.A., through a different Jaime event. I found him attractive, but then I left town for work. A few weeks before Halloween, I saw Gordon on the dating site POF.com, short for Plenty of Fish. We started Facebooking each other and decided to “meet up” at Jaime's party.
To me, “meet up” meant a date. So for my Halloween costume, I went for cute: “It's Raining Men.” I wore a raincoat and rain boots, and I attached a hundred plastic men tied to an umbrella. They dangled all around me — my own G.I. Joe and Ken doll raindrops.
But where was Gordon? At the party, I looked everywhere, but he was nowhere in sight. Had he stood me up? Maybe I'd misunderstood our “meet up” plans?
“Natalia, there you are,” a male voice finally said.
I turned to find the ugliest-looking zombie smiling at me, fake blood dripping down his cheek.
“Yep,” he said as he hugged me awkwardly, my umbrella getting in the way, a convenient buffer between me and his half-eaten, bloody face.
“Wow, you look …” I trailed off.
“I did all the makeup myself,” he said.
And I meant it, although I couldn't look at him. His face was painted white, random parts of it decorated with realistic-looking, oozing open wounds. Above rotten teeth were eyes with grayish black rings around them, as though he'd been punched in a zombie fight.
This was my date? He looked like a match for someone on “The Walking Dead.”
I politely excused myself to find other friends. But every time I turned around, Gordon was back. It was a terrible game of hide-and-seek.
I didn't think he could look any grosser, but then at one point, he opened his eyes wide, his pupils a deep red.
“Pretty cool, huh?” he asked. “I put in blood-colored contacts.”
Someone then snapped our picture, and I could only hope that I didn't look too frightened. It was raining men — with a chance of zombies, apparently.
Gordon scared all thoughts of a love connection out of me. The party ended, and I went back to my job in New York.
When I returned to L.A. that spring, I started dating someone else, Julian, but saw Gordon at social events. When Julian needed a roommate, Gordon considered moving in. Several times we almost worked together on projects, including, ironically, a zombie-themed commercial, but something always got in the way.
Three years later Julian and I broke up, and I did what any single girl in L.A. would do: I went online. I came across Gordon on Match and saw that he had viewed my profile. I read his, smiling at the familiarity. We started Facebooking each other again.
“Should we ... go out?” he asked.
I joked that I'd have to reread his profile first, then I said, “Yes. We should.”
The night of our date, it was surprisingly easy to talk to him. He worked in TV too. We had mutual friends and a lot in common — our Midwest upbringings, our values. He also understood my apartment-less-ness. In late 2009, when my job abruptly ended during the recession, I gave up my apartment and used would-be rent money to whittle down $98,000 in student loan debt. I began couch-surfing and moving every week. Gordon loved the adventure as much as I did.
We also talked about that Halloween four years ago.
“Was that supposed to be a date?” he asked.
I laughed. “Yes.”
I thanked him for not dressing as a zombie this time, and he kissed me.
Now, I love zombies. It turns out they are not all flesh-eating monsters. In this city full of disguises and false personas, I found that hidden under Gordon's zombie makeup was this amazing, caring, thoughtful, good-looking, funny guy.
This Halloween, Gordon and I are going to Jaime's Halloween party again, and this time, I don't need it to rain men.
Lusinski works in TV as a script coordinator and associate producer, and she is writing a couch-surfing memoir about finding home, “52 Weeks, 52 Couches: How I Slept My Way Through Hollywood (Without Sleeping With Anybody).”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun