I got the app on my phone. It was scary at first because I had to upload a picture of
myself. There were certain strategies involved with the selection of an image to
represent oneself in that context. Some people chose their faces, cropped away from
their bodies, and some chose their bodies, with no faces. There were rules: full frontal
nudity, for example, was forbidden, and this meant that when naked bodies were
shown, it was just the torso. Rarely did anyone do both, showing their face and their
unclothed torso, but those who did seemed confident and less likely to be hiding
something terrible. Well, even the most beautiful chest could be attached to a horribly
scarred back, which is why people who chose images of landscapes, household
objects, cartoon characters and animals to represent themselves seemed keenly
untrustworthy. I found a picture my ex had taken of me in Hawaii, wearing trunks.
People seemed to like it immediately, and little red messages started to appear in the
corner of my screen. What was interesting about that group was they were my
neighbors, but I didnʼt know any of them. The app organized people by proximity, telling
me how many miles, and in some case, feet, someone was away from me. No one in
my neighborhood, a working class one under a freeway, the last piece of land before the
cement corridor of the LA river, was particularly cute, and I knew that already. So I was
polite to the tubby guy with a goatee and glasses who was into comic books and beer,
even though I detested both of those things, because he kept telling me how cute I was,
and he was two point one miles away. And the thirty nine year old who had a decent
torso for a man his age, which I suspected was closer to fifty when he finally sent me a
picture of his bald head, was kind of fun to chat with because he was so dirty, and lived
only one mile away, so if I ever got desperate. I was turned on by the pimply eighteen
year old gang member with tattoos and baggy jeans, a brave boy who showed both face
and body, and sent me many pictures of his butt hole, but I was sure he was younger
than he said, and that, living only three thousand feet away, his entire family would find
out Iʼd fucked him and kill me, or get me arrested, or fired from my job. So we chatted
but I never let him know my name. Then a picture of a house, a strange stucco house
on stilts, like the ones you see stuck into the hillsides of Mount Washington, texted me,
saying “woof,” and I was like, “Do you have a face pic?” The house was a safe two
miles away, and I waited patiently for it to identify itself, but when it didnʼt I decided to
ignore it, and went on chatting with my more talkative companions. The fat guy made
jokes about pop culture I didnʼt understand, and the old guy talked about cumming in my
ass and drinking it out, and the kid wanted to come over. Then I noticed the house had
left another message, “Woof,” again. But this time it was only one mile away. Maybe
the guy was in his car. The kid was desperate to come sit on my dick, and texted me
his phone number. I pictured him creeping past his momʼs room and walking under the
ivy-overgrown overpass, braving the shadows to get to me. Again, I was interrupted by
another message from the house, “woof,” and this time, less than six thousand feet
away. The old guy started getting kind of abusive, talking about making my nipples
raw, and a middle-aged trombonist with the symphony, face pic with cat, who lived five
miles away, downtown, asked me to dinner. Then another ping from the house - “woof”
- one thousand feet away. I got up and, going from window to window, looked out onto
the darkness of the front yard, backyard, and passages between homes, still holding my
smartphone, the glowing app open. The kid told me that if I didnʼt text him back he
would block me. Another “woof,” six hundred feet away. Block me? I noticed a red ex
in the corner of the screen. Another “woof,” three hundred feet away. The trombonist
said I had a nice body and pretty eyes. The house was coming toward me, another
“woof,” another hundred feet. I saw car lights through the window, but the vehicle
seemed to pass by. The kid from the neighborhood disappeared from my screen - he
had blocked me. Another “woof,” fifty feet, and I heard footsteps coming up my
driveway, a shuffling gate, and a dragging sound, like metal against concrete, and
another “woof” on the app, just fifteen feet away. I pressed my thumb hard against the
red ex, and that cursed dragging, that loathsome shuffling, coming closer and closer
and then - gone. I looked out the window, and nothing was visible but shadow. I started
laughing, tears running down my face. I decided to de-install the app right then and
there, when suddenly I got a message from a very cute guy with both a head and a
body, exactly my age, also versatile, professional, masculine and sane.

Alexandro "Ace" Segade is an artist living in New York.

Title: THE APP