The Last HalloweenI was eleven years old, and it was a perfect night for trick or treating: clear sky, vivid moon, temperature hovering around sixty. My friend Geraldine, a heavy-set, beautiful red-haired girl from Ireland, a year and some months older than myself, was not only my Halloween companion, she was my costume designer -- it was her direction, I believe, that was the means to an end, the cause for what was to happen to me later on that initially magical night.
Geraldine meant well, I suppose. Being that she was almost thirteen, about six inches taller, and Irish, I admired her, trusted her worldly ways, valued her opinion. If she’d suggested that I cover myself in brown Magic Marker and go as a giant cow patty, I probably would have. I was desperate for suggestions, as my parents were otherwise occupied that year, too busy with everyday frustrations, cuckolding, holding on to their sanity by any means possible. -- you know, typical grown-up stuff -- and they hadn’t a moment to help me with something so trivial as a Halloween costume. And there it was, six o’clock p.m. on October 31st, and me with no costume. I was hastily putting together a suitable disguise when the doorbell rang.
Geraldine was appalled. She whipped the white sheet with crude cut-out eyes off my head, took the scissors from my hand before I could finish the jagged mouth, and said, “that’s retarded.” Perhaps, but at least it was a costume; Geraldine, voluptuous Geraldine with her freckles and too-short skirt, sunset-pink lips and blue-shadowed eyes, was dressed exactly as she always had, albeit a heavier application of lipstick, a tad more eyeliner, a trashier than normal lower-cut top. “Where’s your costume?” I said to her cleavage. She waved her hand across her navy blue leather skirt and said, “I’m wearing it.”
“I’m a hooker.”
Geraldine immediately began her hunt, plowing though my closets, investigating my mother’s makeup box. It was getting late, and all I really wanted to do was put on my old sheet and hit the streets running. But no, Geraldine had other plans. “Here,” she said while holding out my mother's peasant dress, circa 1970, Cover Girl cosmetics, and a sombrero. Sombrero? Where the heck did you find a sombrero? She ignored me. “Put this stuff on while I run back to my house -- and take off your glasses!” I dutifully did as I was told. She returned shortly wielding a long black wig, the synthetic fibers fuzzy with age. It smelled like basement. She plopped it on top of my head, tucked my blonde hair up under the mesh cap, parted the back without aid of a comb, and braided the two halves into thick ropes. She then slipped a fabric rose above my right ear, applied my mother’s Scarlet Secrets lipstick with a heavy hand, poked my eyes with the mascara wand more times than I’d like to remember as she transformed my lashes into spidery appendages, set the sombrero at a jaunty left angle, then stepped back to admire her handiwork. “Hmmm. Something’s missing...Something...” Something called boobs, apparently. She shoved handfuls of Kleenex into my pitiful training bra until my figure took on the form of an unfortunate Playboy Bunny dwarf.
I scrutinized my metamorphosis, awestruck by the vision staring back at me from my Barbie-stickered mirror; I truly was a butterfly. I was beautiful, horribly beautiful, a stunning otherself with gigantic breasts and pouty red mouth, a Mexican whore just coming off a three day bender. “All right,” Geraldine said. “We're ready!” I wasn’t so sure.
The first half of the night was uneventful. We visited the usual neighbors, received the usual candies (as well as the always disappointing apple), and generally had the usual good time. Until, that is, Geraldine mentioned the fact that since our parents were busy either supervising our younger siblings or skulking about in some seedy motel parking lot, we were basically free to stay out as late as we wanted. This would be the year we would visit The Forbidden Zone, a tract adjacent to our own, but one that was off limits in our younger, ten-year-old days. Breathless with freedom, we giddily ran toward The Forbidden Zone, laughing, swinging our sacks of loot at one another. It was a fine time. The people of The Forbidden Zone gave out better candy, bigger candy -- no apples, no miniatures or skimpy sticks of powdered sugar -- they gave out full-size Snickers and artfully designed party bags chock full of candy corn and wax lips, Charleston Chews and Junior Mints. We hit the motherlode, baby.
Then we came to a house toward the end of Nivens Road, a dark, foreboding house that whispered go away, leave nooooow with its stark dead trees and patchy lawn. We wouldn't have bothered to knock had we not noticed the glow of television streaming though the front window. Someone was home, and that meant the real possibility of more candy.
After what seemed ages, the door opened, and a pleasant-looking middle aged woman greeted us, bowl of treats in the crook of her arm. Slowly, though, the pleasant expression on her face gave way to one of distaste, her brows turned down, mouth set into a grim line. Uh oh.
“Aren’t you too old to be trick or treating?” She said this to me. Me!
I said, “Um…I‘m eleven?”
“Liar! You should be ashamed of yourself! Go home! Just get out of here and GO HOME!” Then she slammed the door on my crushed spirit, tears blurring my vision even worse than it already was without my glasses. Geraldine called her a bitch and kicked the door before we ran away, but it didn’t make me feel better. I wept all the way home, not only because of that woman‘s heinously inappropriate reprimand, but because I realized that the Halloween I always knew and loved was lost to me forever.
My oldest child just turned fifteen, and she’d debated whether or not to go trick or treating this year. “I’m not too old, am I, Mom?”
I not only encouraged her to trick or treat this year, I demanded it.