There was a Halloween I spent in America.
The suburbs were as they had been dreamed into me by projectors and screens. I do not believe I saw a single yard fronting a porched house that did not have a gossamer draped plastic skeleton hanging off of a skeleton draped tombstone, or a child’s carved and gutted pumpkin, or plastic pumpkins, or plastic greyed hands rising out of the earth. There were more sweets in the shops than there had already been. I walked a couple of miles just to see how many M&Ms I could buy.
My friends brought me to a party at a big house. We joined at the end of the big waiting line that furled around the corner, and I expressed surprise at the discrepancy of entrance fee: GUYS $5 GIRLS $0. I had never seen such a thing, though this spoke more really of all the things I had not been doing with my adolescent years. There were many guys and girls in the big waiting line, all of whom were dressed to spook, gloat, arouse, and I too was costumed, along with my friends. On entrance, a Wheel of Misfortune was spun, providing us with a free shot of vodka poured by a boy in a frantic heightened state suggesting he had waited all year for this very party and moment, and also that when the very moments had passed, he would be so stripped of existence that he would fall into a months long depression, exacerbated by the great cold snowless weathers that were to come. This, or he would be ready again for debauches the following weekend, but I could only consider things from my own frame of reference and experience.
I had made it through the television glass. There I was: Halloween, America, party, beers, excitement, decorated porches and black paper cats and music and people and horror. What to do?
After my vodka shot and having spent minutes in line, I found myself needing the toilet and so climbed to the top of the house and stood waiting outside the bathroom next to some girls who I did not speak to, and who did not speak to me, and they did not either speak to each other, and the four of us stood there in costume, I with my cape, so very silently, and I, becoming by the moment surer and surer that a conversation was not happening where it should be, and surer and surer that this was because of me, and that the other people waiting for the toilet were also waiting for me to leave so that this painful hole of anti-talk could relax into a space of chat and normality and people who are worth the bother of speaking to, dismissed the swell of my bladder and went downstairs to find my friends because I could not bear it any longer.
In the basement of the big house was a lot of crowding and dancing and a lot of music, and I found my friends and stood by them as they drank and danced. An acquaintance of my friends who pushed eight feet in height and had spaghettified limbs had a bolognese sized radius about him which people had cleared to make way for his succession of otherworldly rhythmic pulsations.
I could not dance. There was a boundary I could not shove myself across. To dance, at any time, would be too wild. I wanted to dance. I wanted to have a time, a good time, a Halloween time, in this movie place I was in. I could not do it.
One of my friends asked me why I did not have some more to drink. One of them told me not to stand near him, because he was dancing, and enjoying himself, and I was not dancing, and to all purposes did not look like I could possibly be enjoying myself, and when I stood near him he felt weird, and felt as though I was judging him in some condescending fashion.
I was not judging him. What I was doing was running up a comparative unintentional analysis in my head. I could not dance. This means that I could not, truly. There was a mental blockage in my head. I could not make myself do it. I could not make myself be these people. I could not do the things that I wanted to do, which was forget about me, merge my duality into one, not have one me wanting to do things and another telling me never to, to dance, to drink, to be good enough, to have an untethered experience, to not look a freakish thing stood there awkwardly in stupid costume looking at the others, to speak charismatically to the girls outside the bathroom, to have something romantic, sensual, free, unworrying, relaxing, exterior.
The music was very loud. The knowledge that I had not control over myself or any of it, and that I could not push myself outside of my routines and self-destroying comforts, became so very acute that I could do nothing but stand still, not dancing, never dancing, struck into some sort of spiritual paralysis in the throes of which I communed and consulted with existential servitude. I could not do it. I could not do nothing or anything. I told my friend I was leaving. He said I should have another drink. I went upstairs and walked out and went back to the place I was staying. I was exhausted and very energised. I was $5 lighter for a bit of mental terror. I waved to a couple in a car who stopped for me at a crossing. They laughed and waved nicely when they saw me. I was in full costume and had a cape riding behind me. When I reached my bedroom I walked up and down it for some minutes. Then I turned off the lights and looked out of the window. When I was tired I got into bed, though it takes a long time to sleep when your me wishes to, and when your other me wants to stay up listing all the things not done, the things not spoken to, the things that never have been done and never could be.
It would happen before and it would happen again.
Halloween still worked. It was a promise. Looking out of the window at nothing, the promise still lived somewhere. The promise of other places and feeling: ghosted hallways and haunted yards, voices half heard in emptied cemeteries, crazed night goblins run amock; if not these, at least the distinguished minds of those who tried to get at them, the gatherings by copse and grove, the little things they left behind meaning you were never quite sure. The promise was maintained, by the ruff of trees out of my window, the blow of smoke or steam that came eternally out from whatever great chimney was off unseen on the outskirts of the city, which I could always smell, and which smelled of night, the sudden cry of the fire engines that flew out from the depot, also unseen at these dead night hours, and by remembering the house I had seen in the town. I did not remember where the house was, because I was led by others more than I looked at maps, but I had passed it infrequently, and it was a singularity in October essence: boarded, destitute, left, abandoned, panelled in the same paint as the dusty batwinged leaves on the trees around it, alone, overgrown, oddly amphitheatrical in form, Halloween made.
Whatever it was that the promise promised, whatever abstraction of unattainable feeling, surely existed in some way inside of that house. It is right that I never entered the house or read up on it or mentioned it to anyone and that all I did was forget about it. It seems that the very function of the unattainable promised feeling is its hiddenness, its residence in periphery, like the chimney on the outskirts and the fire trucks calling in the night; known by residual effect and consequential trail, but never directly seen.
This central feeling had been promised.
Of course, I had promised it myself, a very long time ago.
That had been Halloween Saturday. On true Halloween, the Monday following, I took up the recreating Saturday. Such recreation has not once in my life resulted in success, though still I insist upon it. I walked a long way in the rain to whatever shops appeared, in search of a plain white sheet. It was remarkably difficult to find; a great many blocks from where I was living I finally located one in a department store. I was not quite sure if it was actually plain, and I never found out, because I did not take it out of its wrapping. Halloween fell on a Monday. There were many other things that needed doing. Nobody was going out on Monday. So there was no purpose to opening the wrapping, cutting two holes in the sheet, and dressing myself as a Charlie Brown sheet ghost. I went home and to my room early that evening. I sat in front of my mirror and put on a cliché of skeletal facepaint. I had bought the facepaint on my panicked Halloween spree. It was panicked because I could only focus on a thing at a time, and at this time it was Halloween, which at midnight would be done, and it would not return for a year, and the only sense in which I could conceive of time was as a few hundred days of agonied waiting and fears and low moods, at the end of this another chance to correct the failure of the year previous. I had put on my Halloween cape and had sat in the corner of my room.
I was in my twenties. Halloween still worked. It worked but it hurt.