This morning I walked outside to put the rest of the Halloween candy in the car. Like much of America, I'm taking the leftover candy to work.
It was dark, of course, and oddly moist, and quiet. I thought, it's the feast of All Saints. I looked at our motorcycles, likely wrecked by Hurricane Irma, although none of our insurance companies cover that damage.
I thought about last night's celebration. My spouse was teaching, and I went over to a friend's front yard party. All my neighborhood friends (who once taught at the same school, but have moved on to other endeavors) brought goodies and nibbles and wine. The kids raced around and tried to climb the palm tree, and occasionally, an adult set out with them to trick-or-treat. It was wonderful.
I spent part of Halloween talking to the flood insurance people. At first I was happy about the amount of our check that will be in the mail. And then I wondered how much damage we'd need to have to get the full amount of the policy: $250,000 minus the $2000 deductible.
I thought about all the losses of the last years, as I often do on this feast day--as I often do on every day these days. I thought about a time long ago when I first had a sense of these losses, during my sophomore year in college, where we'd spent Halloween going from party to party and watching The Birds, and as October moved into November, we sat on the courthouse steps in Newberry, South Carolina.
I've turned that night into both a poem and at least one short story. Here's the poem, which was first published in A Summer’s Reading . I've changed the names, to protect the privacy of my undergraduate friends.
Halloween, 1984. True creatures of the night,
we roam the town. Nineteen years old, we know
our currency will soon lose face. We flit
from party to party, refusing to limit
ourselves to the standard fraternity
bores. We head to Main Street, to the spooky tomb
of a house which looks even creepier
crypted for Halloween.
Middle-aged men proposition us in the kitchen, corner
us where their wives won’t hear. They miss
bodies unmarked by childbirth, breasts unbound
by gravity. Their age terrifies them. They stink
of mortality and stale beer. I eat my fill
of free food, avoid the alcohol and desperate
mid-life hormones, feel the rare thrill
of my powers to attract, even if I’m captivating
men I do not want.
We jump by George’s house after all the trick-or-treaters
have gone. We eat the last of his candy
and watch The Birds, for me, the first
time. I’m a Hitchcock virgin, yet immune
to his power. These birds don’t seem evil
as much as demented. It’s a Hitchcock
double header. We stay for the shower
scene in Psycho, the one that haunted
my mother, made her avoid showers for a season.
Once again, I shrug. Sorrel and I head
out, while George and Diane stay
behind to learn Anthony Perkins’ strange secrets.
As October turns to November, we settle
on the cold, marble courthouse steps that face
College Street, squat in the spot where the county forefathers
pledged their fidelity to the Confederacy.
I feel the history of the place seep
into my bones. My festive mood faints
at the thought of how quickly college will be over,
how soon I will be another ghost haunting this town.
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