The day after Halloween has me a little afraid: a series of reports from friends scattered in neighborhoods across the country suggests that numbers are low—both for trick-or-treaters and candy-doling homes—and that what costumes and decorations there are to be found are lacking in the pizzazz department. Could it be that Halloween is losing steam?
When I was a kid, Halloween operated at full-throttle, and it was miraculous to me for two reasons: first, my mother broke her own rule (no sugar unless it’s fructose, and no chocolate unless it’s carob, which, as anyone who has ever eaten carob knows, is the cruelest joke where snacks shaped like candy bars are concerned) and allowed us temporary access to our sweets; and second, for a whole night I could put my heart into being someone else. That someone else was usually a gypsy, and as we moved in clusters from house to house in the dark, I peered into each open door and wondered about what it would be like to live there. I was already playing at being a runaway, learning that I could imagine not only a different face for myself, but a different life.
Last night, I went to a haunted house—the kind you pay to enter and then walk tender-footedly through in slow staccato steps—and as the first few wretched nether-beings jumped out at me, I laughed. “Haha,” I said. “That’s awesome.” I wanted to compliment the actors on a fine job while simultaneously letting them know I wasn’t scared. But about halfway through, something changed. It might have been the faceless person in the surgical mask moving in sharp spider-like bursts, or it might have just been that thing that happens when your best friend starts chasing you around the house and somewhere between the kitchen and the bedroom you find yourself running for your life, but whatever it was, I was terrified. Of course, it was the best kind of terror, the kind you can give yourself to fully because you know there’s a door waiting for you, one that spills you back into the calm night unharmed.
I loved it.
And I hope that Halloween just had a hiccup this year, that its blood is strong, that it’ll return next year with a vengeance. Because when else do we get such a perfect metaphor for moving through fear? When else do we get to play at a different life, and at darkness, and get rewarded with the sweetest things?