That was the first Halloween I went out as a missing person. I carried my bag, but I got nothing. I had a safety light, but I never switched it on. The reflective tape my mother, in former years, had insisted on securing me with, gathered no shining energy out of the ferrous air. I was appropriately anonymous.
My mask was pure transparency. I blended in with the pack; and when the pack passed me by, I blended in with the stray orchestrations resident in that most unapologetic night of the year. My own costumed darkness surrounded itself with the trivial orbits unheeding around me, and suckled on vacant substance: but the whole of my world hid within me, rather than grow with a boy’s excitement incrementally out.
All the neighborhood was ablaze with fragile skeletons, rotting jack-o-lanterns, witches with broomsticks of dimly hinted erotic purpose: all allowed to approach only the houses with porch lights set generously on. No dark mysteries. No chance for razor blades or rat poison. No vermillion seas of the hallucinogenic. No invitations inside to see the sincerest of decorations; to sample the orderly, though wicked, punch; to select the best of the treats that lead to a comforting lap.
I could see every detail of this, but my costume kept me from any complementary participation. I sprang onto the porches like a large mouthed bass out of the lake my elder brothers and their dates parked along to learn sex: and no one saw me. I held out my sack, as rumpled as yesterday’s underwear, and no one dropped anything in. I made the most terrifying of the horrible faces I knew how to make. No one shuddered. My costume was flawless, and I but an atom in the great construction of this magic evening.
People looked through me as though I were the window glass of a small town shopping district. Their focus was always on the sales tag behind, the extent of the mark down. I could feel their breathing when they leaned over me to service the goblins and ghosts sequenced at my back. I shouted the names of people I recognized; I reached up, as though I were the troll beneath their garden bridges, as their hands passed by with the treats I craved: yet always those hands blessed some other monster.
I was the last child to go home. I put away my empty sack. I took off my costume and folded it into the box where I keep it now, still stored within reach. I began to prepare myself with no ambling regrets for my evening bath.
My mother stopped by the door to my room, her corn silk hair wrapped around her dizzying neck and spreading across her over-pressed shoulders like envy. Skillfully she asked “Why, there you are! Where have you been so long?”
And I, breaking the engineered imagination of my face, said, “Here, all the time: I have been no more, no less, than here.” And the voices of the limitless thousands I had been that night, and would be every night forever more, began to stagger out of me like the spring’s melt water, like the last of our spilt milk, like something I was always supposed to guiltlessly know but up to now could only mutter unintelligibly through. I was the everyone and the no one she feared I might one grieving day be.