October. The forty-seventh month of the pandemic. Or is it the sixty-third? I lost count somewhere around my birthday. Unlike a lot of people, I’ve been weathering lockdown pretty well. I’m an isolator by nature and find my own company rather entertaining, if I say so myself. I like solitude. I don’t like the sound of my tinnitus in that solitude, but that’s another subject for another essay.
The pandemic was a boon for The One and me. As the summer wore on, we grew even closer as we hunkered down, cooking, playing cards, watching all 11 seasons of Will & Grace. Just us two. Oh, sure, occasionally we had a few guests over on the back patio for dinner, all of us sitting six feet apart, duplicate platters of food at either end of the table. We frolicked in the pool, guests on one end, us on the other. But for the most part, it was just The One and me, and I was perfectly happy. People are incredibly overrated, I concluded.
Then autumn and the cooler weather hit.
The One went back to work as a real estate agent in NYC in September after a languorous six months off. I now see him only on weekends, like the old days, the pre-COVID days. But something’s off-balance inside–a wobbliness, like a table with one slightly shorter leg. I miss him terribly, more than ever. I’d grown used to his being no more than a room away. I suddenly miss others, too. But most strange is I find that I’m suffering from an unusual affliction: I’m hoping trick or treaters will show up at our door.
What the holy hell?
If you know anything about me, it’s that rugrats and I don’t mesh. They somehow bring out the worst in me. I’m the guy who actually got into a pissing contest with an obstinate 2-year-old crumb snatcher, and I was the one who ended up having a temper tantrum because I didn’t get my way.
Back in the day, I had an egregious lapse in judgment when I was broke and took a job in a daycare for a short two months. I loathed every moment of it, from all those times I got kicked in the groin to the time I had to take a toddler to the emergency room because she smelled so alarmingly foul the staff was afraid someone would be accused of child abuse. Come to find out the wee tike had stuffed pieces of a sponge up into her sinuses weeks before. Her parents, clearly, suffered from a whopping case of nose blindness.
And my derision regarding children and the candy-grab ritual of Halloween is well-documented.
But a lot has happened since those long-ago days of daycare incarceration. Let’s see. There was therapy. The One. Group therapy. Medication. More therapy. Turning 50, then 60 (damn it). But the most significant impact has been COVID.
Kids, I’ve come to see, are enduring the storm of coronavirus better than adults. They’re more resilient, in a way, more accepting of what they can’t control. And, from what I can tell from our nephew Keith on Facetime, more hopeful.
And right about now I need a little hope–and fairy princesses and Forkys for Toy Story 4–in my life. I want to be wrapped up like a murderous mummy doctor wearing gloves and three masks, waiting on our front porch a safe six feet away. I want to watch as costumed little ones rummage deep into the plastic pumpkin basket that I’ve nailed to the handle of a broom. Hell, I’d even accept a tree being toilet papered if it meant there was life in our yard other than The One, me, and Devil Cat.
Alas, in Roxbury, trick or treating has been moved to November first this year and will take place on only one street in the middle of town. I could go and watch, but the optics of a 60-year-old man dressed like a bloody doctor lurking in the shadows watching little boys and girls doesn’t go over well in these parts.
Instead, I might just throw a sheet over myself and sit in the rocking chair on the porch eating the candy I’ll never give away.
So if tonight, while driving around, you happen to see a portly, forlorn ghost with a chocolate-smudged mouth, honk. Maybe roll through the driveway, and I’ll toss a few treats in your direction. (Bear in mind, I can’t throw to save my life.)
Next year, may we all be able to drape our arms around each other as we dance with the dead and howl at the moon–warm, clean, healthy breath curling up into the night.