Halloween! Hal. O. Weeeeeeeeeen! I’m so desperate to get outside it feels like my guts are going to burst out and bolt off without me, leaving behind nothing but a sack of my empty skin. (Awesome! Happy Halloween, family!) Meanwhile, God has decided to torture the universe by stopping the setting sun in the sky. That stupid yellow orb hasn’t moved for hours. It’s going to be six o’ clock forever.
It’s never going to get dark!
But no, that’s lame. It’ll get dark. It has to get dark. Those are the rules. Waiting is the key. I just have to suffer through this stupid dinner with my stupid family and wait for the stupid sun to finally do its job and go away—and the moment it does I’ll be out the door like a bat out of hell.
“I’m done eating,” I say to my parents with maximum calmness, since my goal is to arouse in them as little interest in me as possible. Never exactly a monumental challenge, but on occasions like this one can’t be too careful. “Can I get ready to go out now?” They dismiss me with nary a nod. Ha! I’m in my bedroom before you can say “Hobo”—which you would say, because being a hobo was my costume for the night. All I have to do is throw on one of my dad’s ancient sports coats made out material they cover couches with, put one of his outdated grey Business Man hats, smear a little shoe polish on my face, and just like that I’m ready for Halloween like my name’s Jack Ohlantern!
Finally it’s dark enough to begin the night.
I leap off my front porch into a pack of my waiting friends. I see that my best friend, red-headed Stan, has been transformed into a deranged surgeon. And a spectacularly inept one, too, judging from the blood all over his smock.
“No way!” I scream. “You’re actually scary!”
“I know!” he says, beaming. “It’s ketchup!”
“You’re a freak!
“I know! A scary doctor freak!”
“It’s perfect! Let’s go!”
There’s two things in this world I know: my suburban neighborhood, and how to run so fast it’s only a matter of time before I’m in my favorite aisle of the grocery store staring at myself from the cover of a Wheaties box.
Time to strategize for Maximum Candy Collection. For one, right off, sidewalks are out. Using sidewalks on Halloween is like using flippers to play football: Why? If God didn’t want me dashing across front yards, weaving between cars in driveways and hurtling over hedges like a candy-crazed caped avenger, he wouldn’t have given me the legs and freakish balancing powers that he did. But he did. Plus he gave me a sweet tooth the size of my head. That killer combo left me no choice.Hit the door, be cute, get what you can, cut out. Repeat until it’s so late the cops start wondering if you have a home.
Maybe an hour after I’d begun treat-or-treating, the weight of the candy in my pillowcase was slowing me down. But that was an amateur’s concern. Knowing a neighborhood means knowing where to hide things in that neighborhood, and I was nothing if not squirrely. Still moving I tied shut the top of Bag One, stashed it behind the gate of a friend’s house, and took off running again as I yanked Bag Two from the gargantuan pocket of my dad’s gargantuan coat.
My friends were nowhere to be seen—unless I looked behind me, maybe. But that wasn’t going to happen. I loved my friends like the brothers I never had because all I got was my inexplicable sister, but business is business. I’d left those guys behind after about the third house. One of them was using the sidewalk. It was unbelievable. Where did he think we were, Beverly Hills? Poor guy. I’d be halfway through the best of my Bag One while he was chewing his last Necco Wafer.
By the time I got home that night, I looked like an actual 10-year-old hobo—who’d maybe been dragged from the back of a car. My dad’s coat was covered in bramble and mud. Because it was slowing me down, I’d long since jammed his ruined hat into one of his coat pockets. The shoe polish on my face was melted and mixed with the sweat and grime that comes from a vigorous job well done.
Alone in my bedroom, I spilled the bright contents of my two full bags onto the green shag carpet.
There it all was, in a pile so big I almost wanted to run and leap onto it, the way I’d seen kids on TV do on big piles of fall leaves.
But was I going to squish my beloved candy?
I don’t think so.
No, I was going to adore my candy: cherish it, protect it, care for it, endeavor to make it last as long as I possible.
Which, in the end, every year, turned out to be maybe two weeks.
It was at that moment, right there on the floor of my bedroom, that I realized, for what I believe was the first time ever, that it never gets better than the moment between when you have it all, and when, bit by bit, it all begins to disappear.