Halloween makes me sad now, too. It used to just be Christmas. Which at least makes sense because I’m Jewish.
Halloween. I am walking around, checkbook in hand, begging doctors to see me. This is the Upper East Side: there are a lot of doors to knock on. I’d forget that it’s Halloween except for all the kids in shitty costumes. (Also: the occasional woman of a certain age who should no longer be wearing a costume, because, after a certain age, any female in costume looks like a streetwalker.) The kids here trick-or-treat in the afternoon, at places of business, on the way home from school. This seems like cheating. I’m sitting eating pizza and drinking some brand of punch they don’t always sell in certain neighborhoods (higher fructose content, more red dye) when I watch the first kids come in and say “Trick-or-treat.” They look disappointed when they get Tootsie Pops instead of pizza. Tootsie Pops do kind of suck, I’d tell them, but then again, so do your costumes.
And really, I’d proceed, if you’re trick-or-treating in broad daylight at places of business instead of homes, and you’re expecting to walk away with first-quality merchandise, I’ve got news for you. That’s not called trick-or-treating. That’s called stealing. Halloween. With my checkbook and door-knocking, I am in no position to criticize other people’s shitty trick-or-treating. I get kicked out of a psychiatrist’s office on 86th Street for using my cell phone. It went like this:
‘If you’ll excuse me, I’m having a medical emergency.’
‘Take your medical emergency out to the curb.’
Later I’m in some backroom at Mt. Sinai vaguely convincing myself that I have so-called advanced lung disease so I can see the doctor on call. I feel bad almost immediately upon wishing for the advanced lung disease, which I think speaks pretty well of my character.
After the unfortunate episode with the psychiatrist I started walking because I knew that the choice was to either walk or cry and even though I’m wearing big sunglasses crying is tiresome when there are only service personnel to watch you. Like that time the janitor brought me donuts because I looked so sad. Between you and me, this act of real kindness did nothing to stop the tears and the beauty of it was so disheartening that it probably set me back about twenty minutes. This is beside the point, mostly. But this isn’t: crying in public on the streets behind sunglasses is not very satisfying in this neighborhood, because there are too many sympathetic doormen.
I started walking after the shrink and that’s how I ended up knocking on doors on Park Avenue. And I was walking uptown from 86th Street and that’s how I ended up at Mount Sinai. (This would all be so pretty if someone didn’t know that Mount Sinai was a hospital and he just thought I walked uptown until Revelation.)
I’m watching the shitty trick-or-treaters, eating my white pizza and drinking my suspect fruit punch when I start to think on these things. (The pizza, incidentally, was disappointing: blobs that looked to be fresh mozzarella turned out to be ricotta.) I am tired of my mom saying that these sad things are good because she read White Album and Joan Didion wrote about all those things that happened, you know?
I know, Mom. I know. And this is where I interrupt her and say that I’m not Joan, that I can’t write like that, and well, no one can, but as for me, I really can’t. I extra can’t. I am that much further from being able to than someone else you might encounter and hope for.
While I’m changing the subject (to the depravity of the rich), in my head I’m thinking that it’s so sad that that is the hope she clings to – that all she has left, after about eight thousand very disappointing broken illusions, is the hope that she will have fucked me up for the sake of literary merit. That it all would have been worthwhile, that, indeed, a twenty-year-old with somewhat limited prospects after a childhood of specifically limitless prospects who cries most every night is crying for a reason, for some unseen but weighty(!) genius that her mother can talk about and maybe even understand a little.
Me, I gave up on that a long time ago – almost as soon as the idea came into my mind. And I’d settle (it wouldn’t be settling, it would be aspirant – breathing and reaching, all in one) for anyone at all to listen, or to read. All I’m hoping for is one person who will sit with me on my bed and we’ll tell stories.
Even this has proven far too much to ask of anyone.
So I changed the subject to the depravity of the rich. I told her about how I used to think rich people’s lives were easier, and then I realized that rich people’s lives are just stupider.
So this kid is thirteen years old, right? And he decided he wanted to make a jack o’ lantern for Halloween. There was this nice-looking pumpkin sitting on the kitchen table. He laid claim to it, only to have his 22-year-old sister (she’s a college graduate, folks) run into the kitchen and object. She paid for the pumpkin with her own money! And she wanted to carve it herself. The situation is defused, (I don’t know how, I wasn’t paying attention) and apparently the young lad has won First Night privileges with the pumpkin.
First Night privileges: the pumpkin is his to carve. And it turns out his thirteen-year-old idea of carving a pumpkin is actually taping pieces of candy to the pumpkin in the shape of a face. I’m like: would you like to use pins, or maybe glue so you can’t see the tape? He’s like: no.
After the pumpkin contest, later that night, when his mom complained that his jack o’ lantern was in the middle of everything, our young hero ‘cleaned up’ by throwing away not only the scotch tape, but also the as yet still wrapped candies, and the entire unspoiled pumpkin.