Seems like Halloween rolls around and my life spirals out of control. It must be the rolling round orange pumpkin takes all my inhibitions for the year and pops them and pumpkin juice gets everywhere. Seeds, pulp, goo.
My specialty seems to be terrible relationships, or maybe not terrible, just passionate, undirected, explosive, loving, well intentioned, alive.
One year I had to take a tv in to get fixed right after Halloween because it broke. The TV guy said what happened when I dropped it off. He had to put something on the fixit paper. I said you’ll never believe it. He said try me. He’d heard it all. I said a pumpkin melted on it.
His pen hovered over the page. He hadn’t heard that one.
My boyfriend at the time and I had a tumultuous thing because he was organized and had a walkie talkie and was used to ordering things up and around, and I was kind of relieved to be ordered up and around, and liked it for awhile until I had my own ideas that couldn’t be ordered or around anymore, and then I went off with someone else. It had been close to Halloween, and we had a fight, and a week or so after Halloween I was back in his apartment in West Hollywood, a little nook of somewhat straight on super gay Harper street, and we’re back together for the moment and he comes out of the tiny strip of kitchen with this frozen pumpkin, steaming in the regular-degreed air.
When our fight had happened, we had carved a pumpkin, but I had missed Halloween, so he had put the pumpkin in the freezer to save it, just in case we worked things out, sweetly, so we wouldn’t actually miss Halloween. And now here was the pumpkin like the undead (not unlike our relationship, derailing into over) – the idea of the pumpkin was so sweet – he saved it for us, it was still possible, but the reality of the pumpkin was it was freezing, and had icicles, and it smelled weird and it was like preserving something dead. When he carried it out to me, I thought Ohhhh, in that sweet way, and the closer it got, the more scared I felt because it was a cold pumpkin, it was like an old body part, and Halloween was over.
You can’t freeze and then retry the relationship.
We did anyway, of course, because people do, because he had hope, and since he had a walkie talkie and seemed to know what he was doing all the time, and his apartment was cute, and I was 22, and I loved him, in the best version of love I had at the time, I had hope, so we put a candle in the pumpkin, put it on the tv, ate some candy (trick or treat), laughed and rolled around in the bed, watched a movie probably or went out with our little group of friends, and then went to bed.
The next day I woke up and the pumpkin had deflated, mashed down like a melted orange clown mask, disgusting, old, lumpy, and runny, right into and through the tv. He had to go to work on some show called China Beach where he sat in a lonely road all day and stopped cars from going when they were shooting, for 14 hours. Copy that. Hold traffic. Copy that. Release traffic. So he said can you take in the tv. As he removed what was left of the pumpkin, in chunks, into the trash. Can you drop it off to get fixed.
I told all this to the fixit guy.
That is a new one, he said.
I never watched another movie on that tv. I don’t know if he ever got it back. The pumpkin was stronger than the tv could handle, even when it was off.
Probably some other girlfriend picked it up. I think her name was Heather. I think they were sitting on the road together, with the walkie talkies. Sitting in their beginning, while I was in the middle of cleaning up the ending.
Then there was the famous Halloween 26 years ago when I fell in love with my friends. That’s been documented, explored, ruined, resurrected, and never quite lost. We didn’t mean for that to happen either, it was a love match gone awry, and then I married one of them. Then I spent the next 26 years wondering how I could make that happen again . Trying to fill in the holes that relationship left, trying valiantly, like I’m a farm peasant trying to be Joan of Arc but no queen is knighting me. Then I’m not actually an heroic saint, turns out, just actually a farm boy with only voices in only my head.
And then this Halloween, and I’m demanding more from my life, I’m exploded open again. I’m searching around for how to gather the rest of me, all of me, and unite my one person, using the people that know me, my best audience from over the years. I have my tall leggy ex boyfriend who will play any physical game with me – Frisbee, darts, surfing, bagel eating, writing, moviemaking but there is not the level I am looking for, it is one level and it’s satisfying, and maybe we’ll have a career. And then there’s the other old boyfriend, the poet nudging me – don't worry, it's just soul, listen to it talking to you. I listen to the poetry, that voice, and that is a strong force – have you listened to ee cummings? There’s not much else you can do, when you listen to ee cummings, except unfold yourself and offer yourself to God, to nature, to beauty. ee’s poems are recipes, but all of it is made by me, all of it is scripted, produced and acted in by me. And these are just the people I could remember best. And of course, none of it matters because aren’t I pretty much gay anyway?
I know where this is heading because I’m the producer. I’m trying like hell to run away from my life in increments, because the kids are running away, like they’re supposed to do. I’m trying what I always did, which was GET OUT FIRST, before the pain comes. There isn’t any sure way to outrun pain, there’s only different ways to be hit by it. If I disrupt my family because I need more, then my family suffers. I wrote to my friend, from one of the Halloweens, I said I feel like I’ve been stuffing my life into all these holes and it keeps pouring out like sorry wrong number.
In reality, I have this thick and serious life, and everything is so important that it scares me. Also I know I have more to me, and I know my time is ticking away, and I want to do it all, and I want to be able to afford it. I want ALL the love, and I want ALL the power, and I want ALL the beauty. I’m trying to slam on the brakes of my life, and accelerate at the same time. Good for writing, not good for all the good people surrounding me.
Halloween opened me up 26 years ago, and I have never recovered. Or maybe that’s what I’m here to do, which is write about why. Feel it all, and tell people what happened.
The point is, it doesn’t matter who you love, or how many ways you try, or if the great pumpkin flattens you, or melts, or tricks you into staying up all night with your two friends and feeling tangled with them forever. It’s just Halloween, and we are all just kids dressing up and wandering in the dark, with some kind parents doing their best guiding us a little bit up the road. Sometimes the parents have whiskey in their coffee. Sometimes they can’t make the trip cause they’re too fat or they have diabetic feet. Sometimes there’s a massive leak at the house and someone has to stay and fix it instead of getting candy. Sometimes you get to walk in the dark in the clump of kids and community you created, walking those same three streets, getting to hold the neighbor’s dog, scooping out the candy in handfuls, the one weird night a year where everyone on the street cares about the same world series game because we’re in it, and everyone’s dressed the way they aren’t normally, or the way they want to be, and sometimes it’s scary, but it’s all just for fun, and if it isn’t exactly the way you planned it, you might as well love it.
No matter what you do, or who you are, it will always roll around again next year.