I was kind of dismayed to discover that I've penned not one, not two, but three previous posts on how much I despise individual holidays. Apparently I am a Curmudgeon for All Seasons -an honorific which, if not quite as venerable as a Man for All Seasons, at least does not presuppose that I am addled by testosterone.
It's just that holidays have so many requirements. They're the worst kind of high-maintenance girlfriend or boyfriend, demanding gifts and speeches and niceties of feeling. Thanksgiving demands gratitude. Valentine's Day insists on love. Arbor Day exacts, of all things, trees.
Halloween is the worst. Halloween demands fear. Because I resent fear, because I begrudge the daily clutch of its fingers at my throat, I resent Halloween most of all. I dislike buying candy. I dislike dressing up. I dislike the invasion of my property by fourteen-year-olds dressed like sheep.
Except, this morning, I walked under a low sky from the old brick library, now my office, to the old brick theater, now a coffee bar. I ordered a latte and listened to the girl behind the bar tell ghost stories. The chess pieces move by themselves. The door opens and closes in the night. The leaves drop off the oak in a great big rush.
This year is different. I could get excited about ghosts, this year. Maybe because death has ridden so close these past few months, tromping alongside me with its head tucked under its arm. Cancer of the blood; old age; a heart attack on the back of a tandem bike. The dark, the rain, an SUV. Maybe Halloween is supposed to help you try on death, to pull it over your face like a Dick Cheney mask and then, stuffing your mouth full of sweet, throw it off.
From Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year:
A dreadful plague in London was
In the year sixty-five,
Which swept an hundred thousand souls
Away- and yet I alive!