I’ve been away for awhile. Not my usual “away” though; I haven’t been in the hospital. I’ve been away from the blogosphere, but I haven’t been completely separated. I’ve been keeping up with others’ posts and checking my dramatically dwindling stats. I’ve been writing more in recent months than I have in a long time, but I haven’t posted anything in over a month, and my last personal entry was at the beginning of February. I don’t have any explanations or excuses for my absence, and I promise that I’ll write an entry soon with all of the important things that went down in the beginning of 2016. Today, however, there is something else on my mind.
It is April 23rd, 2016. For me, that means two things:
1. Yesterday was my step-brother’s birthday.
2. Today marks three and a half years since my best friend’s death.
For my memoir class, I recently wrote a piece that includes both of them, so I figured today would be a good day to share that.
Through my childhood and most of my teen years, I loved Halloween despite writing a couple pages on why I hated it in second grade.
I remember a couple costumes that I wore back in the old days: a cow, Nala from The Lion King, Padmé Amidala from Star Wars multiple times, a ninja, Sarah Palin, Kate Gosselin.
It seemed like the older I got, the better Halloween became. My parents cared less and less about how much candy I ate the night of, costumes got more creative, my dad stopped supervising our candy hunt (he was too unfriendly to hand out candy at the house, so that was my mom’s job), and, come middle school, the parties started. I wasn’t in the right friend group or school district for there to be drugs or alcohol at the parties, but they were always a good opportunity to get attention, and boy, did I like attention.
In 2011, I went to one Halloween party as Paula Deen. My costume was complete with a box of butter (salted, of course). I attended with my four friends, who were dressed as a redneck, a demonic pumpkin man, Dr. Oz, and himself. My best friend, Isaiah, was the pumpkin man. He was a few years younger than everyone at the party and didn’t have many friends there aside from his brother and me, so he crawled through the bushes and the parched corn field and jumped out at people. I eventually gave him my wooden cooking utensils and itchy white wig to add to the fun.
The night before, Isaiah and I had gone on a frantic quest to collect as much candy as we could in the final 30 minutes of Strasburg Borough’s allotted trick-or-treat time. I didn’t have time to get all gussied up in my Paula Deen outfit, so I grabbed a stick horse and a smiley face balloon, buttoned my jacket up over my head, and set out as the headless horseman. Isaiah was a scary pumpkin man of course.
Eight days before Halloween of 2012, Isaiah ended his life at age 14. Parties cancelled. On trick-or-treat night, a time I always spent with Isaiah, one of our friends and I handed out candy on the front porch of my house at my mom’s request. I watched as tiny power rangers and My Little Ponies walked over the sidewalk where I had seen my best friend’s body bag get wheeled into a silent ambulance on a stretcher. They were giggling and happy, blissfully unaware of the devastation that had happened there just days before. Halfway through trick-or-treat, Isaiah’s pregnant older sister and his two year old niece that he adored walked up to the porch. My friend immediately began sobbing and we had to go inside.
The next two Octobers were spent with my vices and filled with self-harm, drugs, and alcohol. I don’t remember them specifically because I was too intoxicated by substances and crushing grief.
This past year, I decided to focus outside of Isaiah and myself. Halloween is my step-brother’s favorite day of the year. He calls it “October happy Halloween stah”. Cory is 24 (as of yesterday), but simultaneous mental retardation and autism leave his functionality fluctuating between preschool and elementary level. He likes skeletons, pumpkins, the color orange, and anything edible, so Halloween is the perfect day for him. As soon as my step-dad told me that Cory had never been trick-or-treating, I knew what I had to do.
My parents took Cory and me to Party City, the Halloween Mecca. Despite whether or not he understood the concept, Cory said that he wanted to dress up as Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, who he calls “Bigger Sauron The King”.
I grabbed a large golden crown off of a shelf and held it up to my second oldest sibling that was twice my size, “Look, Cory, Bigger Sauron The King!”
His eyes got wider than I’ve ever seen them. He slowly took the crown out of my hands, lifted it into the light, and uncharacteristically whispered, “The King!”
Come Halloween night, Cory ceremoniously donned the crown, a cape, a sword, and a shield. My girlfriend dressed up as Rainbow Dash with a full face of blue makeup, my friend pieced together a Mother Earth costume, and I gathered as many Adventure Time accessories as I could and declared myself Jake the Dog. And so, an antagonistic wizard, a magic pony, an earth goddess, and a cartoon dog ventured into the autumn night with the goal of giving Cory a Halloween experience besides watching The Nightmare Before Christmas by himself.
No one expected Cory to make it past a couple of houses, but we went up and down each side of our street. Sure, Cory charged ahead of us on every stretch of sidewalk, sword raised high. Sure, he may have bowled over a toddler or two. Sure, we had to coach him to say “happy Halloween” and “thank you” at every house. And sure, there’s no real way to tell what he thought about the whole ordeal, but I like to tell myself he enjoyed it.
Cory was allowed to have one piece of candy from his Halloween bag before my parents threw it away. He chose a small bag of pretzels.