The Day of the Dead (Jason)

You love Halloween. Mostly you love the opportunity to design and execute an elaborate costume that will transform the wearer into a storybook character, a spirit animal, a beautiful (or grotesque) version of their self. And you love the parties – dressing up and mingling with friends and strangers – scrutinizing and appreciating the artistry, the creativity, the silliness. Deciphering the who and the why behind the parrot, the lumberjack, the “insert the timely celebrity,” the witch, the monster.

This year you are invited to Lena’s annual Halloween bash and as soon as you get the invitation you start plotting your costume. You have a beautiful silk party dress – crimson red with long tendrils of ruffles that drape from the hem. You order a light blue umbrella hat from Amazon and make the trek to the dollar store – yards of silver Christmas tree garland, Christmas balls, blue polka-dotted ribbon and a strand of tiny LCD lights, battery operated. You dig out your glue gun. You wrap and glue and hang and tie and twist – you make yourself a jellyfish costume.

Halloween evening your sister comes over – hauling trunks and laundry baskets of costume fixin’s. She frosts s’mores cupcakes with coconut rum buttercream while you curl your hair. Cody comes over and you devise a dapper monkey costume – your black and white pajama set, an embroidered vest, a vintage cap, a tattoo moustache – and of course, a long fur tail with a dramatic curl. Layla arrives and your sister assists her with false eyelashes and pigtails; you steam the wrinkles out of an orange satin cowgirl shirt and dig out the best Western belt you can find. She tucks her jeans into her boots. Cody hands out candy to the trick-or-treaters while you assemble various fur pieces and feather masks for not one, but two fox costumes. You apply long glitter lashes, powder your face a light sparkly blue and wrap a necklace made of clear glass bubbles around your neck. Layla asks if you have an extra toothbrush: “My goal is to make out with someone tonight.” You feel slightly melancholy as you grab her one from the hall closet – so many extra toothbrushes just waiting for an unexpected overnight guest. You aren’t going to set a kissing goal tonight – in a sea of sexy nurse costumes, sexy Girl Scouts, sexy zombies, your decidedly unsexy jellyfish costume is unlikely to encourage suitors.

You pile into the car and head down the hill to the party. Lena has outdone herself as usual – chandeliers of old baby dolls hanging from nooses, bloody sheets covering the furniture, a disco ball sending purple and green flickers onto piles of glow-in-the-dark bones, a severed head is swinging from the porch rafters. A peacock is strutting her stuff, booty dancing with a cow. A contractor (with a piece of lumber sticking out of his torso) is in contemplative conversation with a flapper. A short, swarthy chimp is manning the keg. Your brother-in-law the frog prince gets you a glass of wine. Costumes are a great conversation starter – a ghoul asks if you are a lamp, no wait, an octopus –  you assume she is quite drunk when she asks you the same question an hour later. A man in a cape and tights gives you a hug. You bop along to the dance music and assist with picture taking. You chat up a guy who resembles Hunter Pence, Hunter Pence in a cowboy outfit, until his girlfriend (the flapper) tucks her arm around him and directs him to the food table.

“Can you help me?” The question comes from a tall man in a black shroud. A smiling face peeks out from the middle of a broad chest – his costume is designed to look like a person with a severed head holding their own head. He asks if you can place a glow necklace around his bloody neck stump. Very carefully, so as not to stab him in the eye with your umbrella headpiece – you lean back and he kneels down – you put the red plastic tube around his plastic stump.

He gets himself another drink and brings one for you, too, and for the next hour or so the conversation is flirty and funny. He seems sweet and smart, interesting….and interested. It is confirmed when he wraps his broad hand around your waist, tips your umbrella back and steals a kiss. There is more conversation and kissing, in fits and starts – first date conversation – who are you and what do you do and where do you come from? His name is Jason, he is in I.T., he climbs mountains, recently Mt. Hood. He floats rivers, he owns a big house, too big and his roommate is moving out. He drives a truck; he went to school up north; he got this costume 8 years ago and got it back out for this Halloween. He is 38. August 15. He compliments your eyelashes. He hurt himself in a climbing fall last year and had to rehab his ankles so he’s just getting back to normal. Five more pounds to go. He doesn’t have kids and his last relationship ended in August. Can he get you another drink? He mentions a previous “life partner” – a girlfriend of 8 years. He likes your costume, very clever. He came with a group of friends – the cow, a chicken; they party much harder than he does. He has a tattoo on his shoulder. He’s an adventurer, always moving, he wants to move to New Zealand. He doesn’t drink coffee; cupcake frosting makes his blood sugar spike.

You take a trip to the front porch – he gets another beer – then he throws his neck stump like a hood down his back and you remove your umbrella. You turn off the shrieking baby sound coming from a bloody doll in a bassinet by the door and away from the crowd he wraps you in strong arms and kisses you passionately. What a lot of fun this night turned out to be! Layla appears in the doorway, “we’re going to leave soon, are you ready?”  You make eye contact with Jason and he says, “I think I’m ready to go, too. I came with friends, I have to call a cab.”

“Oh, I can give you a ride from my house, you’re so close.” You’ve only had a couple of glasses of wine, over the course of several hours. You ride back up the hill, crammed into the back of Elsa’s car. It feels nice to be pressed up against someone; it’s more intoxicating than the wine. There is a great deal of shuffling of stuff and people when you get back to the house and it takes you a few minutes, once everyone has been situated, to realize that Jason is slumped over on your couch. “I think I’m really drunk,” he says. “Like super drunk. It just hit me.” You chuckle, yes, he does seem quite drunk now. Much drunker than before. He leans his head back on the cushion and asks if it’s okay if he takes his shoes off. He’s not ready to go, he doesn’t feel well. Can we just sit here for a bit and talk? Of course. You ask if you can get him anything. You get him some water. A big glass of water. Over the course of the next hour he seems to descend further and further into drunkenness. He keeps complimenting your eyelashes, “they are just so amazingly beautiful!” You remind him that they are fake – from Rite Aid. He doesn’t seem convinced. He apologizes for how drunk he is, over and over, “this really isn’t something I ever do. I’m not a big drinker, I don’t know how this happened.” He is embarrassed. He wants you to know he is sorry that he’s being so stupid, he wants you to know this is not regular behavior for him, he wants to thank you for being so kind to him and taking care of him while he’s so drunk. “Just don’t throw up on my couch,” you tell him and you assure him that it’s fine, you don’t mind, it happens. You get him some Tums, “would you like something to eat, are you sure you don’t want to go home?” He thinks he might get sick in the car. You try and make him comfortable, you rub his feet, you wash the fake blood off of his neck. You refill his water glass. “Would you like to lay down?” You lead him to the bedroom where you help him take off the rest of his costume. “Just don’t throw up in my bed.” He groans. He sits up quickly. He runs to the bathroom.

Wretch! Splat!

He throws up all over the bathroom floor. Your bathroom floor. He redirects to the toilet and throws up again. And again. “Are you okay?”

“Don’t come in here.”

Wretch, splat.  

“I’m so, so, sorry. I’m so embarrassed. This is the worst. Oh, GOD.”

You grab a clean towel from the hall closet and a spare toothbrush from the drawer. Unexpected overnight guest: this wasn’t exactly what you had in mind.

It takes awhile but eventually he’s cleaned up the bathroom and is back in bed. It’s now 3:30 am.

The next morning you both look and feel terrible. Him, clearly, from the booze, you from lack of sleep. He continues to express embarrassment and dismay, “it must have been the Jello shots I did early in the evening.”

You try and scrub off the eyelash glue that is now crusty and black with mascara but it seems permanently lodged under your eyes. You brush your hair but no amount of brushing seems to take out the weird frizzy kinks. Your skin is dry and pale and blotchy.

“I honestly don’t remember a single thing from last night except for throwing up on your floor. That and you giving me Tums.”

You can tell he is seeing you differently in the daylight. He got super drunk and fell for your fake lashes but his sober self isn’t attracted to you. He doesn’t remember the fun conversation, the witty banter, the passionate kissing. He is regretting everything.

You take him back to his car. He thanks you again and apologizes one last time. He doesn’t ask for your number, he doesn’t say “let me make it up to you by taking you out to dinner.” He says goodbye and closes the car door.

You realize there’s a good chance he doesn’t even remember your name.


P.S. Layla has a date with the chicken next week.