Autumn in Texas takes its time, rolling in slowly then slipping away, again and again until you’re ready to give up on it. It’s the last week of October, and I am in a vintage store on 51st street, waiting for Leandra to construct a Madonna costume that “isn’t too cliché.” I am wishing for days that don’t break 90 degrees, I am bored, I am hoping that maintenance has fixed the air conditioner in my dorm room by the time I get home. I am sweating, I am wondering why I’m here, I am thinking that I actually do hate Leandra, I do not know what I will be for Halloween.
On Halloween, a cool front blows in. As I am doing my makeup in the rusted dorm room mirror, I hear girls shrieking as they check the steadily dropping temperatures on their iPhones. My friend Carla is seriously pissed that she’ll have to wear a coat over her sexy train conductor outfit. I put on my outfit and black eye makeup and smile at myself like a psycho for confidence. I am dressed as a taco.
Last week, our down-the-hall neighbor Kelly invited me over for a “Spooky Halloween Treat & Pregame” on Facebook. I am depressed when there are no cookies on the spread but I can also appreciate the effort it took to make Jell-O shots in a mini-fridge. Kelly looks pretty as Sailor Moon, with her long blonde hair in high pigtails. We toast to things like “Halloween!” and “Kyle (the hot RA)!” We promise not to let one another drink too much or make out with anyone gross. After a while, the Jell-O shots leave a bad taste in my mouth, and I wash it out with a swig of straight vodka.
The party is at House of Guys, a ramshackle old place a couple blocks off campus. It’s made for parties, because none of the senior boys who live there care. They let people have sex on their beds and climb up onto the roof after dropping acid and eat the food in their pantry. A truck is in the driveway; somebody filled the bed of it with hot water and naked girls are playing in it.
The room is already spinning when I push the door in. There is a loud indie/rap remix on the speakers and everybody is dancing, pressed against each other, covered in glitter and sweat. The lights are moving, lips are making silent words. Leandra is already throwing up somewhere.
I make my silent tour of the house — it’s my secret party ritual, where I check out the scene by pretending to look for someone. I go up the narrow wooden stairs first.
“Leandra?” I ask softly, as I push doors open. Upstairs there are only quiet groups of stoned people passing joints around in the dark. In the kitchen people are pushing to get to the keg. The back porch is where Deep Conversations between strangers are happening. Everyone there is wavering on the cusp of a sloppy make out, or hoping to get enough words in between meeting and having sex to mentally justify the whole transaction. People are peeing in the back corners of the yard because a girl dressed as Tinkerbell is having a mental breakdown in the bathroom. A guy stands alone in the grass, wearing an open bathrobe and boxer shorts. He is smoking a cigarette and taking swigs of a 40. He winks at me behind the frames of his glasses.
I turn down PCP and a guy calling dibs on the “Sexy Taco” before I find Carla, Kelly, and Leandra again. It’s very cold unless you’re on the dance floor, because someone has opened all the windows. My tights are ripped and I am hazy and I love the feeling of cool air pressing against me.
We take more shots and slip into the crowd of dancers. I close my eyes and I am just fine enough to spin. After a while, it almost doesn’t feel like Them vs. Me. I close my eyes and enjoy that for a second. All of us here, together, humping each other like primal creatures. I enjoy myself so much that I am only slightly annoyed whenever someone’s junk presses against my ass. As the crowd gets tighter, it gets harder and harder to get away.
I don’t know what I’m looking for. I wish there was a dude here dressed as a Pizza Slice. I would probably make out with him on principle. Carla and Kelly are making out on the couch and there are at least four people taking and tweeting pictures of it.
I break free from the throngs, ejected by one final thrust from a guy dressed as the Joker. I find a quiet corner of the kitchen and sit down on the floor. I am very tired. I use my taco costume like a turtle shell, tucking my knees under it and wrapping my arms around my legs. I pop my head down through the collar and somehow fall asleep.
When I wake up I don’t know what time it is, but it’s very bright and feels very early. I stick my head back through the collar of the taco and look around. The guy with the bathrobe is making bacon and eggs with a cigarette dangling from his lips. I clear my throat to gauge whether or not he’s aware of my existence, hoping that I can crawl through the back door without notice.
Without turning around he asks, “Breakfast?” and then I have to agree. His name is Chase. We talk for over two hours while a hired maid service sweeps under our feet. He seems pretty cool, so we start to get personal. I tell him something I’ve been thinking lately, “None of it makes any sense. Consistently. Just, nothing.” He smiles down at his empty plate, then back up at me. He has three years of college time on me, so I wait for his wise response.
“Sometimes, you just have to remember to Live, Laugh, and Love.” I think he’s joking and laugh with coffee in my mouth, but when I realize that he’s serious, I play it off as a bemused chuckle at life’s absurdity.
I walk home wearing his bathrobe as a coat, because somebody stole mine.