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Say Anything But That: A Halloween Memoir

What you should never ask a trick-or-treater.

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glenhyrst.ca

“What are you supposed to be?”

This is the most devastating phrase imaginable to a child on Halloween.

I looked up at the speaker with eyes as wide as the king-size Twix bar in my bag. They screamed in silent shock. I felt like an infant that had been wronged for the first time and did not yet know to feel sad or angry and so was left in a simple state of disbelief.

It was like a Roman god that I had stepped out of my house, adorned in an old cat mask and makeshift fabric wings a scarce half-hour before the unexpected war was unleashed upon me. I did not know then that my dark wings were to be softly crucified by an ignorant stranger, who would give out Twizzlers as if in payment for the privilege to cause pain.

“What are you supposed to be?”

To worsen the verbal blow, they only say this thing to children who have homemade costumes. The ones who have to beg and stitch and glue pieces of cardboard to old clothing. The ones who use every facet of their creativity to turn themselves into pieces of art, to replicate and build on the images of grandeur in their minds.

Behind me, I could feel the rustle of thousands of others, passing from house to house, dressed as princesses and ghouls and Spiderman. And still there were others, far across the globe, who did not celebrate the holiday with us. I wondered: did they revel in the way the moon’s glow illuminated their faces as if to suggest something hidden and calm and beautiful that lay beneath the concrete sidewalks? Did they feel the power of impulsiveness and tradition, the veiled rise of youth initiating a night of active darkness? Did bonfires beat within them too?

And it was with grim resignation that I mustered the strength to say, “A bat. I’m supposed to be a bat.”

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