Ill prepared. Ill, prepared. Prepared for a response that would never come; prepared to retract the hand that I had extended in full futility – a special form of masochism practiced exclusively by single girls. The chains constricted tighter by that special phenomenon; the earth’s tendency to turn half-speed when it knows you’re waiting for a ride.
The first 45 had passed in the mental equivalent to being drawn and quartered – attempting to get anywhere in New Orleans on Halloween. Streetcars were overrun, and Uber prices ran more than half of what was in my bank account. Despite being caught in the cuticle vortex caused by the closest thing there is to a Southern wind chill, I possessed enough self-pity to peek through the mask at a picture of nothing,nowhere. standing in front of a hearse and a digital 5:56. It felt like home. No, not just the weather. The pink Razr had become a rose gold iphone and the hair was box dyed a few shades darker, but nothing had changed. Like January in junior high, I was a bag of woven limbs against a streetlight stretcher.
A man in a pickup’s passenger cupped his mouth, projecting himself through the half-massed glass and onto me. I pulled pleather over my cleavage-bearing leopard slip dress with one hand. I turned The Birthday Massacre up with the other. Even as green ate through the blackening, his gaze–which I felt foolish not following—remained with every inch of the turn, just to have its eventual absence soon substituted.
“Let’s go!” his wife said with a draw, cornering in on the Starbucks across the street. It was like a look into a future I’d never see – heavy paint and dark hair adorned in a $300 fur vest and strands of $3 beads. He grabbed her as she nearly stepped out in front of a speeding cab. Her arm was in his one hand. His dick was in his other as he stared at me over her shoulder.
After all, it’s too dangerous for a girl to walk more than a block home by herself.
I scanned the distance for any sign of the only way out. All I saw was a black Benz truck pulling off onto the tracks as a young woman—who had long since given up on the train—
hopped in shotgun. I retracted the wings of fake lashes as the wind began to burn and the tears began to well. But, the familiar rumbling helped awaken the senses that weren’t sight.
And so, I packed in, squeezing the leather band tight.
“I like your ears,” something at hip height called up to me.
The misery mask under my skull had completely distracted me from the fluffy cat ears on top of it. I looked down to see a smaller pair, paired perfectly with smeared nose paint, a plastic jack-o-lantern of Dots and candy buttons, and a shining smile of missing teeth.
“Thank you, babe. I like yours, too,” I said, pulling a piece of tinsel that had grown astray back into place. Her dad sat aloofly on the train bench beside us. I felt her lean into my leg. I zipped my jacket closed with one hand. On her shoulder, I draped the other.
As daylight abruptly waned through the crowd, my spirit continued to wane like a sheet snatched from a ghost. I still had to get myself into my second costume of the day—a deterrent from any more gaze prisons—and back downtown to kick it with my hometown sober buds. My insides ached, craving the break-fast of a happy hour that had long since passed. My mind ached, the prism of lasers bleeding as I failed to meet timed deadlines. I felt my friend slip through as the sound of the accordion doors cut through the third loop of Walking with Strangers. I hate god.
My time eventually came, the Ramen ricocheting in the plastic of my CVS loot bag as I hopped off, making a beeline to get home before the street lights. But, my rhythm still refused to synch. A rumbling that wasn’t bass was penetrating the closure I was hoping to seek; two-toned frequencies, frightening enough to rip out a bud to make room for three opened ears.
“Don’t you two look adorable!” Her leathered arms were firmly in between two pickets of the fence. A nugget of brown fluff was wedged in between the gaps, screaming.
I crusaded onwards.
“No, wait,” her husband said, appearing at her side with an orange bucket dotted with faded bats in hand. She waved me over, along with the girl in devil horns I had followed off the train.
Devil and I exchanged a polite glance before converging at the pile of plastic in front of us. Us vegans are the only ones in their right mind to voluntarily take the peanut butter chew.
Selections in hand and thank yous exchanged, devil and I pivoted back towards the street.
“Are you girls together?” he asked.
Oh’s and no’s and nervous laughs came tumbling as the final block of unstable Single Girl Safe Space was pulled. A travesty for us to walk alone, he demanded we exchange names that instant.
“Jana, meet Chloe. Chloe, Jana. Well, we’ve fixed that,” he said, smile proud and eyes squinted. He had solved all the problems of the world. To be fair, Jana was more reasonable than Starbucks’ insistence that a 23-year-old soy-guzzler is named Janet.
“Are you girls on your way to PJ’s Tavern?” he went on, his wife beaming. I could see the mardi gras colors of the neon Abita sign glowing all the way down the block.
“No!” I said in an accidental shout.
It had become a game of four square.
“….well it was lovely meeting you girls.”
I walked home a safe 16 feet behind the devil.
They had come clean off – my ears, and the control knob on my heater.
7:30 on Halloween night – my landlord would tell me to go fuck myself. I attempted to twist the remaining metal rod by hand. A spark snapped through the darkness of my living room before extinguishing.
Threaded up like a straightjacket once more, I went to get my second costume hanging on my closet door. I counted down the seconds of exposed skin before sinking into the warmth of the sweater. Follicle Tornado was woven down into two braids. Kitty pink lips met the kiss of tiger’s blood. Warm blooded, indeed; I could feel myself rise to a cool simmer.
Light on, flash off, light off, flash on. My gaze casted its own shadow. There I was – Wednesday on a Tuesday.
As promised, I sent the photo to my ma before even thinking of opening Instagram.
She insisted I should star in the next Addams Family remake as we shot texts about silly work costumes and the trick-or-treater count. The elephant in the room was being poached by the ground on which it was standing. I knew that the only thing she wanted me to be for Halloween was sober.
Instead, she expelled her worried energy on a matter much less charged.
Are you at your concert yet???
I decided to use my white lie card accordingly.
Yep! Just got in. Security was wanding people and everything. Super safe.
I grabbed my bag. The peanut chew was still sitting lonely on my front table. Popping it in my mouth, I tossed the wrapper over my shoulder as I slammed the front door behind me. I was ready to walk the blocks.
There. We fixed that.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. That’s how it goes when I engage in the tradition of seeing my great love, Eyehategod.
Mike blowing snot rockets. My realization that my love for atmospheric music stems from their use of feedback. The stockings I had forgotten to give back to that stripper at Barely. It was all melding together for a beautiful ceremony.
It was my ninth god-hating ride. I kept a tight grip on my eighth life as IX emerged on stage living his tenth. I had seen him in all of the varying degrees of sobriety while standing (for the most part) in all of the varying degrees of sobriety, myself. But, we had both achieved the same tea-toting end – the end where I had begun.
Just two weeks prior I was laid out on a couch on the other side of Canal. Dependence Detox Initiative. My back was to the air but my tears couldn’t be contained by the slipperiness of the torn leather. One of my cohorts lumbered over me in his overalls like Michael Myers.
“Believe in the fight,” he told me. It was the only fight I knew where being a winner meant being a quitter.
Once more, I was in a crowd of my people—all different but just the same—holding it together in the circle pit. The kid dressed as the pack of Marlboro reds led the charge. You could tell that was his Costume – one he takes dutifully out of the back of his closet each year and puts on. But slowly, the cardboard dented and grew torn. The cardboard came surfing over the crowd before being given a pauper’s funeral over the barricade.
The happiest hour of my life gone too soon, I left into the seedy fringe of the Quarter. No longer distracted, I could feel the cravings pulsing in my arms, the hurt pulling tight at the strings in my chest.
I had found my something blue.
24-hour chip of responsibility. Liquor store signs that never turn off. I fell into my couch, undecided of my next move.
I still had 13 minutes left of Halloween to decide. Lifting the Ouija board from under the coffee table to the top, I closed my eyes and let my fate slide.
My energy was dwindling as the planchette sputtered off.
I said goodbye, and went to bed.
You can find Jenna listening to black metal and wearing black clothes on instagram.
Tune in next week to Thirsty Thursday for more from Jenna!