Halloween

At work, I stand out on the playground

in a Carhartt and tattered tights,

face stitched together,

lips painted red

like fire engines or cherries, like

my own warm blood pumping feebly against the cold.

I try to step into someone else’s skin.

I pretend to be someone else for a day, but

no one recognizes me and

the required explanation

kills all excitement and

reminds me too much of an average day.

I try to make small talk with the fox who works my shift as

she perches on the picnic table. I start to tell her a story but

she bounds away towards the basketball court,

hot on the trail of some misbehaving fourth graders.

Later, I wander through a crowd of tiny superheroes and princesses

feeling for all the world like the freak I am.

The only person who recognizes me is less than half my age so

I pretend I have somewhere very important to be and then

I hide behind a stack of dusty, cobwebbed Nora Roberts novels

in the library next door.

My hiding spot doesn’t last long;

I’m quickly handed a black pointy hat and told to behave by a robot

dressed like a librarian.

Try not to be too scary are my only instructions,

and I try to recall a time in my life I’ve been scary before,

suddenly wishing the warning was necessary.

In the general fiction section, two mad scientists discuss their golf scores and

I stare at them menacingly through the fog. They laugh and ask me my name.

I stay silent, worried that I’ll shatter the illusion,

but a snowman clinging to her father’s chest screams at the sight of us anyway so

I tell them.

In my crystal ball

they hang from the ceiling,

the severed limbs tucked in the pockets of their lab coats somehow

resisting

the pull of the earth below.

I lean in and stare into the heart of the crystal to try to see their future,

but it’s an overturned fish bowl, and all I can see

is my own faint, distorted reflection

staring back at me.

When the last family has left,

I slip away through the dark, abandoning my hat on the circulation desk.

I stare at my reflection in my rear view mirror as I scrub off the makeup, revealing

my old self underneath,

though in truth,

I felt the same either way.

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