This Sunday past my friends and I took the subway trains to New York City’s Lower East Side. The air inside the carriage was hot, humid and close, and people standing in close proximity tried to sway delicately so as to not brush against each others wings, masks and costumes. When we finally emerged into the brisk evening air, we were lit by an anticipatory joy, and even as the sweat cooled and disappeared we sought to walk quickly so as to fight off the night’s chill.
Grace and I were dressed as Jack Skellington and Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas. We had picked the costumes on impulse, and were surprised by how popular they proved. I lost track of how many people approached us smiling shyly as they asked for a photograph. At one point six different people crowed in about us, leaning in and raising their hands to give peace signs to a wall of photographers who flashed away the night, making me feel if for a moment how celebrities might.
We fought to reach the entrance to the parade down on 6th Ave and Spring St, and every few minutes somebody would cry out, “Look, it’s Jack!” I was forced to remove my mask so that we could make progress; the constant tug of hands at my elbow had begun to delay us too much. Finally we fed ourselves into the great meat grinder that was the parade’s entrance, and with our friends began to slowly amble up the 16 blocks toward the exit at the far end. A Michael Jackson car blaring Smooth Criminal and Beat It kept stopping before us so their company of impersonators could dance for the crowd’s delight, a repetitive joy that quickly grew stale.
It was during this trek up 6th Ave that I touched the mystery and joy of Halloween in a manner never before experienced. Grace and I were walking close to the crowds, people piled ten deep before the iron railings, cameras flashing and eyes large as they watched the endless costumes go by, when we passed a bank of kids. They must have been four, five years old, and with cries of Jack! they reached out to me, little hands waving as they sought a hi-five.
It was strange! They didn’t see me; they saw Jack Skellington. I was immediately transmogrified into a fantastical creature, and the adoration in their eyes was pure and amazed and wonderful to see. I danced forward and hi-fived them all, and they grinned and their eyes were huge.
I didn’t reflect on that moment at the time, instead drifting on to other amusements, spectacles and sights, but later that’s what came back the most vividly. Not the endless adults and teenagers who asked for pictures with Grace and I, but those kids. I suppose the people who dress up as Mickey at Disney World get this all the time, but what a strange and delightful and surreal feeling to for but a moment feel like Jack Skellington in the flesh, to have the mask cease to cover the reality, and instead blot me out altogether so that my costume wore me instead.