Another Halloween Ghost Story
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Random people face faux extortion from little kids in cheap nylon and plastic costumes representing the hot cartoon of the moment. People give you free shit and you give people free shit, no strings, no ties, no questions asked. One can cosplay up old “Miami Vice” episodes without disdain from your fellow man. Whether I stay in and watch eight hours of horror movies or go in the streets and look at all the White kids in Yellow face, I almost always enjoy myself.
I can recall one year I didn’t.
During my third year, final year, of law school, my brother decided to come home from New York. He figured he didn’t have long to live.
He was in and out of the hospital, so we all pitched in to help with his care. I took a lighter class load that year, got lots of practice in changing diapers and sterilizing needles, became knowledgeable on interferon and the behavior of viruses.
By summertime, I still had 3 class hours left even though I went through the hooding ceremony. I had plenty of free time, yet I had responsibilities, too. After classes, I’d trot out to the grassy swap the University of Tennessee loaned out to club soccer and played an hour with some of the international students. If my brother was currently resting at my parents house, I’d head over there. If he was in the hospital, I’d screw around a little, perhaps roam through the “old city,” an entertainment district in Knoxville, visit a friend who worked at a bar or slide into a seat at the tiny but popular coffee shop (this was during the height of grunge, you see). After that, I’d go over to Vick and Bill’s and grab a couple of sandwiches, one for me, one for Mom, who kept a near round the clock vigil in his hospital room , and one for my brother.
By the fall, he wasn’t eating the food I brought, nor much else. The opportunistic illnesses had ravaged his . . . oh just pick an organ. He was having difficulty communicating, and was as likely to be snoozing when I saw him as not. His birthday is in October, so we had a little party, and our aunt sent a clown. How scary. He seemed to enjoy it, him, her . . . and the party. He loved parties. He loved performing.* So liking that lame clown seemed to fit. Besides, he hadn’t had a lot to laugh about.
I was half heartedly job searching at this point, and I had not much else to do but play soccer and help out with my brother. I was pondering how to spring a Halloween surprise for him during the final week of that month. That was probably more for my own benefit. I’m not sure if he knew that it was in fact nearly Halloween, nor cared.
The last time I saw him alive, he couldn’t speak, wasn’t reacting to much except the offer of more pain killers. I walked in the room and he had a burst of life, a recognition of something, perhaps from our past, him babysitting me as I sat there enraptured by Godzilla destroying Tokyo. That was the 28th. He was dead on the 30th.
I actually had some candy for the kids at my parent’s house, however we didn’t turn on the front porch lights that year.
*My brother was a stage actor, performed mostly in musicals. He toured a lot until a back injury impaired his dance ability. He was interested in all forms of the arts, however. I remember that he wrote fiction in his early teen years. I became fascinated with the typewriter at that time. Because he wrote, I write.