It was Trunk-or-Treat night. Parents busily decorated before the stampede of costume-clad children came. All I could think about was how I’d rather be across the street at the Lemon Twist having a drink instead of taping paper skeletons to my mini-van.
I had no idea where two of my children were. The baby was strapped to my back and kept trying to wiggle his way to freedom, grabbing at decorations and tearing them down whenever the opportunity arose. I wiped sweat from my brow and started all over again with the futile effort.
I felt the eyes of the other parents. I was the lone single parent in a sea of couples. They were done with their trunks, sitting in beach chairs with mugs of coffee, all details I neglected to prepare for. My trunk felt stupid in comparison to their lights and sounds effects. I felt like a cheap bag of Party City junk.
I heard people across the street at the Lemon Twist. I smelled cigarettes in the cold air and I heard the muffled conversations over the hum of the street traffic.
The loneliness seared into my heart. I suddenly hated my deceased husband for leaving me here to fumble in front of everyone.
Superheroes and princesses started to come out. I struggled with a dart board game that wouldn’t stick no matter how much tape I put on it. The baby defiantly protested his confinement.
I felt like a giant green bug.
I didn’t belong here.
I looked across the street, my eyes lingering on the bright sign above the bar, remembering the days of tube tops and Cosmopolitans and shallow conversation with random people you meet.
I didn’t belong there either.
I was exiled to a place in between.
I struggled some more with the tape until I got everything precariously positioned where I wanted them to go.
A group of kids approached and wanted to play. I passed out prizes: bouncy balls and fake tattoos. I tried desperately not to cry.
There was a growing line of kids at my trunk. I started to think mine didn’t suck as much as I thought it did. I felt slightly guilty for feeling so sad amidst their joy. Somewhere in the crowd of children my own kids were going trunk-to-trunk by themselves. The first time I’ve ever experience a family event without hovering like my husband and me were prone to do. I felt guilty. I felt cheated.
On the drive home I allowed the tears to roll down my cheeks. Tears for my husband. Tears for me. Tears for the kids and the trunk-or-treats they should have shared with their father. Tears of shame and emptiness and anguish that violently churned inside of me. I wanted to match the stinging pain of not belonging in this world with a flood of tears to drown my sorrow.
“Why are you sad?” my son asked. “We got all of this candy!” He held up his bag, already chewing on something. His sister agreed, her mouth full of chocolate.
I could make out the shadowy outline of their faces in the rearview mirror. All smiles, hope, and eagerness.
I was not from their world anymore. I was lost in that space in between. But maybe there would be a place for me.