The first time I felt absolutely white-faced frightened—when all of the blood and pigment in my head drained to my heart—I was five and being closed into a play-coffin. The coffin was not exactly play, though; it was real, and I of course at the time had no idea why my playfriends would have one in their backyard. My best friend Dixie who lived there liked to make Halloween houses all year long—not just for Halloween. She’d get me to go in her closet and then she’d lock the door, telling me through the keyhole to look for the bowl of eyeballs, put my hand through the spaghetti guts. One time she didn’t let me out soon enough and by the time she did, it was all I could do to scramble out from all the shoes, run down the stairs and out into the fresh air, heading towards my house two blocks away.
“Sorry!” I yelled to Dixie, who stood on the curb with her hands on her hips. “I heard my mother calling me for supper!
“No you didn’t!” Dixie yelled back.
I took one more look at Dixie, a six-year-old with a coffin in her backyard, and Scoobie-Dood a block and a half home, under half-lit streets to where I knew Halloween wasn’t.
The other white-faced frightened times in the rest of my life come from such a variety of ages and spotlights that they are too much to revisit. I would never fall asleep again if I had to think of them.
I have been awake for forty years.
It’s hard to pick and choose all the disappointments and then get them corralled into the same fenced area. “You, over there. You, over there too.” I pray in the morning, always take a shower, and then sometimes there comes a social event.
A white-faced frightened individual always shows up at events like these, even when she should not have. It’s usually me. I show up with all my miseries placarded on my face, a few pieces of evidence in my purse, tiny packages of Kleenex and gum to share. I know I’m supposed to feel buoyant and pretty, perky and bold, but all I want to do at any particular party is write down the evidence that I have been loved.