Essence was going to be an angel for Halloween. She had several costumes this year, some for parties that happened on other days preceding. Her mother had hesitated to buy more than one, worrying it might be excessive and that people would judge her as a mother. But she bought more, for her little girl, who was deeply loved. One costume was a ballerina, with actual authentic leather ballet slippers, in matching pale rose. Essence wore her hair in a bun. The second was a Rainbow Fairy. There was a rainbow tutu, glittery wings, a ribbon wand with a star shape on the tip, and rainbow striped leg warmers. The last costume, for trick or treating on Halloween night, was an angel. A tinsel halo attached to a headband, beautiful, feathered wings, and a long white gown. Essence knew what angels were and wanted to be one. When she walked, she kept her hands folded, and smiled.
Halloween smelled like leaves that you raked into a pile, then jumped into. “Watch out for worms!” some people would say. But the leaf pillow was a cushion of crunchiness and smelled divine. The air also smelled like cold nights coming, passing into your nostrils for the first time in months. Halloween smelled like pumpkin guts, both slimy and stringy, and tasted like the seeds, roasted in a three-hundred-degree oven and well salted, a little hard to chew. It also tasted like Tootsie Rolls, with their odd profile of citrus and chocolate, rolled into tiny, waxed papers, twisted closed on each end. Halloween smelled like shaving cream sprayed by young vandals. Essence’s older brother, a teenager, did not like shaving cream or vandalism. Her mother and her friends reminisced about how shaving cream is what Halloween smelled like.
The group of kids gathered at the corner when it became dark, costumed. Some had used smeared, greasy makeup sticks on their faces to draw cat whiskers or clown smiles. They carried bags with pictures of black cats on them, or bulbous plastic jack o’ lanterns with handles. The parents kissed them, told them to look both ways when crossing the street, and not to eat loose candy, and to have fun.
The kids charged toward doors to ring them. They stepped over elaborate displays of plastic bones and tombstones which said things like “Here Lies Izzy Dead”. Essence chuckled. She knew Halloween would pass quickly and had looked forward to all the fun. When she stepped on the sidewalk, her feet felt light and airy. She knew she needed to step harder, to ground herself, so she would not float away.
There were whisps and murmurs in the air, missed by some of the kids. Near the streetlamps, forms bounced in the light. They swirled together, illuminated dewdrops. Essence knew there was much more happening than could be seen.
Essence looked delicate and ethereal, but at each door, she screamed a full force “Trick or Treat” and shrieked with joyous laughter. She had forgotten to bring a bag, and did not receive any pieces of candy, but she did not mind. She had come for the fun of being with kids, and hearing the sounds, smelling the smells, and seeing the misty sights. She could not wait to go home and see her mom.
The night got older, the bags and pumpkins full. Bits of candy wrappers littered the ground. Someone’s feet hurt; someone had a stomach-ache. The kids went home. “Good night, Justin.” “Good night, Sienna”. “Good night, Shareef”. They would reconvene at school the next day.
Essence floated home, a little slowly and sadly. Her mother was in the kitchen, looking at a bag of small costumes. The candy bowl was empty, as was the table surface. As she turned off the light, the tears began to come, then the crying sounds, then the sobs. Mom sat on the floor in the dark, hugged her knees, and surrendered to it. Essence gently rubbed her mother’s shoulders with tiny, barely detectable fingertips. She whispered, “It’s okay, Mommy. I’m here. I’m here.”