What the fuck were we thinking? But it was already September. It had been 95 degrees every day. The air was so thick with humidity and industrial grime I thought I was going drown in it, if I didn’t choke to death first. We’d been driving all around town in my car with a busted AC. We’d been looking for three months. The apartment was cheap. It was on a top floor. No upstairs neighbors. It had a balcony, granted the vista was a smog-choked view of the express way. It didn’t matter. I had an apartment where I could look down on things. And I love looking down on things. Even really ugly things. There was a pool in the middle of the complex. But best of all there were Coke machines, snack machines, laundry rooms. I wouldn’t have to get into my crappy un-air conditioned car for weeks. Save for the occasional odd job, which was why we were living in this shit hole in the first place, so we could have odd jobs rather than real ones. And this business of over-tanned, skeevy, bat-faced men getting loaded in the parking lot, smoking pot and drinking beer while sitting on their pickup tailgates, occasionally giving me a look like they might, one night on a meth-amphetamine binge, butcher and then grill me on one of the many, many hibachis on the premises, or the fact that the entire apartment complex celebrates Halloween with the reverence that most neighborhoods in the suburbs reserve for Christmas and the 4th of July.
“The entire apartment complex celebrates Halloween with the reverence that most neighborhoods in the suburbs reserve for Christmas and the 4th of July.”
Crap loads of carved out pumpkins on every step, window and doorway, skeletons hanging from balconies like multiple lynchings after a medieval raid, posters of fire breathing demons pasted on the dumpster door, gut-like plastic worms stuck to mail boxes. And that every single kids looks like a chunky or morbidly obese version of the children of the corn, not only eats an overabundance of string cheese, but has already squeezed their hefty trans-fat laden bodies into hideous and titillatingly inappropriate costumes, half Texas Chainsaw Massacre half Tila Tequila. And I won’t even go into much detail about the sallow face teenagers, looking like the kids from the River’s Edge, as I walk past them on the stairs with their jaws hung slack like cows, staring at my ass, sprawled against the stairwell, leaning on the skateboards that they spent the entire afternoon falling off of. I thought I could handle it. But for fuck sakes.
Across the hall from us there’s Joe and Timmy Johnson. A father and his 40-something-year-old son. Joe the father, is an unemployed machinist out on disability, who looks exactly like the creepy alcoholic next door neighbor I had growing up, who insisted me and my brother call him uncle peaches, and was always trying get us to put our hands in his pockets. Joe wears oil stained coveralls, every single day. Yet I’ve never seen Joe near a car or go more than two feet from his apartment. Rendering that dark substance swathed on his clothing a mystery, a mystery that I’d like to remain a mystery. I loathe Joe’s paternal patter, his macho bravado, the way he unnecessarily spreads his legs practically straddling his chair every time he sits down. How he tips his baseball cap every time he curses, and ask us to pardon his French, even though everything he says is most decidedly of German origin.
“I loathe Joe’s paternal patter, his macho bravado, the way he unnecessarily spreads his legs practically straddling his chair every time he sits down. How he tips his baseball cap every time he curses, and ask us to pardon his French…”
There’s a code to get into the complex. It’s early in the afternoon and they’ve locked the gate. As if anyone on this planet would want to break in here, or feel any safer being locked in. Someone has draped the keypad with cob webs out of a spray can. I have to get out of my car. It takes me ten minutes to claw through, un-stick my fingers, kick, scream, yell, curse, and remember my code. When I’m finally able to open the gate, I find the entire fucking complex is wrapped in cobwebs, from the rooftop to the ground floor. They’re everywhere. Someone has even webbed the high dive of the pool, which is surprisingly, marginally ambitious.
I blame the skateboarding hoard of teenage boys that live here. Not just because I hate them but because I hate them most, and because they’re staring right at me, standing beside the handy work, with smirks on their gruesome acne-pocked faces, as I pull my car through the gate, a particularly strong roping strand of cobweb bends along my dirty windshield. They’re slouching just inside the gate, their eyes duly dilated, giving each other high fives for no apparent reason, other than it’s probably the only physical intimacy they’ll allow themselves, other than the occasional drunken circle jerk. I blame them because they’re the only ones that have the time, energy, and the necessary truancy to be able to pull off something like this. Because last week I may have accidently on purpose hit one of them with my car door; because a spray can isn’t exactly a foreign object to them; because their frontal lobes are not fully developed; because they don’t have impulse control or good judgment; because like most teenage boys they’re assholes. Because this week not only was I subjected to the entire complex’s Halloween hysteria, that renders everything icky, black, orange and rusty, but also to a daily dose of teenage skater boys and their blackened butt cracks, as they try with their thin un-athletic bodies, to do some trick they saw on a Tony Hawke video game they probably stole from some sweet trusting fat kid who knows the entire score to Mame, which makes me think they’re capable of anything.
Not surprisingly the cobwebs are especially thick along the outdoor hallway to my apartment. I need a scythe get through them. I encounter each with exasperation and muttered nonsensical curses, because after a shitty odd job of delivering pizzas for eight hours yesterday, bringing home a whopping 30 bucks for my troubles, I’m too fucking tired and depressed to think of sensical ones. The cobwebs rub against my face like clawing, feral kittens, toxic and oddly fragrant. I turn a corner and I manage to scare a woman pushing a cart filled with aluminum cans “half to death”, while taking down a hand full of cobwebs along with a couple of rusty wind chimes. She looks at me and tells me I’m crazy. I tell her I’m not the one that’s pushing a cart filled with aluminum cans wearing a night gown at 1:30 in the afternoon.
“I know it’s just a door. But to me it’s more than a door. It’s an oasis in a desert of tackiness, stupidity and unbridled inbreeding. It’s beautiful. It’s unadorned. It’s steel. It’s brown. It’s not even brown. It’s not even a color.”
I finally get to my door. A rush of relief hits me. I know it’s just a door. But to me it’s more than a door. It’s an oasis in a desert of tackiness, stupidity and unbridled inbreeding. It’s beautiful. It’s unadorned. It’s steel. It’s brown. It’s not even brown. It’s not even a color. It is miraculously bland, there are no monsters no ghosts, no fucking candy corn glued on to it, or left beside it in baskets for stray cats to choke on, which is the only way to get rid of candy corn and the worst way to euthanize stray cats, no posters of pock-marked, lunar landscape faced lunatics wearing coats cobbled together from the dead flesh of nubile teenage girls that are entirely too old to be spending their summers in camp.
No pumpkins, or jaggedly cut jack o’ lanterns that look like they were carved heatedly under duress with a butcher knife. It is plain, strong and neutral, just like any other door, in any other part of the city, during any other season. It’s my door. It is my refuge. “What kind of mother fucker don’t celebrate Halloween?” some slurring, random, drunk asshole that’s got a face like a distressed leather jacket, asks me, sitting with his dirty knees pulled up against his chest, scrunched on the stairs, drinking something out of a paper bag, “My kind of mother fucker. Motherfucker.” I mutter.