Big kids know how to treat themselves. I’ll always remember four Halloweens ago from the one coming up. In the space between I could’ve earned a degree, instead I just racked up a series of unfulfilled sex dreams.
Jesus, she’s a phantom. This girl marched in my life, like she had snuck up from a hidden trench and was trained and able to, almost as quick, retreat in the night. Some soldiers experience snippets of such baffling battle maneuvers on repeat, in their dreams. Civilians aren’t immune to such afflictions, despite suffering seemingly smaller bites.
My buddies and I thought it’d be funny to go as animals. We’d been planning it since July. It came about because we were at our friend Phil’s Grandpa’s farm. And he had animals. Steve bleated like a goat and Stacy told him he looked like a goat, with his goat-like face and curly mutton chops. We went around pinning down who looked like what. Hank was a cow. Steve, a gorilla. Donald, a horse and he stopped being our friend after that was determined. It turns out he was sensitive about his large teeth. Darlene was to be a penguin, and me, I was a chicken. Definitely a chicken.
The idea excited me. I went to a costume shop in August because it would be cheaper if we got it before the season hit. So I got my big chicken costume, and even wanted to run with the idea of getting a white suit and some white dye to color a goatee if I grew one out but no suit would fit over the chunky chicken costume. The chicken would not be mocked as a cannibal Colonel Sanders.
But then I found out my group of friends didn’t think this was a serious plan, and they pushed for a Halloween visit to Las Vegas and it was like I didn’t know who any of them were anymore.
They went to Vegas and I had my costume and wore it proudly to a work friend’s Halloween party. I was just going for a little bit.
A girl wearing the costume of a Five-star General cut in front of me at the keg.
“That’s why you’re wearing that. Hah. Get yourself some military discounts on drinks!”
“I did 3 tours in Afghanistan, jackass.”
She looked at me and despite being annoyed with me, she was really cute with her hair tied up and her eyes outlined, eyelashes reaching to tickle any face that were to graze against hers.
“Ah, you were an ROTC kid” I wasn’t recovering well. I started saying that because I was almost an ROTC kid, and we could connect on that, on what my life would have been like if I had gone through with ROTC, but I didn’t know how to phrase the rest so I trailed off.
“Ah you were a rich snob who played sports and made fun of the ROTC kids until they went and fought for your asses.”
“No. No I wasn’t. I’m not very rich. And no, no. I thank you. Thank you for your service. It was great.”
It came out bad, like I was complimenting her on a chore.
It was her turn at the keg. She started to fill her cup.
“Thank you for letting me cut by the way. I just need to have x amount of drinks before I can feel comfortable being here.”
“Ha, in this fat suit, there’s no getting comfortable on my end.”
“Here, give me your cup.”
I handed it to her and she filled up my cup with half foam and half beer but it meant a lot to me that she wanted to fill it up.
She went onto the porch and I was going to follow her out there but it was a small porch and my costume was so big. I felt like a hazard.
The night got hot and humid and the crowds that gathered didn’t ease the condition. I was sweating and wanted to leave, but I also wanted to look at that General girl one more time, her cute face was burned in my head. I didn’t plan on talking to her much further, but, I just wanted one last look at her eyes. Maybe a passing good night and I could take in some eye contact.
Then someone came up from behind and gave me a nudge.
“Hey fatso, you’re in the way!”
I turned around and it was the General girl.
She giggled. “You thought I was serious. Don’t cry man. I was just playing”
“No, no I wasn’t crying, I’m just really hot.”
“Yeah you’re sweating balls.”
“You looked scared though. I wasn’t going to beat you up,” she said softly, while the music was getting louder.
“You looked scared!”
“I wasn’t scared.”
“You ever been in a fight, man?”
“Well I’ve never killed a man.”
I was getting light-headed. I think she saw this in my face.
“Jesus dude, you look like you have heat stroke.”
“No. I’m okay.”
“Let me help you.”
“Let me help you!”
We went into my work friend’s bedroom, closed the door, and cracked open the window.
“Let’s get this fucking thing off you!”
I sat on the bed. She unzipped the upper part of my costume, running a circle around my waist and helped peel the thing up and off. My t-shirt underneath was soaked with sweat.
She touched my chest and said “eww” but was also smiling.
“You thirsty?” She asked. “Want an Afghani candy to suck on?”
“Haha, Afghanistan has candy?”
She took out a piece of hard candy, shrink wrapped in a hazel wrapper. It tasted like coffee or peanut butter, it wasn’t very distinct.
“I didn’t know Afghanistan allowed candy,” I said.
“I think there is probably a lot about the world you don’t know.”
I smiled like a dumb animal. A rooster with its head chopped off. I thought of a joke.
“Ha. You’re like the Taliban right now. You chopped my head off.”
Right after saying that it was yet another regrettable thing out of my mouth. But she laughed and touched my shoulder. Then she touched my head.
“You feeling okay?”
“A little tired. Probably gotta go soon.”
“Okay” she said, disappointed. She looked into my eyes and it was like my sweat, fogging the space between us, allowed for electricity to be conducted. She was still touching my forehead and her fingertips were soft. She didn’t have what I thought would be war hands, callused by the heat of a gun. I touched her forehead in return. Then I touched her cheek. Then she turned her head and kissed my palm and I chuckled.
“What?” She asked.
Then I reached out with my other hand, used both to pull her face up and toward mine and I kissed her. She leaned into me and I fell back on the bed.
We made out for a long time until she stopped and looked at my chicken legs.
“Poor baby, you must still be roasting down there too.”
She helped me out of my chicken pants and then pulled down my sweat soaked boxers. She gave me the best blow job I’ve ever had.
Afterward she asked if I was hungry and I said yes. She had to help me back into my costume because that’s what I came to the party in.
We were aiming to get a late night burrito but the closest place that was still open was a Hunan House. She said that was even better.
While devouring a plate of General Tsos chicken, I got her attention by wiping soy sauce from her chin. We were both quiet at this point. Just eating, and drunk, and maybe embarrassed about what we had just done. And so I wanted to break that silence, shatter that ice. I pointed at my plate.
“General Tsos chicken! Looks like I also got a serving of General Blows chicken.”
She smiled and blushed.
“Get it? What we just did.”
“Yeah. Yeah I get it. Believe me, I get it.”
She held up her hand for a high five. There wasn’t much of a slap so we tried four times until there was a sharp sound. I felt the sting but also a tingle in my groin.
After we ate I walked her home and she told me she was being stationed at an American base in South Korea.
“So there’s no future between us, probably, huh?”
“What did you think?”
At this point I started to feel mad at her, because I really liked her and this disappointment felt like, of course this is how it would go.
“Well, when you eat General Tsos chicken over there, think of me.”
“Korean food is different.”
“Well, I guess I’m stupid then.” And I turned and walked down her front steps. I could hear her say “that’s not what I was saying” but I kept on.
I felt a little childish about that. I later wished I had at least given her a photo of me that she could maybe show her bunk-mates when they were all talking about who they had back home.
I never did see her again, except in my dreams. And when my head hits the pillow on Halloween night, Jesus Christ, look out. Especially this year after binge watching The Civil War by Ken Burns. The General becomes a ragged monster with rusty equipment, leaving me confused about the pleasures. I imagine due to the filthy compulsions that re-fire in my mind, I will someday enter Hell as a mangy rooster and the Devil will dish penance with a red hot poker. Or pecker. Dear God, let this year’s spiked cider obliterate the memories, the fantasies, and the murky in-between.
(photo credit: Katie Gassel)