A Halloween Story

My first and only memory of Halloween is getting dressed up with a friend in Johannesburg. She had gorgeous gold-blonde hair that shined all the way to her arse, big bangs, a toothy smile and all. I was nerdy (already) and just as toothy and living in Soweto, my hometown. She was the Wicked Witch. I was the Cat. 

Anything with that much make-up, glitter, tights and dressing up had my name all over it—I was on Halloween like white on rice. 

Nevermind I hadn’t the foggiest idea what the fc Halloween was about or why two little girls in South Africa should give a damn. All I knew is me and my BFF were about to step out for a big night on the town—ok, maybe just up and down her flat corridor. And that we were two 10-year olds living large and doing grown ass things—ok, so her dad pretty much shadowed us all night. 

We were G R O W N honey! And G L I T Z E D-out, Goddamnit! XXX

Cut scene to a month or so later, just before the school year ended. I’d been to my friend’s house a dozen plus times. I’d done the whole PJ party and odd weekend and even learned to make bangers and mash and pancakes from her mom. 

I can’t tell you how excited I was for my friend to finally come visit me in Soweto! XXXX

I’d show her my room and my secret stash hiding place, necessary real estate after my very African mother threw out my silkworms and just couldn’t understand what possessed me to think we’d keep a box of worm XXX in her house (they were for a school project). I’d show my friend the jungle gym in our backyard that kids flocked to from our neighborhood and beyond. And of course, I’d show her around. There was the spaza-shop down the street, the boy I had a crush on two doors down and the place out back where we all stole away on hot summer days. 

It never occurred to me Goldilocks couldn’t kiki with me in Soweto. Much less sleep overnight. 

For some reason, 10-year old me—who already knew about boycotts and necklacing and people disappearing—I didn’t get why my very white and freckled friend with a British accent couldn’t sleepover at my house. 

Nevermind it was illegal. Or that our friendship was as strange to South Africa as Halloween itself—something you got dressed up for just one night. Not everyday life. 

I still remember her mother telling me why. It’s dangerous, she said. 

I also remember how that moment changed me. We drifted apart. Yes, because she changed schools. But also because at 10, I already understood how much our friendship was fine as long as I bore the costs of its dangers, both real and imagined. As long as I played a certain role—the supporting act, the black cat that keeps the Goldenlocked Witch entertained.

That was a wrap for me and Halloween, folks!

Shame, cause you know your Gurl loves errrything dress up. It just stopped being sticky for me. But we in America now. And you’re probably thinking through outfits. 

Maybe you’ll think about the many ways we wear certain people like they’re a Halloween costume. 

How we ask The Other to play a supporting role in our lives, without stopping to really consider them. To see them, not as an end to our imagination but as animated and toothy nerds with wild inner lives, with a neighborhood they’re proud of and a hide-out stash for silkworms.