Ok. It’s Halloween. There’s a knock on the door and it’s your lover. Only it’s not your lover, it’s a short, fat kid wanting candy. But he knows your name and it’s not your lover, it’s your best friend. And she’s with her lover, who is waiting in the car, a brand new Ford station wagon. What’s she doing, 23 years old, with a woman lover, two teenage children and a station wagon, standing on your doorstep in a thriftstore tuxedo? She’s waiting for you to kiss her, can’t you see, she’s waiting so she can take off her hat and put her cigarette back in her mouth. Her lover is waiting too, in the car.
You are the bird lady in your feathered hat and sleek black dress and you are on your front porch and the whole world is watching, only it’s not the world it’s just the neighbors, and they’re watching T.V. and you’re not on it, you are only a small town bird lady kissing your elegant lover on the front porch which is red and green with astro turf. You march off to slay audiences with your glittered feathered face and elevate housewives and the working class. There are rotating theatre walls to look through and your friend is saying nervously when you ask her to go out, “I have to go to work tomorrow and I have papers to grade tonight,” scuffing her cigarette and twitching towards the station wagon, which is dark but contains a lover and two children like a box of odd shoes.
But that’s ok because it is Halloween, though dancing is difficult, both fighting for the lead. It is not easy to trust this stranger or that with the form of your dancing. But you must. The drinks are free for you and your friends who have lovers and are looking for lovers who care for glittered faces and plumed hats tonight. And they care. They care to take you home, they care to buy you a drink and ask you to dance. They care to find you wonderful and you are and you find them and go home.
Only it is not home. It is a VW with failing bakes and it is only hours before work. He is from Mississippi and he is so kind and his girlfriend at home with the baby doesn’t mind, and you shouldn’t and he doesn’t but you do.
You do mind the pain, you hint at by curling into a small ball underneath a jacket as some man, this lover, looks on in horror, diminishing, accusing you of teasing. No one laughs as he jumps for the light and you the darkness both retreating further into what is safe.
And cold. It is cold upon this hill and you are rolling off this rutted, beaten knoll marked by a steel cross. The car is in reverse and the brake is on and you are rolling forward and want to jump. There is a handle in your hand. You are rolling down and don’t want to die when the wheel grabs and spins fans of dust for you to exit through, and you’re ok, and it was Halloween and only your earrings are lost.
Kathy Miller sent us this story in 1981 when she was a Teaching Assistant at the University of Arizona in Tucson. We have lost track of Kathy Miller over the years, and would love to hear anything from those who know her.