I was doing my bi-monthly shopping excursion. I'd already been to Food 4 Less and Sam's Club and was just picking up a couple of things at WalMart.
Today WalMart had lots of Halloween stuff on sale. Since the big day was less than a week away, there was a lot less than there had been a couple of weeks ago, but I found a bag of assorted candy that included Twix bars. I was still living in the same place as last year with three new neighbors and two that had been there when I moved in. They all thought there weren't enough kids coming by to make it worthwhile to stock up on candy. But there was one little boy I wanted to be ready for.
Last year a two year old named Enrique had been one of the few to come to my door and his mother and I talked for quite a while minutes. He held onto her leg and snuck peeks at me when he thought I wasn't looking. I opened a Twix bar for him and he tried to stick the whole thing in his mouth.
For some reason, Juanita, his mother, and I hit it off. She was a poor immigrant from Guatemala, I was an older white guy, born in the USA. She was under 30 and I was almost 60. She was a single mother and I was a divorcee whose step kids didn't want to have anything to do with him.
The one thing we had in common was that we were both lonely.
She wasn't by herself like I was. I didn't have any real friends. There were a couple of brothers who lived in one of the apartments and we talked a lot, but they were both into the drug scene and I wasn't. My communication with the other neighbors varied from waving and saying 'Hi' to pretty much ignoring each other if we happened to pass.
Juanita lived in an overcrowded apartment with her sister and brother in law and her kids. The kids picked on Enrique and Juanita's older sister picked on her. She hadn't said anything about her brother in law, but I could tell that things weren't perfect between them the couple of times he came up in the conversation.
If it hadn't been for her son, I think Juanita would have been as alone as I was, even with all those people in the same apartment.
For a couple of hours, we put the loneliness aside. I had told Juanita to feel free to stop back anytime as she and Enrique left in search of more candy. She woke me up at 2:30 in the morning. The clocks happened to change that morning and her sister had been razzing her that she had a husband to make love to in her extra hour but Juanita had nobody. Juanita had stepped way outside her comfort zone to see if I would share that extra hour with her. It was the first time either of us had made love in years and it meant more to me than any time before.
I woke up to find her gone.
I searched for months but it was as if she had vanished from the earth. I even tried calling a few maintenance services because I knew that she cleaned office buildings. Most wouldn't even talk to me and those who would couldn't help me since I didn't know her last name. I still kept an eye out but I'd pretty much given up on finding her.
Looking at all the things about us that were different didn't help much, either.
There was a resurgence of hope because it was Halloween when I met her. That was slightly tempered because there wouldn't be an extra hour for us this year. Besides the fact that the date the clocks changed varied every year, this year it was going to be later than normal because some idiot in government decided to screw with everyone and change the whole process.
I put my groceries away and separated the family packs of meat into freezer bags so I could just thaw enough for one meal. I've got a big freezer and that 30 cents a pound less for the family pack adds up. I'm going to eat it anyway, so why buy it one pork chop at a time?
Besides the candy, I'd picked up a pumpkin at WalMart. They had a big bin of them and they were a lot cheaper than I'd seen anywhere else. Of course, cheap is a relative term. They were probably about a tenth of the price when I was growing up. Then, I grew up a long time ago.
I took a kitchen chair outside, put some cardboard on it and a bucket next to it, sat on the steps and carved the pumpkin. I know you can roast the pumpkin seeds but I looked at the glop in the bucket and decided I could always buy a bag of sunflower seeds if I wanted seeds that bad.
The finished product wasn't too ugly and I'd cut the top at an angle so it would stay up without falling through the hole this year. Last year I'd had to put a couple of Popsicle sticks in the side to keep it up.
I opened a four pack of candles and put one in the pumpkin, then searched for a half hour for matches. I'd walked around with a Zippo in my pocket for over thirty years and now that I didn't smoke, I rarely had a use for them.
After surviving a couple of nights without anyone taking a baseball bat to it, I put a new candle in the pumpkin for the big night. I had emptied the bag of candy into an ice cream bucket and kept a couple of Twix bars aside so they wouldn't all disappear. I left the door open and turned on the porch light, then sat down at my desk to wait.
We had about fifteen kids this year, probably three and a half times as many as last year. The previous year, I'd seen Enrique once for about five minutes. Quite frankly, my attention had been on his mother. He'd been two back then and a lot can happen in a year at that age.
I saw one boy in a Spiderman costume who looked about the right age but his mother was nothing like Juanita.
There hadn't been anyone for about twenty minutes and it was starting to get chilly. I might as well turn off the light, blow out the candle and close the door.
I was halfway from my desk to the door when a little boy dressed as Zorro came up and stood at the bottom of the steps. I picked up the bucket and held it out to him.
"Go ahead and take a couple. I don't think there will be many more kids tonight."
He dug around and found a Twix bar.
"Thank you Mr. Pete."
I looked closer at him. "Is that you, Enrique?"
I stepped out of the doorway and looked through the open gate. There stood Juanita with a bundle in her arms.
Somehow I was able to make it down the steps and over to the gate. She looked more beautiful than the only time I'd seen her, a year ago.
"I missed you the next morning. I looked all over for you but I couldn't find you."
"I ... I didn't think you would want me around after. Enrique's father left after he had his fun."
"Juanita. It was a lot more than fun to me. I thought you didn't want anything to do with me because I'm so much older than you are."