Another Halloween in Pomona, CA. I live in an area that's mostly Mexican. There are a few blacks and some white folks like me thrown in the mix.
I'd had my two bags of candy for a few weeks. For the kids, a big bag assortment of Reeses, Almond Joy, Twix, Whoppers malted milk balls and even a couple of real Hershey bars. I poured them into a five quart ice cream container and they just made it without falling out. I had my Hershey's miniatures in another container. Hershey's, Mr Goodbar, Krackel and Special Dark.
When I owned my own home, I lived on a Cul de Sac with five others. It was fed by a street with 8 or 10 houses on it. Our neighborhood had three north/south streets and three east/west. Kids could walk in relative safety for a couple of hours, hitting maybe 60 or 70 houses. In later years, there were parents following just about every group of kids. Halloween was either a night to take your kids out or to man the doors with the candy. You could expect the doorbell to ring every minute or two, if you even had a chance to shut it. This went on for about two and a half hours and then it pretty much stopped.
My side of the street in Pomona is mostly multi-unit properties. I'm in a six unit place. There's a walk between two buildings with apartments 1,2,3 on the left and 4,5,6 on the right. The left side units are one bedroom and the others are studios. The whole block is similar places. There may be three buildings with four units each or one duplex. All of them have front yards, maybe twenty feet from the sidewalk to the front house. Mine is the only one that doesn't have a fence out to the sidewalk. Apartment four closed in their yard last year when a two year old was living there. There's a four foot gate at the front of the units. The other side of the street has a two story, enclosed apartment building that I imagine has 20 or 30 apartments, then a mixture of single family homes and empty lots.
Last year I didn't get many kids. A couple that did come up seemed surprised when I opened the door with candy in my hands. This year I got a pumpkin and put it on the top step and made sure to turn on the outside light. I even left the front door open for a good portion of the night so kids could see that the place was open from the street. I did what I could to make it Halloween friendly, short of building a haunted house in the front yard.
The first kid caught me before the door was open, knocking on the door. I was just coming in from the grill out back, checking on some ribs I had cooking for dinner.
I opened the door and there was a little kid dressed in blue. His mother was coming toward my apartment from the back. I suppose she knocked on several of them to see who she could get.
Anyway, the little boy sort of stood there, no idea what he was there for. Looking back on it, I'm surprised he didn't panic when I opened the door. He held his hands out to the side, palms facing me, like he was saying "I don't know why she sent me here." She came up and said "Trick or Treat." I was already holding out the bowl of candies and he was making up his mind to reach into it.
I don't know if he was in costume or not. He was somewhere around two years old and was shaped like a butterball. His coat was deep blue and there were some red scribbles on the left side. I don't know if they were a design or were meant to communicate something. There was a flap on the left side, big enough for a couple of koalas. That's where the candy finally ended up because he didn't have a bag. I don't know if it was a costume of some South American superhero or his new winter coat, being worn for the first time.
His mother thanked me and turned to look toward the back, I suppose looking to see if there was anyone else giving out loot. I said, "It's not like it used to be."
She said, "No," but I don't think she knew what I was referring to. Maybe it was different for her in some way. Maybe she wasn't even thinking about Halloween.
"I remember going out with a few of my friends and you could look up and down the street and see five or six groups of kids. Very few parents. Most of the little kids were with their big brothers or sisters. It was part of your job on Halloween to take your little brothers and sisters out for an hour to all the neighbors, the ones they knew. All the neighbors would make a big fuss about the costumes. Half the time the little kids had no idea what was going on."
She said, "I'm from Guatemala. We didn't do this."
"Oh, really. How long have you been here?"
I put down the bowl and held out my hand. "I'm Pete."
"Juanita." Her hand was light in mine, just touching it, no attempt to shake it.
"Is this your son, Juanita?"
I mussed his hair. "I'm happy to meet you, Enrique."
He didn't say anything, just snuggled up to his mother, wrapping his arms around her leg.
I grabbed one of the Twix bars and opened it up, holding it out for him to take. She reached around him and put her hand on his shoulder, pulling him into her leg a couple of times. "It's OK. You can take it."
He tentatively held out his hand and I made sure his fingers were on the piece of wrapper I'd left on the candy bar.
"Say Thank You to Mr. Pete," she told him.
"Aaa oooh" he mumbled around the bar he'd pushed completely in his mouth.
I took a closer look at Juanita. She was an attractive woman, something I hadn't failed to notice already. She looked to be in her late twenties. I could tell that life wasn't easy on her. She looked wiped out but she had pulled it together to take her son out trick or treating.
Her clothes weren't designer quality but I could tell she'd taken care in choosing what to wear. They were in good repair. Her face was freshly washed and she wore pale lipstick with little or no other makeup. Her hair was magnificent. Jet black, it shined all the way down her back to her belt. It was obvious she was proud of it and took good care of it. I wanted to run my fingers through it.
"Is your husband home giving out candy?" I asked her.
"I never know what to say in a situation like this. I don't know if 'I'm sorry' is appropriate."
"You don't have to say anything. That was a long time ago. He left when we found out I was going to have Enrique."
"I'm sorry," I said.
"We're probably better off without him."
I had no answer to that. After a while, the silence started getting noticeable.
"We live with my sister and her husband and their four children. He and I work for the same company, cleaning office buildings. Maria watches the children at night while we're at work. I try to help out during the day. It is hard, but we get by."
"You should have brought your sister's kids with you."
"No. They don't get along. They pick on Enrique sometimes, make fun of him. It's good for him to spend some time with his mother. What about you? No wife?"
"No wife. Not for many years. We divorced a long time ago."
"That is sad. So you are, what they call it, swinging divorced man? Lots of different women?"
"No, Juanita. No women. The last time was with my wife when I was still married."
"For me it was before Enrique. Some of the men at work, they try. But they are either married or they are pigs. It can be lonely."
"I know. Very lonely."
She looked down at her son. "Hey, Big Boy. Are you ready to go get more candy?"
He just took her hand, staring her in the face. I could feel the love flowing between the two of them.
"We need to go to more houses," she told me. "It's less than an hour before Enrique's bed time. Thank you for talking to me, Pete."
"I enjoyed it, Juanita. Feel free to stop by any time you want to talk."
"OK. Maybe," she said, taking her son by the hand and going through the gate.
A group of three kids came up to me and I passed out candy. By the time they left, Juanita and Enrique were out of sight. I was sorry to see her go. I'd enjoyed talking with her. She was a beautiful woman but the whole conversation had been between two people who were comfortable with each other. Two people who had some things in common despite the difference in ages. The idea of sex never entered in from my side. Since I was probably close to 30 years older, I was pretty sure it didn't cross her mind, either.
I'd be surprised if the total number of kids who came to the house was over a dozen. The bowl of candy was still full. I did some stuff on the computer, then went to bed with my E-book reader. I woke up a couple of hours later, put away the book, took off my glasses, splashed some water on my face and went to bed.
Klicketa-klacketa-klicketa-klacketa. This weird sound kept going forever. It woke me up and then I realized it was my clock. I've got a big round clock in my bedroom, the kind they used to have in the schoolroom when I was a kid. This one receives satellite signals to keep the correct time. Twice a year it clicks forward, one minute at a time. In the spring, it moves sixty minutes ahead. In the fall, it moves 23 hours. It was doing its 23 hour routine for fall.
I'd just gotten back to sleep when I heard someone knocking on my door. I didn't know what to think. I don't get a whole lot of people knocking on my door at 2:30 in the morning. I grabbed the shorts I'd had on the day before and went to the door.
I opened it up and there was no one in front of the door. I looked toward the gate out to the street. Juanita was in the process of opening the gate and had turned around when she heard me open the door. I noticed she was wearing burgundy jogging sweats but was barefoot.
.... There is more of this story ...