Two dozen pumpkins and a bag full of knives pilfered from the kitchen, that’s what. It was all orchestrated by a playwright here; he led us through the woods to his studio, where the pumpkins and cider and mini bags of Doritos awaited (chips: a recurring motif in my life).
Recently my crafty sister confessed that she works extra hard on cards she’s making for weddings or bachelorette parties, because she secretly craves admiration, even though it’s someone else’s big day.
I told her that wasn’t a secret so much as human nature.
So I was excited to see the pumpkins—if there had been, say, an impromptu jam session or sing-along (and there more or less have been), I would have had to back slowly away. I have no inner musician waiting to emerge. But I do have an inner visual artist. I mean, she’s kind of folksy and pedestrian, but she’s in there.
I carved my pumpkin with the shape of one of the charming brown beetle/cricket things with whom I’ve been spending the majority of my days. (I also found one dead in my bed a few nights ago.) Soon I heard people saying, “Hey, who did the bug?” and I glowed a little, like the tea light inside my bug-o-lantern. There was also a pretty rockin’ violin, a Cyclops and a skeptical-looking pumpkin smoking a cigarette.
The pumpkin party turned into an odd sort of dance party, with just three or four people busting moves and one person doing yoga and the Roger Rabbit. That turned into a people-hanging-out-and-talking non-party, which I stuck around for because dammit, I’m determined to make friends and Not Go Crazy. It was a good late-night crowd and, in the way of late-night conversations, they shared their neuroses and dramas, and compared the ages at which they’d first started masturbating (three to eighteen, if you’re curious).
It was a huge relief to see people’s humanity peeking through their amazing-artist exteriors. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that humans are human. Arguably artists are a little extra human. I mean, I kind of don’t buy that—it seems pretentious—but let’s say maybe artists are a little extra into processing their humanity.
The next morning at breakfast, a novelist/nonfiction writer/screenwriter said, “When I saw those pumpkins, I groaned inwardly. Because it’s supposed to be this warm and fuzzy childhood memory, but it’s just not for me. My pathology is more like, I remember trying to get excited about this stuff because I knew my parents wanted me to. But then I had a great time.”
I told him about the Lambda Literary Retreat reading I attended, where people who were reading scenes featuring rape or other abuse prefaced their readings by saying, “Trigger alert.” The idea was that, if you’d had your own brushes with rape, etc., you could take a moment to mentally prepare or excuse yourself.
It was a thoughtful idea, but it seemed kind of pointless, as I told this writer. Because real triggers aren’t, like, death in the abstract. They’re quiet little grenades, like pumpkins. Exactly, he said.
Mine? Beige corduroy pants. My mom’s handwriting on a recipe card. The entire Beverly Hills section of Wilshire. As any writer will tell you, it’s all in the details.