Halloween reminded me of some apologies that, I think, are long overdue.
First of all, I need to apologize to B. I’m sorry I felt the need to borrow your wife’s 1956 Thunderbird for my costume as Gloria Swanson’s chauffeur. It wasn’t exactly the right car for the scene. And as we were sailing it through the Castro that night, Ms. Swanson felt the need to drive to and through her fans, about 100,000 people on Market Street who might have also been celebrating Halloween. We ran out of gas in the middle of them, and as I had nowhere to go, I’m sorry to say I mistook the Pennzoil in your trunk for something I could put in your tank, and I know the car later broke, and your wife left you shortly after that, and I hope I had nothing to do with it.
I really need to apologize to my son, and I think I still have time, since you were only 1 when I accepted the offer for you to be a child model. I’m sorry, but it was unsolicited, and they were paying $100 an hour, which I planned on putting in an educational-savings account for you. But I’m sorry they dressed you up like a chicken and made you get into uncomfortable positions to pretend you were going to lay eggs. And I’m sorry that after you spent eight hours in a photo shoot with feathers glued to your head, they didn’t use you for the multinational clothing store’s Tweety Bird spread; I know I’d be sorrier if they did. I’m also sorry I put you in that getup again for Halloween that year. And I’m sorry, I did already spend the money.
T., I’m sorry that we’re not speaking because four Halloweens ago I sent in an absentee ballot marked “Ralph Nader.”
Mom, I’m sorry, but you did not look good in that dress. It was a costume, right?
And to anyone that I’ve ever given advice: I’m sorry. I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
The main person I need to say sorry to is, unfortunately, beyond reach. Grandma, I’m sorry, but I did steal one piece of your clothing. I’m sorry, but I also think you should know why. My best friend and I were at a college party in Philadelphia on Halloween when we suddenly realized this was the night we were supposed to be at an all-night performance of the Mahabharata in New York. We rushed to the train and when we got off in the West Village, we elbowed through masses of Madonnas and Reagans and at least one man dressed as two subway doors smashing a human being. And I can’t remember the performance, but I do remember that at dawn it was a downhill run back through empty plastic beer cups to find a place to finally, desperately, sleep, and I remember that when we got to that place, my friend’s parents’ apartment at Sixth and 12th, there was an urgent note for me to call home. When I did, they told me you had died, and that they’d booked me on a flight back to Louisville that was leaving in two hours. And I’m sorry, in my anxiety and exhaustion and wonder and hurry, I lost the one item of clothing I desperately needed for your funeral, or any funeral, really. So I’m sorry, Grandma, when I got to your house the night before your wake, I riffled through your drawers and I’m sorry, I had to borrow your bra. I’m also sorry I never gave it back. I’m particularly sorry it was my only reminder of you (couldn’t you have willed me something?), because I kept wearing it, sentimentally, even after I moved to San Francisco with the sole purpose of meeting girls. It was one of those bras made in the ‘60s, when lingerie was architecture; it had structural reinforcements—steel, maybe concrete. But I’m sorry, Grandma, it collapsed. I’m very sorry I had to be told by my first girlfriend, the woman I was going to spend the rest of my life with, that the bra I was wearing was rubble and that I did not look beautiful in it. I’m sorry that we broke up because of it. I’m also sorry I didn’t get over it sooner. Please forgive.
I have one final apology. It’s to the three kids I was entrusted to ferry around the neighborhood trick-or-treating last year. Remember the woman dressed as a witch standing in front of the dive bar with dirty fingernails and a cigarette dangling from her mouth, cracking unintelligible jokes and dropping a few ashes, maybe accidentally, into each bag as she handed out candy? Remember I told you she wasn’t scary? Well, I’m sorry, she was.