The date is October 31st, 1973. My sister and I huddle cowardly in the dark, hopped up on sugar, two little girls spellbound by the rituals of Halloween. I still remember the ghosts, the lions and leopards, the vampires and wolves and sheep. I think we were lions that year. Our costumes would have been onesies.
My father has turned off all the lights. He puts on an album. The old turntables were analog devices, not digital. A flat circle of vinyl, upon which a tiny tip of diamond will dance crazily, the good vibrations sent through a bed of copper to be transformed into an electromagnetic pulse of sound.
It’s darker than dark. Our vision is impaired; we cannot see. The stereo is in the corner of the far wall in the living room, tucked in walnut-stained bookcases behind the end of the couch, so you can’t see the lights. We’ve only been in the house for two months, so it’s still strange, unusual, a queer place, but already the townhouse in the projects has become a distant memory as well, with only remnants of the blue-swirled carpeting preserved in our new environment. Through the speakers we hear voices, and then a man screams, and then the music swooshes in.
From my dad’s lips, a small orange glow — finally, some light, however dim! Sometimes he rolls his own cigarettes, from some funny green-brown stuff he keeps in a cigar box. It smells better than the cigarettes that he smokes from the small box that’s ever present in his front shirt pocket. I remember the cellophane from those small little boxes. How it crinkled when crumpled, but sprung back into shape when I let go.
The music changes, swirls left and right through the stereo speakers. Voices, again. A man laughs. My dad chuckles. The orange dot glows in front of my dad’s lips, the only point of light in the room. I feel like running around in circles, raving and drooling, but I dare not because of the darkness in the still-unfamiliar living room. The music crescendos, and then an explosion resonates throughout the house. Quiet. Daddy puts the joint out. No more light.
The clocks begin to tick. Tick tick tick tick tick. A multitude of clocks. My sister and I hold hands. Daddy laughs softly. It’s almost malevolent, from such a kind, sweet, loving, gentle man. A man with big teeth. At the time, he wore his hair long. Dark brown locks with a bit of a wave at his shoulders. His mustache hadn’t gone gray yet, so you couldn’t yet see the nicotine stains under his nose. Tick tick tick tick tick. He’s still alive, as of this writing. He’s got Alzheimer’s. Four years now? Can’t remember. Back then, though, he was sharp. Creative. He was a man who made plans and executed them. He was vital, for he hadn’t yet had his heart attacks. Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick.
The alarms go off! …