Holloween (Spelled as such by me, on the blackboard, every day until Halloween)

Halloween night. I’ve had better, watching my Auntie Jeanie go psycho with her witches brew. I’ve had weirder, watching Catwoman on an overnight at St. Stephens. Either way, I like it better every year; the parties, the costumes, the idea of it, the dirtier and more complex I see the world, the more I want to celebrate it. It’d been snowing for four straight days, so Halloween was feeling more like Christmas, but my counterpart and I planned a party for our 7th and 8th graders, and were both going to dress up for it and bring activities and food. I dressed up as a coal miner, I took some charred wood from the pechka and rubbed it on my face, then I put my headlamp on. My counterpart didn’t dress up.

The kids rocked it though. There were souls, a headless horseman, James Bond, Zorro, and a lot of stylish zombies and witches. Girls all over the world are the same, it’s like they have this little switch in them that goes off at Halloween, even if they’ve never celebrated it before, the switch tells them to use this holiday to make themselves as pretty as possible while still kind of being spooky. Not that it always works, but the effort’s there. Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me, maybe it’s just another example of how "In contemporary patriarchal culture, a panopticon male connoisseur resides within the consciousness of most women: they stand perpetually before his gaze and under his judgment".

My friend asked me what I thought of that quote the other day, and besides thinking that there was some truth in it, my biggest thought was wondering why the author didn’t just say: “Nowadays most women feel like they’re always being judged by men?” I know that it’s fun to put a little Foucault in your writing, but you end up sounding like such a prick. Shit, me using the word “prick,” must be the panapticonal chauvinist writer residing in my own male consciousness.

We had a costume show and I threw candy at their heads, a mummy wrapping competition, pumpkin carving, bobbing for apples, blindfolded sampling of chocolate, brains, and eyeballs, and a disgusting bobbing of apples/sharing germs. It was amazing. One girl left and said it was the best day of her life, I think she had too much chocolate.

Last Monday I remembered that someone had told me about a basketball game at the sports school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so I put on my running shoes and jogged over after dusk, a nice twenty-minute jog that wasn’t as fun coming home. I expect everything in this country to be a tweaked version of what I’d normally expect, but basketball was refreshingly normal. At first it was just a bunch of high school kids, but then a bunch of guys my age showed up and we played against a rotating high school squad for over ninety minutes. It was good basketball; the kids were below average individually, but played well as a team offensively and had a vicious zone defense. I was hacked, jumped on and the victim of too many moving screens, but I was in heaven.

It was pitch black at nine when I walked outside the gym to go home. I literally couldn’t see five feet in front of me and stumbled around until I got to a road and followed it home. I felt bad ass until I stepped through a snow-covered puddle, then I felt sorry for myself. Anyways I was frozen by the time I got home, so the first thing I did was bring three armfuls of wood in and heat up our stove until the water boiler was making groaning sounds. Then I kept my eyes open just long enough to fry some eggs, eat them by the pechka and sink into bed.

I could barely stand up the next day. Basketball rocked me.

The last time I wrote, I mentioned running through a part of Sergeevka that I’d never seen before, which is sad because I live in a small town in Siberia. While I was on that run, I came to a road that seemed to connect our town with a tiny neighboring village that I’d also never been to. My reasons for avoiding this village were a little better, because before I saw this road, I’d thought that the only road to Akambarak was a single-laner that runs straight west from a complex of abandoned buildings on the north side of town. I used to live in this area and was repeatedly warned against running this road because of dogs, but had to find it out for myself just to make sure.

As I ran past what looked to be old turkey farms, I heard barking and turned to see four massive dogs running at me from inside the low buildings. I sprinted ten or so yards back down the road to a section of torn up asphalt and started throwing it at the dogs. The worst part was that their human just stood behind them and watched the attempted assault. Anyways, I’ve been avoiding that road and subsequently that village ever since, but when I saw another way to get there, I figured it would be the perfect Saturday run.

I was dressed warm and had all the time in the world to do my run, so I savored running through the new snow, shoes crunching and breathing in the crisp air. The first thing I did was circle the village to an idea of the dimensions, then I switch-backed through the streets. There were “big” houses and tiny houses, but the thing that bound them together was that everything felt old-world. Snow unquestionably added to that sensation, but it was magical to see a guy in a horse-drawn sleigh, or another bringing his cows to the well. Lassy-type, pull your bucket up wells; they were on almost every street, very cool to look at but probably not as cool to use. I tried to find the center of town, and to the best of my knowledge it was a street that connected the cemetery and the school. The cemetery was small and well-kept, and the school was a beautiful three-story building that dwarfed everything else in the village and made me jealous. Our school is not so nice. Running makes me feel epic and melodramatic, so the it seemed very significant that all the town had was a cemetery and school. Life and death, rebirth, that kind of thing.

The snow started to fall as I made my way back to Sergeevka, and by the time I reached the square it was falling fast in thick soft flakes. I stopped and walked through the square because I wanted to savor the moment. Looking at the looming abandoned apartment buildings through the heavy snow made me think about the fact that I live in a three-dimensional world, or that the world is at the very least three-dimensional, but probably has more dimensions than I can comprehend.

Then I started thinking about things like the fact that if I wanted to, I could just run off the road and go touch that tree, and that my body is real mass that takes up real space, and that I can do so many more things than I do, and that I’m not living in a track no matter how tracklike it seems sometimes. I think screens, brains, and laziness all obscure this idea, and I miss out on so much of the reality around me. It’s funny, because I look at our cat, and she doesn’t seem to be fooled by two-dimensional reality the way that I am. She doesn’t give a shit what’s on my computer screen. No matter how trippy it is, she’s way more interested in what’s simple, but real and in front of her, like my slippers or the curtain on my door. Hate when my cat’s right.

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2 Responses to Holloween (Spelled as such by me, on the blackboard, every day until Halloween)

  1. jan Martland says:

    Hey Collin,
    Good to hear the latest addition of your writing! I can’t believe you already are having snow…UUGGHH! it sounds like the Halloween Party was great fun!..I think about you often!

  2. Rick Cousins says:

    From your description of the Halloween party, I can imagine that students of yours will remember you–and the Peace Corps–fondly, and isn’t that the goal of the Peace Corps? Not only to be remembered fondly, but for Americans to be a positive influence in international relations, in contrast to invading countries at will.
    I must agree with your “trippy” assessment in the last paragraph. I couldn’t quite figure if it is navel-gazing, magic Kazahk mushrooms, or what, but I can see in my mind’s eye: You prancing off the road in your real body, its real mass taking up precious real space, to touch THAT TREE. I love that about you Collin—your dad

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