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Article Published November 12, 2020

Dancing in the Dark

By Juliana Gribbins/Zip06.com

You know that dream you have where you’re in school and you suddenly realize there’s a class you haven’t attended all year? Not only that, there’s a test?

I was a solid B student in high school. Not bad. So I really shouldn’t have that dream but I do. I have it a lot. As I wake one recent morning with what feels like a dream hangover, wondering if there’s anything important in life that I’ve forgotten about, I realize why the dream has haunted me once again. It’s COVID-19’s fault.

Dealing with the threat of COVID-19 is like being in that dream about school. Like the mysterious class in the dream, the virus sneaks up out of nowhere. Suddenly I’m forced to deal with something completely unknown. This is a class I never prepared for and never wanted to take.

As I’m reading up on the virus and trying not to fail the test (in other words, get the virus), the seasons go by and then it’s Halloween. Every year I go to Cape Cod for what might be the biggest Halloween party of them all. Since this year’s Halloween is due to fall on a Saturday, the gargantuan party will be on the actual night of All Hallows Eve. There will be a full blue moon, too. This all guarantees that this year the festivities will be even more epic than ever.

But then COVID-19 shows up and ruins everything.

I can’t go to Cape Cod. I can’t see my friends. I can’t hang out in a crazy costume, admiring other people in their crazy costumes. I can’t go into a pub where a band is blasting “Witchy Woman” or “Devil with the Blue Dress.” I can’t lean on the bar, looking silly but feeling festive, and order a Martiantini or a Black Widow.

So that night I take a walk. Since I’m in town, I figure I’ll take a look at people’s Halloween decorations. It’s better than sitting at home, wishing I was somewhere else. The air is cold but clear. I need to get out of the house and yes, I want to take a gander at that full blue Halloween moon.

Kids are walking downtown with their parents, looking at autumn displays in shop windows. They go toward the part of town where the neighborhoods are, where there might be candy. I walk to those neighborhoods, too.

There’s a house with a yard packed solid with decorations that I really want to see. Skeletons, vampires, witches, a giant black cat. This house has it all. Someone is standing outside and I assume it’s the owner.

“This is great,” I tell her.

“My father did this every year. He passed away. This year I’m doing them for him,” she says.

I put my hand over my heart and nod without saying anything. Sometimes words aren’t enough.

Kids are roaming the sidewalks in costumes, taking candy from tables perched on lawns. The candy is set out so they can grab and go. No one congregates. The adults yell “Happy Halloween!” and “Great costume!” from porches. Some have set up long tubes from second-floor windows so they can drop candy down the chute into waiting pillowcases or plastic pumpkins.

I hear music. Four people are in a driveway with a small fire pit. I walk by and give a wave. “Happy Halloween!” they say as Bruce Springsteen sings about dancing in the dark. That’s kind of what we’re all doing on this chilly, odd, moonlit night, isn’t it?

We may not have been able to study for this test, but we’re making the most of what we can have. We’re dancing in the dark. Is that the same as getting a solid B? I think so. At least a B.

I finally see the moon as I’m on the last leg of my walk. It’s bright and full-faced. Lazy strips of cloud ease by in front of it. Halloween moon.

Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2017 Independent Press Awards, Humor Category and winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at jeepgribbs@hotmail.com.