It’s Halloween-time, and I’m officially getting scared.
Let’s be real for a second: you all know that it’s not the ghosts and ghouls that have got me wigged. It doesn’t take a statistician to know that the number of froshpeople who have been transported in the past two months because of substance-related disasters is problematic. I don’t know what’s been going down on the other campuses, but at Pomona the higher-ups have been sending a steady stream of Harwood Halloween safety tips our way. All of this hubbub, combined with the testimonies of Harwood veterans, can make a freshman wonder: what is it about this time of year that makes kids want to go particularly crazy? I have my own theories, certainly. We’re coming up on the end of our second month here; the novelty’s wearing off, we’re stranded between breaks, and people are getting restless. Halloween affords darkness; it affords mischief and connotes a kind of defiance of authority that particularly appeals to freshmen already grappling with the recent realization of their own agency. And then, of course, there’s the fact that it’s got to do with death in the first place.
Halloween—and, perhaps to an even greater extent, its surrounding constituent holidays (All Souls Day, Día de los Muertos, etc.)—is a celebration of our own mortality, a raucous embrace of the Memento Mori concept, a seizing-hold of the terror that permeates daily life and lies ever-present just below the surface. We put on costumes and stuff ourselves silly, and now that we are older and Real Life looms larger, the promise of Real Death looming along with it, we drink our Semi-Sheltered Halfway Life to the lees as a jubilant F-You to the Reaper. In that way, we make it better—as old Phil Larkin could tell you, when you come up against the Big D in all his furnace-fiery glory, you’d best be well-equipped with some people and drink. Lord knows nobody loves to tempt the Reaper like a freshman. Unfortunately, Lord also knows nothing loves a freshman like the Reaper.
It’s Halloween-time. I stand on the street corner in the brisk late October air and turn my collar to the cold and dry and think, as the wind whips leaves around my ankles, about the seasons here in sunny SoCal, and how this is one of the last moments we can pretend we’re spending the season somewhere else, before it all gets too weird and artificial. In Los Angeles, the people don’t suffer from Persephone-in-the-Underworld six months out of the year the way most of the country does. We get eternal sunshine, then, in exchange for what? I stand here and look across at the new parking structure and think about the friends I’ve made here, and I get scared for all of us, because on every weekend night we walk the line, and the stakes are even higher this weekend, because of the hype, because of what’s happened here in years past, because of what Halloween means. To some, the Harwood Halloween PSAs have effectively functioned as a sobering warning; to others, whether or not they’d like to admit it, they have served to remind us of the intoxicating power we have on this night and on all other nights, and that power can connote a challenge, to see how far we can come to that precipice without going over. You’re 18, or you’re 20, or you’re whatever—you could so easily become dead at this time in your life when death very much would not become you. So just listen to those tips and dance the night away, but dance safe—just to be extra careful, consider turning down anybody dressed as the Devil—and never forget what’s really at stake.
Interpret any possible vampire puns as you will (see, I really do like Halloween).