The firecrackers from the Marathon pre-party stopped. It's almost 7:30 on a night when anything is possible and I can be whatever I want. Every kid makes me laugh, especially the tiny little boys dressed as Godzilla. Parents dressed as Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum roll a two-foot-tall Alice between them.
On West 69th Street, the brownstones get fancier and spookier each year; tonight they've added smoke and the sound track from Ghostbusters. Dogs yap at each other and little children start crying because they're tired and hungry and clamoring for more candy.
Many windows are lighted. I see shadows of people moving in their dining rooms, making dinner or sitting down to eat with friends. Someone is deep in a back kitchen with only one light on; the front rooms are dark. Is she hiding from trick and treaters or just conserving electricity. What is she having for dinner -- maybe eggs and toast? Do I smell coffee? How many people have lived in that apartment before her, and what are they doing tonight, this Halloween of 2014?
Old buildings line these streets and breathe in and out the air of decades ago. There is little room for error. Ghosts visit with each other before daylight, and then must go away until next year when their homes are open again. The lights will be turned on, and old friends will drift through the air into the trees and nod and laugh and say hello. Some will weep from loneliness, but not for long. On this night, anything is possible.
I turn to go home. Ghostbusters is still thumping and more people have arrived, laughing and eating bite-sized pieces of Twix and KitKat. There is no rain, but the wispy clouds are turning heavy. Yellow leaves finally drift down to the street and the smallest children have gone to bed. Only adults and teenagers stroll along, waiting for something to happen. The ghosts are ready, too, for what might become the night of their lives.
What will happen to the woman in the back kitchen? Will she meet her lover at the service door and will he come in? Next year, next year, next year ...