Since I moved to LA, nearly everything I've done has been informed by my desire to hang out.
I give rides to needy passengers, partially to repay my karmic debt, but mostly so we can chat on the way.
I helped an acquaintance move on a hot summer day so we might become friends, or so that I might make friends with his. Instead of being given the gift of friendship, I got money and a free dinner.
I have taken jobs for which I was unpaid altogether, or severely underpaid, because I liked the people I was going to be working with, and thought we might have fun together. I told one boss (who I'd considered a friend) that he could just take me to a nice dinner in lieu of payment. I just wanted to spend some quality time with him. Several months after the project ended, he still hasn't.
I always suffered office jobs for the sake of business lunches and coffee breaks and happy hours. I quit a job last year, primarily because it was too lonely and isolating.
In my free time, I often go out alone, but I don't really want to be alone. I sit at the bar to hang out with the bartender. I chat up the valet guy and the doorman and the bus boy. They keep me company until I have to go home alone.
When the season allows, instead of sipping bourbon by myself, I've taken to going to Halloween haunts by myself, my trepidation of going alone outweighed by my fear of missing out by having no one to accompany me. The box office staff (and sometimes even the ghouls) always comment how "brave" I am, but I'm not scared of being alone with bloody brides and deranged doctors and chainsaw-wielding werewolves.
I'm scared of being alone, all alone, forever.
Contrary to their intended effect, the haunted houses and mazes and theatrical extravaganzas around LA make me feel calm, comforted, welcome. I feel like I belong there, with the spooks, their ghastly attacks tickling me like a feather.
Earlier this month, I drove all the way to Thousand Oaks for a haunt called Reign of Terror, where the actors jump out at you with a "Boo" and then promptly return to their respective hiding places. Don't they know I want to hang out? Why wouldn't they want to stalk me, taunt me, torment me, spend a little time with me?
I am a tasty snack. Lure me into your death chamber!
Tonight, I hit two Halloween attractions in Pasadena by myself. First, at the Old Town Haunt, I bumped into an acquaintance and his date, who joined me on my journey into the basement. In front of us was another couple, the pack leader a screaming fraidy cat, and his date as calm, curious, and flirtatious with the terrorizing cast as I always am. As her date bore the brunt of all the startles and scares, while she stayed second in line, mostly in silence, he once turned around and yelled, "Are you just OK with this?!"
We both giggled a little, because we both were. I'd never seen anyone else like me in this setting.
Next at the Theatre of Terror, the guys behind me in line recognized me from Old Town Haunt, and, upon striking up a conversation, swapped stories with me about Halloween attractions and other, real, reportedly haunted places. When we approached the front of the line, and the ticket-taker asked how many in my party, I admitted I was only one, but - feeling some commonality and shared enthusiasm - we all agreed to go in, all three of us together. And as we ambled slowly through the outdoor carnival and cemetery, past the bushes that grabbed us and into the theater, crawling on our knees and getting zapped by an electrified wall, we remarked at how cool it all looked, making small talk with the characters and sticking around longer than we probably should, just so we could hang out just a little more.
Just like I usually do by myself.
I get these glimmers of hope every now and then that I'm not an island, these inklings that there are others out there like me, I just have to keep looking, look harder for them. The heartbreak is that when I do find one, our encounters are often fleeting, and for whatever reason, they go away. Or I go away. Or we forget.
To follow my Halloween adventures this year in photos, click here.
Haunting for One
The Island of Misfit Toy
Vast City of Forgotten Encounters
The Last of My Kind