It was 4 PM on the night of my fraternity's Halloween party, and I still did not have a costume. "So you're just not going to dress up?" My friend Jenny asked me.
"Well, I guess so. What else can I do?" I said.
"Isn't there anything you have?"
And then it hit me. There was something. A year prior I had stumbled across a deformed and undesirable Halloween costume at a thrift store. I was with my friend Daniel when we saw what was clearly a "naughty nurse" for the 6th grade schoolgirl with no friends. It was made of the cheapest pleather money could buy and fashioned with pink stitching featuring skulls scattered across it. There was an embroidered saying on the left side of the dress, 'Poison', with a girly skull and cross-bones stabbing through it. I'm sure every Avril Lavigne fan had their own personal seamstress to make it fit perfectly on them.
"Daniel, it's only $2!" I screeched.
"Oh, it's so ugly. If you don't buy it, I will."
And so I bought it. It then hung on a hanger in a dark closet for well over a year without me giving it the slightest thought. Until that moment. I looked at Jenny and said, "You know what, I do have something. It will be perfect."
Fishnets, high-heels, fake lashes, a pound of make-up and a neon pink wig later, I was ready to make my appearance at the Halloween party as a Hooker from the Moulin Rouge.
One's reaction to this heinous Halloween eyesore could only be described as spiking Hawaiian Punch with a pint of paprika. Every face was either shock, awe, horror or complete admiration--not because the costume was impressive, but because the audacity to be seen in public like that certainly deserved a pat on the back.
I headed straight for the bar, and kept my glass full all night. And like any night that involves a heavy amount of drinking, the party was a blast. But this story isn't about the party, nor the costume. It's about the morning after. And the moments in-between.
Face-down on the floor, I woke up in the middle of a completely vacant apartment. The sensation of crusted marinara on my fingertips immediately brought memories from a late-night trip to a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut, and the surrounding crumples of bean burrito bags was the further proof. (Fortunately Halloween is the only night a man can walk into a Taco Bell in a pleather dress and pink wig and not get looks from the patrons, otherwise this story would be about being a victim of a hatecrime.)
I managed to open my painfully drunken eyes to realize I was in my friend Greg's apartment. I had recently helped him move out and managed to still have the key, so during the night it appeared that breaking into his old apartment and staying on the empty floor was a grand idea. Naturally.
Before crashing on his carpet, I managed to finagle my way out of the dress and ball it up with the pink wig to use it as a pillow. Subsequently during the night the pleather caused my face to sweat and the make-up to bleed down my face, and if I hadn't looked like a Hooker the night before, I certainly looked like one now.
As I went to pick myself up, the pain of a cruel hangover shot throughout my body. It took me ten minutes to gather the strength--and the balance--to make it to my feet. And once I was up, the most nerve-wrenching thought hit me with the intense reality: I had to walk home like this.
My hair was in shambles. The fishnets were torn up and down my legs. I had streams of mascara and eyeliner running down my face. One of the heels was broken. And in my bloated condition, there was no way I could fit back into that damned pleather dress. As if there was some cruel trickster trying to make this predicament as humiliating as possible, remember that I woke up in a place where my friend had just moved out of. There wasn't as much as a can of tuna in that place, much less a jacket or a pair of jeans just lying around.
Except one thing. One hideous, miserable, terrifically embarrassing thing. In my friend's closet hung a bright fluorescent green robe with the texture of a towl and imprinted margaritas adorned all over it. Given to him as a gag gift, it was the one and only thing remaining in that apartment unit.
And so I began my quest. Without touching my hair, washing the marinara off my hands or attempting to fix the bleeding mascara, I swung the robe around me, put on my broken heels and started trudging through the utter humiliation to make it back home, all the while dragging the pink wig and pleather dress along with me. Cars slowed to catch a glimpse of me, and even a few honked their horns. While I could have hid my face or tried to run away, I lifted my chin high and took pride in this moment of surreal liberation. Because, on the morning after Halloween, I wasn't alone. Down the sidewalk, off in the distance, walked someone in just an equally embarrassing situation.
Thank you, humility.