"I've got to start getting out more," I said to Terri that evening. "Let's go watch the Halloween Parade."
"Oh, perfect!" she said. "I forgot to tell you, Dana. We're invited to a costume party. I'm going to call the host and suggest that the whole party join the parade."
"Oh, no you don't! I'm not going to spend a whole evening making an exhibition of myself."
"Come on, Dana; Greenwich Village is probably the safest place to be that night. Practically every policeman on the city force is concentrated there for the parade." She'd picked up the phone and was dialing. I walked out of the room.
But when Halloween came, I not only went to the party but joined the group in the parade. We were to return to the host's SoHo loft after the parade, and we started the march still not knowing who everyone was. Some costumes thoroughly disguised their wearers.
I found myself detached from Terry during the march, walking beside a silent Dracula. I was chilly in my black polyester tights and black mini-skirt, even with my turtleneck turned all the way up. The wool cap I'd sewn my cat's ears to helped some; the tail did nothing for me. But I displayed my extended silver claws in theatrical gestures toward the crowd and tried not to think about the cold. I was glad when the pace of the parade picked up.
As I warmed up from the exercise, I began to enjoy it, and when I rolled my shoulders and turned my wrists in sexy innuendo, Dracula smiled, showing his fangs. I grabbed my foxy tail and stroked it, purring, to tease him. He raised his peaked eyebrows and held his cape out on one side, gesturing me towards the red interior and delivering a sinister laugh. I turned my back, but looked at him coyly while pretending to lick my wrists. This brought the hoped-for smile, but he turned away from me, robbing me of the victory.
No other audience can flatter like a Manhattan crowd, simply because of its sheer numbers. No matter what turn the parade took, the streets were lined six and seven deep, pressed elbow to elbow, on both sides. People had climbed street lamps, trashcans, building facades, and even each other, to get a better view. Fire escapes were loaded to capacity. An occasional camera appeared above the crowd, aimed with hope and held with one raised arm, its owner unable to see what the camera, with luck, might capture. Behind the press of people, near the buildings, shadowy figures hurried along, trying to run ahead of the parade in the hope of finding a vantage point from which to glimpse as much as hadn't already been missed. Dignity was abandoned as counterproductive to squeezing a place in the pack.
All this could be felt as well as seen, but I knew it well, having been a spectator to this extravaganza more than once. Being one of those in the street was a new experience.
Ahead of me was an assemblage of cardboard-box cake wedges, a person protruding from each one. They dripped with authentic-looking papier-mache' frosting. Gracefully, they came together in a whole cake and then danced apart and turned as individual slices before coming together again. Somewhere behind us was the beat of many drums, mingled with myriad other sounds—among them birdcalls, horsehooves, flutes, and laughter—the drums providing a beat by which we paced ourselves and a backdrop for our interaction with the crowd.
And then the parade ended. As participants reached the designated intersection, we turned by twos and threes away from the street and into the press of spectators, dismantling bits of costume as we went. Spectators and paraders who hadn't had enough found each other and marched in a mini-parade to be continued until their appetites were satisfied.
Dracula and I were left in relative freedom on a street corner, both of us glancing around discreetly to get our bearings. Dracula got oriented first and nodded towards the diagonal street corner. We crossed together, first to our right, then to our left, and continued for several blocks until we were finally in the part of SoHo we'd embarked from. We entered the apartment building along with others returning to the party.
Terri was already inside, and I left Dracula to join her and a Pancho Villa-looking character who was hanging around her near the punch bowl. "I'm back," I told her. "Did you have fun?"
"I wasn't so sure you'd be here," she said. "You seemed to be so locked in with that Dracula guy."
"Who, me?" Dracula said from behind me. His voice was artificially deep.
Terri laughed. "No offense," she said.
"Punch?" the deep voice asked.
I nodded, wiggling my nose and mouth to make my glued-on whiskers move.
Dracula bowed and held out glasses of punch to Terri and me. Pancho Villa had also gone to the punch bowl and now handed a glass to Dracula.
Music began from somewhere and Dracula took my glass away.