Skeletons rattled their way up Sixth Avenue, spreading their green glow over the crowd. Puppeteers on roller skates navigated larger-than-human dummies to the delight of families and college kids alike. The next float seemed to be a pirate ship, if pirate ships came in pink and ghosts came in iridescent thongs. The annual Halloween parade was one of the few times when I felt at home, disguised among countless others disguised. That night I had donned a cheap but bedazzled mask with jeans, and I was feeling underdressed but unexposed. I was wedged between a Batman father taking turns hoisting twin girls onto his shoulders and a twenty-something woman dressed like a sexy raccoon. All had their arms outstretched as a man in an eyepatch and little else tossed bubblegum into the air. A few pieces landed at my sneakers, and I kicked them away.
The mass of people made the New York Police Department nervous, but they weren’t my responsibility anymore. It had been three years since I’d turned in my badge to the surprise of exactly no one. If I glanced behind me, I was sure to see two or three mounted cops, hands patting their horses’ necks to soothe them. I kept my eyes forward, trusting my source to find me under the 10th Street sign because it was my only choice. Optionless has never been my favorite date, but sometimes you have to make do. I had arrived two hours before the start of the event to make sure I could snag this prime viewing location, and part of me felt guilty about keeping a real enthusiast from seeing the elaborate homemade creations that kicked off the party night on a gleeful note.
An authentic-looking Marilyn Monroe blew kisses from the top of a birthday cake, complete with forty-five candles. I went onto my tiptoes to see if The Pink Parrot’s contribution was visible yet. Dolly had said that he and his fellow stars would mosey by around 7:30. And by “mosey,” I assumed he meant sit gracefully as fireworks boomed above his head. The Pink Parrot was the premier drag club in the city, and the owner, Lacy “Big Mamma” Burstyn, wouldn’t let Dolly’s size 9 platform heels touch the pavement, of that much, I was sure.
Erica Wright’s latest book is The Granite Moth (Pegasus). Her debut crime novel The Red Chameleon (Pegasus) was one of O, The Oprah Magazine‘s Best Books of Summer 2014 and was called “riveting” by Publishers Weekly. She is also the author of poetry collections Instructions for Killing the Jackal (Black Lawrence Press) and All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned (forthcoming, Black Lawrence Press). She is the poetry editor and a senior editor at Guernica Magazine.