“I’m gonna get you!”
I shrieking wail snapped me out of my peaceful resting couch. I looked around bedazzled, hearing the clank of hard plastic and boots and the cries of children a little older than I. I scrambled cautiously up the flank of the couch until I could see the targets giving off such noise. Running across the floors were three children dressed in Halloween costumes and scraping their accessories across the wooden floors and cabinetry. The tallest was dressed in ghoulish black garb with a white, plastic ghost mask. Just younger, I assumed, was his sibling that instead wore a green and white costume depicting some type of aquatic reptile with a colored bandana. Tiptoeing sheepishly behind was a young girl, who looked to be not much older than I was, as she held her mother’s hand through the kitchen entrance. Her mother was another conservatively dressed woman that, save a few facial nuances, could have been mistaken for being of the same suburban stereotype.
“There he is! Oh my goodness!” she gushed, as her knees instinctively bent when her hands were placed on them, and her eyes widened with manufactured glee.
“Oh Karen, he is precious! Look at those eyes! What a doll!”
I had not done well in hiding just behind the blanket of the couch, and I tried to inch away as this behemoth cheek-pincher locked on to my position and approached with an extremely antsy pinching finger.
As I shied away the smile-hunter caught me, hoisting me skywards in the manner I was growing accustomed to. Her eyes crested in a manner so happy it bordered making me uncomfortable, and as soon as I was attached to the hip of this professional mother she started swaying instinctively, and I knew it might be a while before she released me from her death grip.
“Karen he is adorable, he really is. Goodness it feels like just the other day Rebecca was this age,” she said as her thoughts pushed her chin lovingly in the direction of her young daughter. Rebecca was standing shyly near the corner of the kitchen island eyeing me with an odd combination of hesitance and longing, and just connecting with her eyes raised my eyebrow disconcertingly.
“Becky, are you going to say hello to Todd? Don’t be so shy!”
“Todd’s going to come to the party with us tonight and maybe trick-or-oops, sorry, Karen, do you think Todd will be coming with us tonight?”
“Yeah, we’ll try him out for a little bit but if he’s exhausted either Pete or I will take him home.”
“Did you hear that, Todd? Maybe you’ve got a big night of trick-or-treating in you!”
“First things first, though, I’ll take him up and change him.”
“Oh that’s alright, Rebecca and I can do it - you stay here and finish what you were doing, it’s no problem.”
“Of course, of course! Come on Rebecca, you’ve only got ten years until you can babysit, time to practice!” The lady joke and looked back smiling at Karen while maintaining a steady direction and speed towards the stairs. Though I was taking to the role of the toddler well, to this point, I was apprehensive about being ?whisked’ away by a stranger and her young daughter, a little girl that had no doubt been teeming to practice her hygienic prowess on a real-life baby doll. But, as I looked over the shoulder of my benevolent captor I could see in Rebecca’s face she wanted little to do with anything of that sort, and her blank looks bounced off the walls. It was easy to see she were just going through the motions of followership at this point, and I was somewhat happy with such an attitude.
The woman lowered me standing as we entered my room, Rebecca slowly entering afterwards. It was now more embarrassing to me to be standing in the room in what I now noted to be an obviously sodden diaper. The tight pajama bottoms did nothing but accentuate the soggy disposable product wedged uncomfortably between my legs and the swollen front of it puffed out much like a flag, announcing to the world my allegiance to the incontinent. Every step I made I felt the tights press the cold dampness into me, making me slightly anxious to have it removed.
The woman rooted through my closet until she found the opened bag of diapers which I know could see sat stacked next to new unopened boxes, and she stopped to admire my gaudy costume hanging on the door as she reached for the wipes.
“Come here, pumpkin.” She beckoned and I toddled towards the spot where she had sat Indian-style in. “Let’s get that wet diaper off and into a comfy dry one.”
She pulled my pajama bottoms down and allowed me to step out of them, and almost immediately the diaper sank an extra few inches without the support of the lycra. As it squished and bounced with my movements I saw Rebecca’s eyes gazed on my crotch and I saw her look at me almost with some modicum of pity, as if she truly regarded me as some inferior child that still wet himself, though I was no more than two years younger than she. I wanted to scurry somewhere and rip the diaper off, but the only placed I moved was from standing to sitting to laying, and soon the woman had unlatched the two diaper tabs and released a scent of blended urine and diaper fragrance, and the fresh air attacked the stagnant atmosphere that had caked itself to my loins through hours of diaper-induced suffocation. As I lay, I could Rebecca continue to stand solemnly with the same unfortunate gaze as before, and my cheeks reddened before giving way to an anxiously embarrassed sob.
“Oh come on, now,” the woman mocked, “it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
Though I’m sure I was subconsciously more wriggly than past diaper changes she succeeded in pinning the fresh and rigid diaper on me. As I remained on the floor she stood and went to the closet, picking up the large pumpkin costume and the plastic bag with the accessories, calling me to follow in just the diaper, and, without any other recourse, I did.
We descended the stairs and into the kitchen where the chaos that marked it moments earlier had been traded for relative tranquility. The two costumed hooligans responsible for the previous ruckus were now entranced by the television and were joined by Josh and Sarah on the large couch. Peter could be heard milling about in another room and Karen busied herself in the kitchen organizing the materials for tonight’s festivities.
“OK, baskets, glow sticks... am I missing anything...” Karen spoke quietly to herself, “nope, I think I’m all set. Well hello, buddy - did Aunt Carol get you all fixed up?”
So, the bedeviled woman had name.
I nodded my head accordingly which pleased Karen, and I fiddled with my hands across the waistband of the diaper. I jokingly rolled my eyes at how people thought because I was a toddler that I would have no need for pants with pockets. Standing in a room of almost ten people, all of whom are clothed, in just a pastel-trimmed diaper, is surprisingly not as awkward as being unsure of what to do with one’s hands.
“Come here, kiddo,” Karen gestured as she stepped from behind the island, gathering the costume-related contents that Carol had brought down. She guided me over and squatted in her motherly fashion as she helped me dress. The first layer of the costume consisted of an all-black base, and Karen soon had me in black socks, skin-tight black cotton pants and a matching top, both fitting like long underwear that I had worn for hockey. However much like a ninja I appeared, I looked down and could see the frosted green tips of the diaper betraying me, and I felt myself laugh a little deep inside. Karen then held out the orange bubble for me to step into before zipping me closed from the back.
“We’ll wait till we get to the Frederickson’s before putting the hat on, but you look great, Mr. Pumpkin!”
“Over here, Todd!” Peter yelled, and as I turned I was stung with the flash of a camera by the trigger happy father.
I was then released on my own accord to busy myself until we left, and I meandered to the living room area where the other kids sat, pulling myself onto the couch cushions with the increased restriction of a very awkwardly shaped costume. As I sat and watched whatever program the other kids had started, I slowly looked to the adjacent couch corner at Rebecca. She sat uneasily different than the other children, most notably because of the way she interacted with the program. She was of the age where the show would have elicited at least some response, but instead, it was almost as if she waited for the others to show approval before mimicking her own. My curiosity was certainly piqued.
“OK, kids, time to go!”
We were hustled into Carol’s van that had been configured to accommodate a throng of children, and Karen and Peter stepped into their SUV to follow. Carol strapped me securely into the last row of the minivan seating in what I presumed to be a retired carseat from Carol’s mothering past. Rebecca buckled herself into the booster seat next to me and the other children shoved themselves into the remaining aisles, and soon the door’s shut and the lights dimmed, leaving the cabin lit only by the dimmed fluorescence of the car’s instrument panel.
“You’re not like them, are you?” a faint whisper started from my right, and I turned to see Rebecca staring deeply through my eyes.
“Wha you mean?”
“I mean, you’re not really one of their kids, are you?” She reiterated unflinchingly, her eyes remained unblinking and pointed and her monotone voice staying within the bounds of a whisper. I looked at her questioningly, unsure of how to respond. I shook my head almost unnoticeably for being so caught of guard.
“My name’s Rebecca,” she continued, “or at least, it is now. I used to be Vivian. I came here just like I think you did. Do you remember the name Vivian Gordon?”
I did - I did remember the name! Vivian Gordon was among the most elite Olympic swimmers to ever compete. She swam for the Olympic team after her freshman year at college where she broke almost every medley record the school had. A car accident a year later left her with a handful of surgeries to her shoulder that would end up retiring her from competitive sports.
She nodded darkly.
“What’s your deal?”
“I pwayed hockey.”
“Was your agent, by chance, Jerry?”
I stared at her with a hastening heartbeat. My mouth fell open slowly and in the same pace of my widening eyes. Rebecca just sat coldly and unmoving. We looked at each other intently, her gaze statuesque and omnipotent, and I’m sure in direct contrast to mine, which was beginning to grow anxious. Thoughts caromed off the walls of my brain all trying to become the first to exit my mouth. As I finally was able to put them in some working order I was distracted by the loud click of gears made by Carol’s van.
“Alright, guys, we’re here - who is ready to party??” She yelled, her question being met with applause and exuberance from the rest of the charges. I could only sit back as Rebecca turned away from me and oriented her look forward, beginning to meld with her brothers and friends.
I felt trapped in the situation and wanted nothing more than for the children to leave with Carol so Rebecca and I could just sit and talk. How did a little girl that claims to have been a world class swimmer know the name of my former agent? None of this made sense and I needed answers to calm a very rambunctious heart and brain.
“Are you ready to have fun and meet your new friends, Todd?” Carol asked as she started to unbuckle the harness that bound me. I looked at her with a soured face, unable to hide the anxiety and wonder that was prying from within.
“Woa, why the long face, buddy? Come here,” she said as she removed me and brought me to her hip, “you’ll like it inside, I promise. Will and Jasmine will be there and I think they’re about your age, you might even see them in daycare next week from what Karen was telling me. There’s candy and music and food, nothing to be scared of!”
As we turned to face the house covered with tacky Halloween decorations I buried my head into her padded shoulder and began to cry. Somehow the flowing tears removed a good portion of my inner turmoil and my wails soon turned to sobs as Carol rhythmically soothed my back with her hand and held me close. The closeness not described as tight or overbearing, but the gentle touch of a seasoned mother providing security and compassion. No matter, the last desire of mine was to enter this foreign house and partake in some awful party without resolve to any of the questions just raised. As soon as I were able, I would sneak away and find Rebecca, and find the answers I so desperately required.