All Monsters Welcome
I’m standing on the corner, covered in carpet, cradling my costume’s head in my arm while I recheck the party’s address on my phone. It’s not Halloween, just a regular Saturday night, and I’ve been getting weird looks as I walk down the street. But the Facebook invite said: “Come as your favorite monster! (Or any monster!) MONSTERS ONLY. Non-monsters will be turned away at the door.”
The people throwing the party are Tina, Bob and Craig. I don’t know who they are, but Ted does, or at least his new girlfriend does. He unfriended me a few weeks ago, so I can’t see what he’s up to anymore, but everything on her profile is public. And when I was looking at it yesterday morning I saw the “Monster Bash” invite. Also public. With both of them listed as “Going.”
So I decided I’d go too. It’s perfect. Ted won’t know it’s me until it’s too late.
I based my costume on a vague memory of this ridiculous ‘50s movie I once saw. There was all this anticipation about some horrible creature terrorizing the town. Then when it finally appeared onscreen it looked like something a rug shop had puked up. My costume looks a bit better than that, if I do say so myself. I went to Nielsen Brothers and spent $75 on marked-down orange shag. I flirted with the stockboy and he threw in a couple of burgundy remnants, which I used for horns and demonic pointy eyes.
Even a monster could show some leg, I figured, so the outfit ends jaggedly above my knees, showing silver stockings and my favorite high-heeled boots. I don’t think Ted will remember those. He’s only seen me in them once or twice, and they came off quickly.
When I first met Ted he had a girlfriend, Mara. I’d been flirting up a storm with him anyway—so crushed out on him—but I assumed it would go nowhere. Then one night he flirted back, and staggered home with me after the bar closed. It was glorious. A triumph. But when he left right after I figured it was a one-shot deal. Still more than I ever thought would happen.
I didn’t see him for a few weeks. Then late one night there was a quiet knock on my door.
The first few times we didn’t talk much. Later he began to stick around after. We’d eat ice cream or potato chips, whatever I had around, and watch late night TV. One night he told me he didn’t think it was going to last with Mara, and I felt something bloom inside me. It was all I could think about: a chance we’d be together for real. To go places and do things. Not just hide in the dark of night.
Then when he broke it off with Mara he told me that wasn’t going to happen. “That just isn’t how I feel about you,” he said. “I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression.” I nodded as the thing inside me shriveled. “We can still hang out though,” he said. He punched my arm, like I was his dude friend or his sister. “Yeah,” I managed, instead of anything I really meant.
That thing inside me began to change. It grew larger and mutated into something awful and scary. A monster. A real one.
When I was younger my brother collected plastic monsters. He’d beg my mom to drive him and his friends out to science fiction conventions so he could spend his allowance and paper route money on collectible Japanese toys from movies or TV shows.
I always made fun of him and acted like I thought the monsters were stupid, but sometimes I’d sneak into his room when he wasn’t there to check them out. There were hairy ones that looked like dark scribbles and bloated ones with stumpy legs. One of them had a big eye for a face and little eyes all over. One carried a fan, which I found ridiculous, not monster-like at all. In truth, a lot of them just looked like people in weird outfits. Which of course, in the shows, was what they were.
So I went through them one by one, all lined up like an army, to determine which ones were really monsters, and which weren’t. To be a monster you had to have something bleak about you. You might be terrifying or you might be a little silly, like the one that looked like a two-faced worm. But you definitely weren’t a person in a mask.
Monsters were more like animals gone wrong. They probably didn’t know they were monsters. They were just acting on instinct, trying to survive. It wasn’t their fault we thought they were scary.
After Ted stopped coming by and wouldn’t respond to my texts and emails, after he unfriended me on Facebook, that thing inside me developed its own instincts and I guess I didn’t have to listen but honestly it felt good when I decided to yield to its urges. It wanted to lash out and show itself. Even if I had to disguise myself in carpet to do it.
Even if it scared me, too.
As I approach the house I stop to put on my monster head, making sure my hair’s all tucked inside. I walk up the stairs and knock. Loud music is playing—some menacing hip-hop I don’t recognize—and a vampire girl opens the door.
With all the monster possibilities. A sexy vampire? So half-assed.
“Hey, come on in!” she says, then rejoins the crowd, not concerned who I might be. Any monster’s welcome here tonight.
My heart pounds as I scan the room, looking for Ted or that dumb bitch, the one he’s “In a Relationship” with now, just weeks after the one with Mara ended. I won’t say her name, even though I know what it is, and where she went to high school, and where she works, and who her friends are, and every place that she’s checked in with Ted.
Maybe there is no thing inside that grew into a monster. Maybe the monster was always me. Bleak. Inscrutable. Alone.
There’s a keg and I would love a beer but it seems too hard to get a cup to my mouth through all this shag. I can already taste strands of it, waxy and chemical, drifting their way inside the mask.
A guy comes up to me, dressed like some kind of swamp creature. It’s not bad. “Whoa, what are you?”
“I’m a monster,” I say, and I’m annoyed by how weak my voice sounds. Girlish.
“Yeah, I can see that,” he says. “A monster with some sexy legs.”
“Fuck off,” I say. That comes out better, gravelly and mean. He raises his hands, steps back and joins some guys wearing Frankenstein and Wolfman masks with regular clothes.
The people here have no imagination when it comes to monsters. I mean, there’s zombies. Those aren’t monsters! Those are just people who died and then came back to a messed up flesh-eating life. Mummies? Same category. Some people might call them monsters, but not me.
Then there are the cute ones, all furballs and smiley faces. There’s an Elmo here for god’s sake. Fuck Elmo. You’re an adult. And Elmo’s with the dumb bitch I won’t name. Her hair’s in pigtails and she’s wearing some blue fur getup: halter top, shorts, boots, hat. Like a cheerleader for blue Wookies, or some outer space cavegirl, I have no idea what it’s supposed to be but it’s ridiculous.
So Elmo must be Ted. I should have seen it right away. Same height, same build. I know everything under that matted red suit, know just how it feels on my skin. I let out a disdainful laugh, and spit gets tangled in the rug strands near my mouth.
I move closer, not sure what to do now that I’ve found them. Throw a drink? Throw a punch? Grab him and wail?
Then the girl in blue fur points at me. “Look at that!” she trills. “That’s so cool … That’s what I should have done. You’re so creative! Come over here!”
Elmo’s silent as she looks me up and down. She nods. “You’re super monstery.”
“Thanks,” I say, as muffled as I can.
“Has Tina seen you?” I shake my head no, even though I don’t know which one’s Tina. “She was saying there should be more real monsters, like scary ones. I’m gonna get her!” She dashes off, and I’m a little flattered that she thinks I’m scary.
“What are you doing here,” says Elmo quietly after she walks away.
“What do you mean?” I say in a growl. “I’m a monster.”
“Alison,” he says. “I know it’s you.” He chuckles. “For one thing, I can smell your shampoo.”
The monster-thing inside me flutters. He remembers my shampoo?
“I’m not Alison,” I say.
“Yeah, right,” he says. “You shouldn’t be here.”
I shrug. “I’m a monster. It’s a monster party.”
“Were you even invited?”
“All monsters welcome,” I say.
I came to this party to lash out and cause a scene and make him hurt. But what I really wanted was never revenge. It was him. All those times we were together, I was sure I was in love with him. The pain of longing was glorious.
But underneath that was the cold reality of always knowing on some level that he’s not the one who’s going to love me. And just now, creeping forward, is another thought: maybe he’s not the one I loved.
Sure, the sex was stellar. But I mean … he’s Elmo.
A monster has its pride.
“I’m going to get a drink now,” I say. I sashay to the keg, swinging my monster hips. I fill a cup and drink, I don’t care if it’s mixed with fibers or if foam’s left on my mouth. A monster doesn’t give a fuck.
A monster is in pain and maybe that’s why it’s a monster. Or maybe it’s born a monster and the pain comes after that. If we knew why a monster was a monster maybe it wouldn’t be a monster. Maybe it would just be a person in a suit.
A monster leans against the wall. It takes a look around. It drinks its beer.
Jenny Hayes grew up in Berkeley, California and now lives in Seattle. Her fiction has appeared in Eclectica, Printer's Devil Review, The Northville Review, and other interesting places. Visit her online at http://jennyhayes.com.