I haven't worn a Halloween costume since 2003. I went as anthrax. My friend went as SARS. We basically took white clean suits scientists wear in the laboratory and wrote the names of our respective viruses. We were 24 years old. We were impulsive. We had no taste.

I quit drinking the next year for the good of humanity and had no reason to attend the marathon vomit festivals that passed for parties. It's safe to say that no one noticed my absence.

I suffered a nervous breakdown about six years later that led to three years of agoraphobia and, subsequently, no parties. Handing out candy at the door at my mom's house marked one of my first contacts with the outside world. The doorbell rang or little hands knocked. Baby steps to the door.

I've made some nice friends during the past two years and developed a fairly healthy view of people once again. And I've been invited to a Halloween party — the first in 12 years!

But what to wear? Obviously, I won't be going as an infectious disease. With age comes a modicum of good taste. And telling everyone "I'm a sociopath and we look like everyone else" will just out me as someone who saw "The Addams Family" in 1991.

I pondered smearing myself in fake blood and saying "What costume?" whenever someone asked me about my costume. That was universally vetoed by everyone I know.

After days of painful soul searching, I decided on "burned-out 40-year-old Harry Potter." All I need is a wand. Nothing else. Like he's just sick of it all and doesn't care. Buying the costume would be easy, and I could just act like myself.


In the interest of full disclosure, I know almost nothing about Harry Potter. I worked at a chain bookstore at the height of the Harry Potter craze. It is not a pleasant memory. The average day went like this:

"Excuse me, boy," said a customer, setting the tone for the conversation.

"Yes, ma'am (or sir)?"

"I need to know when the seventh Harry Potter book comes out."

"I think there are only four books."

"Do you have Harry Potter underwear in stock?"

"I don't think we sell that, sir (or ma'am)."

"Go get the manager. I don't like your attitude."

I was lured to one of the movies. It was the third one, so I had no idea what was going on, but I'm pretty sure it involved English people. The movie screening took place at an outdoor, minor league baseball stadium in January. Mostly, I thought about how one of those foam rubber stadium pads would have provided a much-needed buffer between me and the metal bleacher.

I've so far been to six stores looking for a wand, but I'm pathologically unable to pay retail, even if it's 10 bucks. An obsessive quest for the world's cheapest wand is far more healthy.

Forget it. I'm going as a sociopath. We look just like everyone else.

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