Halloween with Becca
This is the sixth chapter of the as-yet untitled (suggestions welcome) love story that Julienne and I lived. In case this is your first time, a) I’m sorry and b) the other chapters are listed below in case you’d like them in chronological order.
Chapter 1 – Meeting Julienne
Chapter 2 – Finding Julienne
Chapter 3 – A Kiss, and a Confession
Chapter 5 – Brioche French Toast
(A brief note before we get started. I indicated in yesterday’s post that the last bunch of days have been very hard. That hasn’t changed. I’m hoping that I can not only write this, but that I can feel a little better by doing so. It may be a fool’s errand on both fronts, but I’m going to try.)
Halloween season, I would come to learn, starts in February. That would be the first time every year that Julienne would ask me what I was planning to wear for Halloween. See, the traditional holiday season would occupy her mind, especially Christmas, all the way through her birthday in January. After that, though, Halloween Season officially began. I would never know what I’d want to be by then and she would look at me in such consternation at my lack of forethought. Every year I’d remind her that the thing she told me in February that she was going to be would never end up being the thing that she actually was for Halloween. Every year she would tell me that it wasn’t the point.
Halloween is serious business for Julienne.
Our first year together, though, I didn’t have the opportunity to start thinking about it in February. We got a late start so we didn’t decide what we wanted to be for Halloween together until mid-September. Well, for part of Halloween. We, as Halloween enthusiasts, would end up wearing multiple costumes over different days because the best party is usually the Saturday before Halloween, and then there is Halloween itself, and sometimes there are multiple Halloween parties, so we always had at least two costumes every year because wearing the same costume twice in a year – scratch that – wearing the same costume EVER AGAIN IN YOUR LIFE is unacceptable Halloween etiquette.
Like I said, serious business. For both of us, honestly.
But anyway, we’d decided what our First Costume Party Together would feature, and we had to scramble to make it happen (this would become an annual tradition. Despite starting the discussion in February, something would always inspire us late in the year and we’d hunt online or find weird stores and need everything expedited because WE HAVE TO DO THESE COSTUMES OR WE WILL DIE). It was a couple’s costume, which I’d never really done before (and after that, I’m pretty sure every single costume we came up with was a couple’s costume), and I was excited for it. One of our first romantic bonding moments was around our love for Sleeping Beauty, the Disney cartoon version. So that who we were going to be. I would be the red-cloaked Prince Philip, and she would be Briar Rose.
Thus the mad scramble began. Since we both clearly loved playing dress-up and took it seriously, looking for a Party City costume wasn’t good enough. Never. Now, we would go to Spirit Halloween every year and look at everything, just in case that was a particular item that might be hard to find, but 99% of the time all we bought were decorations from there. Cheap costumes were never good enough. Luckily, Julienne is a master at shopping and has an eye for things that could be adapted for costume purposes, and I have a lot of great people in my life that are good with sewing costumes.
While she shopped, I found out if my friend Lauren (love you) had time or the inclination to make me a red cloak exactly like the one from the cartoon, a proper hat, and the gold tunic he wore over a black shirt (the fun thing about using the cartoon as our reference was how the colors would change slightly during the movie. It was a little maddening when you’re watching it like the Zapruder film). I had boots and pants already, and a little needle and thread turned a regular black dress shirt into the high-collared one Prince Philip wore. Lauren, in a short period of time, knocked it out of the park.
The event we would be attending was an annual tradition where her parents lived. A family called the Coopers threw (and might still; we sadly never made it back) a huge Halloween party outside with bonfires and food and drinks and live music every year. Jules was planning on making a cake to bring. I was excited to see my favorite Disney princess in the flesh, but more importantly, she’d be coming up a few days before the party and our ten-day drought would finally end.
(This part I feel very acutely now. As of today it is 54 days since she left this world. I think the longest we were ever apart once we found each other was 13 days. Fifty-four now, and counting. This is where I’ve been struggling so much lately. The yearning we felt for each other then, the intensity of the emotion that we could only truly express when we were together, has not abated, and it hurts so much that I can’t express it to her and feel that connection and be calmed and healed and loved, and it is only getting worse.)
But before we would get to the party, Julienne would introduce me to someone that I did not expect. She was very pretty, but knew it and took everyone’s acceptance of that fact for granted. She thought she was incredibly smart, and probably was, but she didn’t really need to be because that could be work and guys just gave her more things the dumber they thought she was. Her voice was that combination of Valley Girl and Coachella-speak that seems to spontaneously appear whenever a group of twenty-something girls gather. She was shallow and self-absorbed and pretended to care about social issues, but the things she thought were truly important turned out to be either morally objectionable or downright repugnant. She also had this idea that she was a guru who could come up with a billion ideas for people to do and pay her for, and all of those ideas were, for some reason, pun-based, but it was hard to tell if the puns were on purpose sometimes.
Her name was Becca.
I got a brief introduction to her the night before Julienne was to arrive over Skype, but I had no idea that Becca would be at my apartment waiting for me when I was just expecting it to be Jules. The whole night was dominated by this airhead talking about her insane ideas and berating her boyfriend Sevin, who is gay and didn’t know it and Becca either didn’t believe it or didn’t care, one or the other. For hours, between yelling at Sevin – who was a meathead and an idiot and yet for some reason wanted to keep Becca around and would apologize to her constantly – and waving her wine glass around for a refill, she bombarded me with ideas to help the world. I can only remember a few, either thankfully or sadly. One was a doll for young girls to make sure they don’t have body issues, which sounds good at first, but then the solution to the body issues was to make sure they never ate bread. It would be a fat doll with a muffin top and ill-fitting clothes, and they would be called Carbie Dolls. The other was her plan for peace in the Middle East. No, I am not kidding. I’ll try to do her pitch for it from memory, as best I can:
So, like, you know how everyone in the Middle East is like so like bomby and everything? It’s like they’re always mad about everything all the time and like want to stab people, so I was thinking of how we could make them happy. So I was thinking, like, you know how everyone loves puppies? Like, it’s impossible to be mad when you’re around puppies, so I had this idea. What if like we did this like peace campaign, where we put like these cute totally adorbs parachutes on puppies and then fly over these Middle-Eastern countries and like just drop them everywhere for people to find and have and be happy. It’ll totally bring peace. And the campaign will be called Bomb Iranians with Pomeranians.
Of course, Becca was Julienne. She mashed a whole lot of things together – sorority girl culture, California-speak from her summer there, people she knew from college, and Meegan from Key & Peele. Sevin was essentially Andre from the same Key & Peele sketches mixed with the homoeroticism of male workout culture, but was essentially just a foil and an audience for Becca. I, of course, was Sevin. It was incredible how funny she was playing Becca, the world-saving airhead with the appalling ideas. What was also incredible was how addictive playing Becca was for Julienne. Jules, of course, loves dad jokes and puns, so she would come up with these elaborate explanations that could go on for an hour about an idea she had, all to set up the pun-based punchline.
(This was a recurring theme throughout our life together. She once asked me a question as we lounged in the pool about what kind of aquatic animal I would have if we could keep one safely in a properly equipped pool. I ruminated for a solid half-hour, trying to figure out which one I’d want most, settled on an otter [of course], and then tried to figure out how to set up a little river system for my otter to swim and play in. She listened to me patiently, offering suggestions, and when I finally wound down and asked what she would pick she responded that she would want a manatee. I was surprised and we talked about it, her reasoning and so forth, and then at the end she was firmly fixed on a manatee. That she wanted to name Hugh. Hugh Manatee. I’m not sure I’m over that one yet or have truly forgiven her for it. Julienne is, and will always be, the biggest scamp ever.)
She was in character as Becca all night, until it would be too much and she would howl with laughter, then go right back to being Becca. I felt like I’d broken several ribs and done a trillion sit-ups by the time the night was over. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that solidly for so long, and I doubt I ever will again. It was just a constant stream of puns with elaborate backstories that got more insane by the hour. I have two texts from the next day without the explanation, just the puns, and I wish I could remember the stories she created for mancake wreckfest pancake breakfast and mensch ghost French toast. Julienne was so in character that she couldn’t break it. We went to bed and she was still Becca. I’d ask if I could speak to Julienne and she’d be like what do you want to talk to that bitch for? I’m right here. Don’t you like me? It was absolutely incredible. We talked about her filming them and doing a whole YouTube channel and came close a couple of times, but Becca never became the breakout star she truly deserved to be.
(But she did return. In June 2018, we decided to do a pro-wrestling-themed pool party. Everyone who came would have a persona they created and costumed for and would wrestle pool floats, and whoever did the best would win a championship belt Jules and I designed. We were very into it and made promo videos as various characters, from announcers to wrestlers. For her main character she resurrected Becca, added some serious mean-girl vibes, leaned into the Coachella-came-to-life-as-a-terrible-person vibe, gave herself the wrestling moniker YASSSS QWEEEEN, and absolutely killed it. She did a long video where she pretended Becca was a YouTube beauty blogger where she drank wine and did the latest fashion trend, bedazzled lips, and berated Sevin, who was played by our friend Kurt because I was in Germany at the time for work. Below is her rap promo declaring her supremacy:
It still blows me away how absolutely uproariously funny Julienne is. It is one of the things that first attracted me to her so strongly, how quick and sharp and playful her wit could be. I miss her dad jokes and elaborate pun set-ups and it tears me apart inside to have that out of my life forever.)
One thing we did manage to discuss when Becca wasn’t around was our engagement. Julienne had started sending me ring suggestions and sites to look at for me to find the perfect ring for the most perfect girl ever. The idea of me, the dumb boy, looking for a piece of jewelry to represent our union and bond to each other AND would be the first thing nearly every person would want to see after they learned of our engagement AND would not be cheap AND had to demonstrate that I absorbed her entire aesthetic and fashion sense and sense of whimsy but also taste AND would make her happy every day for the rest of her life when she looked at it – all of that – was too much for me to bear.
I presented an alternate idea. We would choose an intention gift now – something to be a placeholder for the ring and show our love and commitment to each other – and then we would go together to hunt for the perfect ring. To my relief, she was amenable. I’d decided years before that I would never buy a woman clothes or jewelry unless she picked them out. I might say I like this or I think this would look amazing on you but I would not buy them unless she agreed. Julienne accepted that, thankfully. And so that would be our plan. She wanted to wait a little bit, since she decided that she was going to be the one to formally propose and give me an Evenstar of my own (in the Lord of the Rings, Arwen gives Aragorn a necklace called the Evenstar as a token of her love. We are nerds, after all). She needed a little time to get exactly what she was looking for. I loved the idea.
I didn’t get to see her as Briar Rose until the day of, like it was our wedding day. She had taken pictures (the one above) when she finished putting it together and asked if I wanted to see the pictures or wait til we were in person. I decided to wait, because I want to be able to kiss her as soon as I saw her. She looked incredible and we pulled off our first couple’s costume. I’m hoping that somewhere there are more pictures of us from that night, mostly because I just want more pictures of her but also because of how beautiful she looked. One of my favorite photos, though, is from that night. Her face, looking up at me in the firelight as she leans against me, her hand in mine, reminds me just how lucky I am to have found her. It was the perfect way to kick off our engagement, even if almost no one knew we already were.
(The Sleeping Beauty motif would return, at the end. As she lay in honor, Julienne looked as ethereal and beautiful as ever, and with the way she had planned for it, the setup, everything, she looked like a fairytale in real life. She was Aurora, sleeping forever, unwakeable no matter how many times I kissed her. It is heartbreaking in its beauty.)
Her parents were with us, of course, and we had a very good time. The evening was beginning to wind down, many beers were had, and we were getting ready to pack it in and head home. Just then, a voice cut through the crowd, a bit nasally, the end of every sentence rising in pitch like it was a question when it wasn’t, somehow both vapid and arresting all at once. It wasn’t Julienne. I looked at her and her eyes were huge, like someone had given her a present unlooked for. She looked around and spotted the owner of the voice. A twenty-something girl, blonde, surrounded by boys paying her rapt attention. Jules got her big happy smile and bright-eyed look, turned to me and said Fuck yeah, Becca’s coming out to play.
Julienne’s voice was already in full Becca mode. She walked right up to girl and was immediately Hey girl hey. They started talking and it was unbelievable. They talked for at least ten minutes, with Julienne saying some of the most ridiculous shit while the boys of all ages just stood around and watched them. Jules created an entire backstory on the fly as they talked (mostly based on truth – she became a law student in Chicago). The girl asked for a light and Jules – sorry, Becca – was all I have matches ‘cause lighters don’t work in Chicago. They blow right out. That’s why it’s called the Windy City and the other girl was like ohmygod I didn’t know that but it makes so much sense.
Julienne had fun as Becca and got to say some wacky Becca-shit in the wild, as it were, and I was envious that her dad had a mask on so he could laugh with impunity while I had to stay stone-faced as Sevin. When we did eventually leave, Jules started grilling me, asking if anything she said or did was cruel. She was worried that it came across like she was making fun of the girl, when all she wanted to do was be Becca for real. She hadn’t done or said anything mean, and as a matter of fact she encouraged the girl to go to law school when she expressed an interest in it and talked about the LSATs and how to find prep materials for the tests, all as Becca. Julienne really hated the idea of being cruel and accidentally hurting anyone, even a random stranger at a party, so it really mattered to her. Her innate kindness is one of the most beautiful things about her.
She flew back to Miami the next morning. I would follow her down shortly after. We were going to South Beach on Halloween night itself. She had an idea that she would be Charlie Brown and Lewis would be Snoopy and I would be Linus. A couple of days before, someone mentioned that Lewis would probably not enjoy the chaos of South Beach, so her costume idea with Lewis was out, plus she’d spent all her time on Briar Rose so she never got around to making her Charlie Brown outfit. So, two days before Halloween, we had this exchange:
I had borrowed a flight suit from Matt to be Tom Cruise from Top Gun before switching to Prince Philip, Lewis would be Suri Cruise, and Julienne would be… the Danger Zone. Now she just needed to figure out what that looked like (spoiler alert: she did). I arrived on Halloween, and we were going to be heading out to a huge street party.
But first, Julienne handed me a box. Inside there was a necklace. I got chills and teared up a little, and Julienne Gede asked me to marry her, formally. I accepted and put on the necklace she got for me, my Evenstar, which was an exact match to her favorite ring, a gift from her parents.
(I’ve taken the necklace off once since that day, when we body surfing at a beach and I became worried it would come off. Otherwise I’ve worn that necklace every single second of my life since Halloween 2014, and I will wear it every single day until I am buried beside her, and forever after that.)
Then I proposed to her again, for real for real this time, and I gave her the wedding band my mother wore when she was married to my father. It fit her perfectly, and it would serve until we found the ring, her perfect ring, the one that she could look at every day for the rest of her life and love, a symbol of our unbreakable bond, promise, and commitment to each other. We made plans to go ring shopping in New York on November 8th, taking the train from Baltimore to the city then back that night, in the hopes that we could find that ring. She had a lead or two on places to look that interested her.
It was hard leaving her on November 2nd. But then, as now, I could touch the necklace against my chest and feel the hearts she’d given me, one that was white gold, and one that was her own.