“My Date From Halloween Hell”

A Memoir by Debbie Tuma

    My worst date happened to occur on Halloween Eve, in 1985. Back then I was one of the 30-something, single professional women living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
    I was meeting a blind date to go to the famous annual Halloween gay parade in Greenwich Village. This was my first time going to this event, which I had heard so much about, and I was excited.
    I met my date, Sam, at a restaurant near the parade route at about 9 p.m., since the parade was starting about 11. I felt no immediate attraction, and can’t even remember what we talked about — it was so long ago, and I’ve blocked most of it out.
    We spent most of the night walking around the parade route enjoying the wild costumes, such as one guy dressed as a dinner table complete with a setting for four, and another with his head inside a Mona Lisa painting. I still remember far more about the costumes than about my date, who shall remain an inconspicuous, nondescript human.
    What I do remember was how at 2:00 a.m. he decided it was time for him to go back to New Jersey, and he made no attempt to see how I was getting home.
    We were surrounded by hundreds of crazy, costumed people falling down drunk and drugged out in the streets, and with all the congestion there were simply no cabs or buses available. Everywhere I turned there were people swarming around, and we were being pushed and shoved in the crowd so we could barely move. People were cursing and slurring their words, and my head wasn’t exactly clear after an evening spent drinking beer as we watched the parade.
    “Aren’t you going to walk me home?” I asked Sam, taking it for granted that a man would want to make sure I got home safely.
     “But I live in Jersey, and you live way uptown,” he kept saying. “Why don’t you just take the subway?”
    Back then I never took the subways anywhere late at night, let alone on Halloween night when nobody was in their right minds. I was afraid I’d get mugged or raped.
    “I’d take a cab, but I can’t even get one, and the buses are all full,” I moaned. “Can’t you just come with me on the subway to East 86th Street, and then take the subway back?” I pleaded.
    What got to me was the cold attitude of this guy. There was no warmth, no understanding, and no mercy in his eyes. He only cared about himself. With that, he just said goodnight, and good luck, and said he was catching the PATH train to New Jersey.
    I’ll never forget how vulnerable I felt standing in the middle of the crowd on a cold, blustery October night. When you’re a little fuzzy from drinking, and when you’re tired late at night, Halloween can seem spooky and scary, and it can do numbers on your head.
    All those costumes, which I thought were funny and creative a few hours ago, started to take on an eerie fantasy-like weirdness, kind of like when you’re stoned. And that’s exactly how I felt — like I was on a bad drug trip, even though I’ve never really “tripped.”
    Not wanting to feel all alone, I ran to a pay phone and called my friend Brad, who lived with his girlfriend, Sophie, on Bleecker Street. At first I hesitated about calling at 2:15 a.m., but it was a Saturday night on Halloween, and this was, in my opinion, an emergency.
    After eight rings, Brad answered in a weak, raspy voice, like he had just woken up.
    “Hi Brad, this is Debbie. I’m really sorry about calling you this late, but this is an emergency. I’m stranded in Greenwich Village, and there’s so many crowds, I can’t get home. Can I please spend the night on your couch?” I begged.
    He was just about to answer when I heard Sophie in the background, whining. “Tell her we’re in bed, and it’s too late, Brad.”
    Brad tried to come up with a polite excuse, but I was adamant. He had been my editor on Cape Cod, where we had all met one summer while working at a newspaper. Sophie was a photographer and I was a reporter.
    Ever since then, Sophie was jealous of our relationship. She could not understand that Brad and I were only friends. She thought that I, and every other woman, had a crush on him, and she was desperately trying to marry him.
    Right now I hated Sophie and I felt that Brad should protect me, from the city, and from her.
     “Brad, just tell her I’ll sleep on the couch — I’ll sleep on the floor, I’ll leave first thing in the morning,” I pleaded.
    Now Sophie was on the phone. “Debbie, it’s 2 in the morning — are you crazy? You woke us up!” she screamed.
    Normally, she pretends to be my friend so as not to create friction. And mostly, the three of us have had a lot of fun together.
    But tonight was not one of those moments. Knowing this was going nowhere, and feeling like it was a matter of survival, I hung up the phone and walked the few blocks to their apartment building. I walked into the elevator and went to their fifth floor, ringing the doorbell.
    I would never treat another woman like this, I thought, and Brad is such a wimp. Just then, he poked his curly head out the door and gave me a weak, sad, and too-helpless look. I felt sorry for him, being so henpecked, and at that moment, I really wished he wouldn’t marry Sophie.
    “Brad,” I whispered, “just let me in — I’m desperate. You don’t know what it’s like out there. It’s a madhouse. I’m afraid I’ll get killed,” I blurted out. “Please let me in!”
    Then I did something I didn’t believe I would do. I pushed the door with all my might, and being half-asleep, Brad sort of fell out of the way.
    Once inside the enemy territory, I was squatting there for the night. No backing down. I simply lay down on the floor in the hallway and pretended to be asleep.
    “Goodnight, and thanks a lot,” I told Brad, who was standing in his underwear.
    From the one bedroom, I could hear Sophie screaming, “Brad, what’s going on? She can’t stay here, it’s too late. This is ridiculous!”
    From my hard “bed” on the hallway floor where I had crashed, wearing my jeans, sweater, and coat for the night, I suddenly felt one of the worst feelings of being unwanted, from both my date from hell and from this dreadful woman, and I wanted to die right there.
    “This is the worst night of my life,” I thought. “I will never go out on a blind date again.”
    Once Brad finally got the idea that I was staying the night in his hall, he shut out the light and went back to the bedroom, where I heard them arguing for about 15 more minutes until I drifted off into a troubled sleep from the booze, the excitement, and the hour.
    Amazingly, the next morning, waking from my hangover, I found Sophie had calmed down and she was actually making us all breakfast.
    “What a dizzy, erratic blonde,” I thought. “I hope she never marries Brad, because I don’t think she could ever be my friend.”
    For the next few months I continued to be friends with Brad, as we are both writers, and he is the opposite of Sophie — sweet, easygoing, and laid-back. But I cooled things down with her.
    But time has a way of healing hearts, and a few years later I was a guest at their East Hampton wedding with my new boyfriend. It turned out to be a blast, which we still watch on video. We also can now laugh about that crazy, wild night, and my blind date on Halloween.

    Debbie Tuma, a freelance writer who lives in Sag Harbor, writes for the Daily News and Newsday, and is working on a book about her family history in Montauk.