I want to tell you about Colin Campbell. Colin and I went to school together since kindergarten, with third grade being the only year of elementary school that we weren’t in the same class. Up until sixth grade, he was as normal a kid as you’d ever seen. He played sports, he had a sizable social circle, he got good grades. His mom had a high-paying job, and he didn’t want for much. He and I were never what I’d call “friends”, but we were certainly pleasant to one another.
But then came sixth grade at our new place of education, Caldwell Middle School. Homeroom had just ended, and as I was walking to my locker I spotted Colin. I decided to stop and ask him how his summer was, only when I did, what I got in return was a sullen, disconnected look. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I brushed it off as him being tired, perhaps wary of the difference between elementary and middle school, however out of character it might have been.
That same day, the bell rang and we all began piling out of the school. As I exited through the front doors of the building, a bit down the walkway I saw someone dressed as a medieval knight. People were laughing at the rudimentary costume, calling names, teasing the way preteens do. I thought it was a bit odd, but didn’t pay it too much mind, and by the time I got home, it was out of my mind completely. It wasn’t until the next day that I learned it was Colin who’d been dressed as the knight.
After school that day, Colin exited a bathroom dressed as a lizard, in a huge green homemade costume. The same snickers circulated through the hallways, sixth, seventh and eighth graders gawked, pointed, and whispered, but Colin walked down the hall and to the exit with that same morose visage I’d seen the day before. The day after that, he walked out of the bathroom dressed as a mime, with full face paint and lipstick, gloves and all. That day I risked potential social disgrace when I jogged up to Colin as he left school and asked him what was up with the costumes. The same look plastered across his face, he uttered only three words to me: ”I like costumes.” And with that, he walked away.
School had started on a Wednesday that year, so the weekend came and I hoped that with it, some sense for Colin. But sure enough, that Monday, he was dressed as something else, I can’t say what, it was so many years ago. I talked to my friends, asking them what the deal was, but they had all gotten the same response from Colin when they inquired: ”I like costumes.” I couldn’t even begin to understand, but he wasn’t hurting anyone, so I figured there was nothing wrong with it.
I came to learn that Colin had stopped hanging out with his friends. He’d at one time been one of the most crushed-on boys at Caldwell Elementary, and he knew it, but now he wanted nothing to do with girls. The one girl he had always liked but the one that didn’t reciprocate those feelings eventually asked him if anything was wrong. She got the same answer as the rest of us: *“I like costumes.”* Every day after school, Colin Campbell would dress up as something, occasionally trying out a particular costume more than once. He was a scary doctor, a banana, Frankenstein, a simple ghost, a mobster, a vampire, all manner of handmade costumes.
The next month there was a Halloween dance, with an accompanying costume contest. In one class or another, Colin had finally shown interest in something: he said he was going to have the best costume at the Halloween dance. Everyone still thought it was weird, but they were all intrigued at what he was going to do for that costume, since his everyday ones were so elaborate and thought-out. He certainly seemed like he was trying to figure out which costume would win, and I admired him for it, even if I did find it a little weird that he was so committed to it.
The night of the dance came, and everyone looked for Colin, but no one could seem to find him. The lunch room of the middle school was decorated with care; streamers, big foam spiders, skeletons, scarecrows with pumpkin heads, cobwebs, pumpkins, it was rather well-done for a middle school, in retrospect. Strangest, perhaps, was that the chaperones had said that Colin was amongst them as they’d prepared everything for the dance. They assumed he’d gone off to get his costume ready somewhere.
The costume contest was held on a small stage at the back of the cafeteria. Behind where the contestants would put their costumes on display, towards the side of the stage that they would walk off, were two chairs with more decorations. On the one closest to the middle of the stage sat a skeleton in a comical “relaxed” position, the one next to it a pumpkin-headed scarecrow leaning to the side. I watched from the rear of the lunch room as student after student walked across the stage in their costumes, being judged by level of applause. I half expected Colin to show up suddenly, in some over-the-top costume that would win the contest instantly. He was, after all, the one who had shown the most excitement towards it.
But the real surprise happened when a kid named Ben tripped as he was walking off stage, falling into the skeleton and the scarecrow, causing them both to the fall, the scarecrow completely down the stairs, the pumpkin head shattering on the lunch room floor. Almost instantly the laughs turned to screams. Students began running out of the cafeteria as the chaperones began running towards where Ben had fallen. Since I was at the rear of the lunch room, I couldn’t see what was going on, and feared that Ben had been injured somehow in his tumble.
I don’t know how the information got out, but I soon learned that the scarecrow that had been sitting at the end of the stage was Colin’s lifeless body. The screams were drawn when the pumpkin left his head, revealing his blue face. Ben had taken an entire bottle of some kind of prescription pills, then assumed his place amongst the other Halloween decorations, dressed identically to the ones he’d helped set up before the dance. At his house, investigators found a note on the desk in his room:
”Because I don’t like being me anymore.”