The Eyes on Avenue A
At night on the streets of NYC I’ve been hearing ghostly music. It usually doesn’t rise above the typical city noise. The music is mostly that of a solo piano, brass or stringed instrument. When I pay attention, I find myself envisioning a lonely ghost in a back alley, honing his craft. If I had any fears over the music, it’s only for my sanity.
Then one night out with friends in the East Village, I was followed by a hooded figure whose movements affected the music. When I spotted him a couple of blocks away on Avenue A, I heard the abrupt chords of a piano, which grew frantic until he fell out of sight. Seconds later there came what sounded like a bass arpeggio. I looked straight up and was near certain the hooded figure fluttered past on the roofline four-stories up. He appeared a block or more ahead, and the harsh chords struck again.
He lifted his head until I could see the light in his eyes. A second later he jogged off into the night. If he had been trying to scare me–mission accomplished.
My friends who were with me, didn’t seem to pick up on him. I know for certain that they didn’t hear the ghostly music.
Over the next few days, I found it harder and harder to get the hooded figure out of my head. In my mind’s eye, his body is a vague silhouette, and I can see the outline of signage from the bars on Avenue A behind him. That was where I had gotten my best look at him. In contrast to his body, his eyes are clear and crisp, and intensely focused upon me. They seem to hang in the air. Sometimes I lose sight of everything except them.
I’m terrified–I fear an unknown fate.
For the past three afternoons, I’ve searched fruitlessly for Benny, “the cigar store Indian.” Of the clairvoyants I know, he’s the one that I feel most comfortable approaching for help. The problem with locating him is that he’s homeless.
(Photos by Bald Punk – Cigar store Indian)
It was frigid yesterday as I left work in downtown Brooklyn. Twilight was a short while away, and by then the ghostly music would start. But I had another problem to worry about.
The hooded figure’s eyes were superimposed over everything I saw. They seemingly hung in space, focused on me. In the times I erred and looked directly into them, I could see the lighted signs and sidewalk on Avenue A. It was where we had exchanged glances when our paths first crossed.
By the time I got to the subway platform, cold sweat had accumulated around my neck and under my woolen hat. I was convinced the eyes held sway over me. I feared they might push me onto the train tracks. When the subway came clanking into the station, I wrapped my hands and one leg around a vertical steel girder.
There were tears in my eyes.
As I had for the past couple of days, I got off the subway at Canal Street Station and walked up Broadway in search of Benny. At 14th Street, I made my way around Union Square Park, certain the old homeless man knew I was looking for him.
I envisioned the slight homeless man surreptitiously watching me sweat. Given the way I’ve treated him, maybe I deserved it. He knows I don’t trust him, even though he may have saved my life.
At long last, I spotted Benny in Union Square by the George Washington on horseback statue. He was going through a wire trash pail. Before I could say hello, I happened upon this guy named David. We went to intermediate school together. When I first ran into him a few years back, we hadn’t seen each other for about twenty years. He had only vaguely remembered me, yet had been impressed by my memory of him. He especially liked when I had recalled him as a “pot smoking bully destined for failure.”
(Union Square Park)
David had recently bought some fancy-schmancy restaurant, and he wanted me to come by for a meal. He talked and talked and talked about his business, as if I was a banker, and he needed a loan. I must have said goodbye to him nine times. At one point, I craftily led him under an ornate subway kiosk and down the wide cement stairs, only to escape back up after a quick “goodbye.” Yet he followed me, claiming he had “one more thing” he wanted to tell me, which was like twenty more things.
Thankfully, David’s cell rang and it seemed to be an important call. I left him with a quick wave and a claim that I had to run.
The bastard cupped his cell and yelled at me to stop by his restaurant.
I made a beeline to Benny, who was still bent over the same pail, methodically fishing through like it was full of Halloween candy. “Come with me,” I said, and roughly grabbed his arm when he didn’t stand up right away. I led him through the sparse crowd and out of the park. He kept looking back to the garbage pail.
“I’m in trouble!” I cried, shaking his arm to get his full attention. “Stop your nonsense!”
“What is it?” Benny asked, stiffening in an obstinate show. “What’s wrong?”
“Where the hell have you been?” I cried. “You only come ’round when it’s good for you? You know I’ve been looking for you!”
He shrugged. I let go of his arm. “I’m sorry,” I said, and motioned to rub his arm. He pulled back. “I’m sorry if I hurt you. I’m sorry for *cursing at you.” (*I left them out of the above dialog because I don’t want people to think I’m a cretin.)
I went on to tell Benny the whole story about meeting the kid who looked like Abe Lincoln. Then about the ghostly music and the hooded figure, though I left out the part with “the eyes” that I can’t shake.
He looked up and to the left and laughed. “I don’t hear any music,” he said with a sneaky, wholesome smile.
(Washington on Horseback/Union Square Park)
“Geeze, Benny, didn’t you hear what I told you. It’s only at night.”
He laughed. His dark, tanned cheeks were a ruddy color.
“I thought you were my friend,” I said, staring at his eyes, which were bluish, though I never remembered them as being blue.
“I’m sorry, but if that’s all you hear at night, you’re lucky.”
“Thanks! Now I’ll probably be listening for other crap. Thanks for making things worse.”
He puckered his lips in an unsympathetic manner.
I stomped my foot and eyed the garbage pail chained to the “Don’t Walk” post on the corner of Broadway and Union Square West. For a second, I thought about tossing him head first in it.
“I can’t help with the music,” Benny said, his tone finally showing some interest. “It’s in the air every night. Though my advice is to stay away from the man in the hood.”
“Do you know who he might be?”
“Yes,” Benny said and looked into each of my eyes. “You know him, too.”
“No I don’t,” I said.
Benny pressed his lips together and his brows formed two half-moon shapes.
“I don’t,” I said firmly.
Benny titled his head. “You’re going to have to learn to trust your senses. Trust what you know,” he paused and looked carefully into my eyes again. “He’s too powerful for you not to know his identity.”
I drew a blank.
“Don’t say his name,” Benny said.
“Oh sh-t it’s a demon!” I said and jumped about on the balls of my feet. “It’s Old Seven!”
“I thought the slave named Hardy was his caretaker?” I said.
“Seven gets out now and again. But not to worry, Hardy must have him in check by now.”
My joints locked and I felt a sudden aching. “I can see his eyes! I can see them now on Avenue A. It’s like he’s waiting there for me.” I gave a huge sigh. “He’s staring at me.”
“That’s not good,” Benny said, his voice deep with concern.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Six – February 2010
Tompkins Square Park (Photos only)