The Fine Art of Disappearing
(“Disappear” – Photos/Photo Art by Joe)
I told Benny, “the cigar store Indian,” about the elusive demon that whispers to me and the threat it had made on my life. He asked if there were places I usually heard its voice. I named Smith Street in Brooklyn, where the threat was made, and in Manhattan, South Street by the Seaport and a section along Lexington Avenue where there is a glut of spiritual activity.
“Everyday, take a different path, try to avoid the same streets two days in a row,” Benny said, and though his expressive *green eyes seemed to ponder my quandary, he didn’t elaborate much except to say, “Demons are lazy creatures. It’s why they’re in such predicaments.”
I took his advice and haven’t once heard the demon’s voice over the past week, even though I’ve been back to South Street and Smith Street, respectively.
Last Sunday I had time to kill before I met my lady friend and the pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts). They all had to work until early evening. We had planned to have dinner at a Mexican restaurant by 7th Ave South and Bleeker Street in the West Village.
The temps were in the low 80s with partly sunny skies. I meandered down 5th Avenue by Rockefeller Center in Midtown. The site sits a block away from the glorious gothic spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Well-dressed tourists populated the sidewalks and the traffic on the avenue was sparse. Compared with many other city blocks, the entire area was inordinately bright and clean. The air smelled only of sundry colognes and perfumes.
To avoid crowds, my pedestrian route through Midtown usually excludes Broadway and 5th Avenue; so in a way it felt like a new experience.
I passed the main public library on 42nd Street, where two large stone lions named Patience and Virtue lay in inspirational poses at either side of the wide front entrance. A minute later I gazed up in singular awe at the Empire State Building on 34th Street. A slight haze surrounded the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper. Its Indiana limestone had an alluring gleam. For a full moment, as my eyes traced the building’s surface, I believed I was looking back through time. Soon after I imagined some of the marvel-worthy structures that would spring up throughout Manhattan in the coming millenniums.
At 18th Street began Union Square Park, which is relatively compact but well-appointed with trees, benches, smart paths, and handsome statues. It is one of the places in NYC where one would find the most disparate groups of people. As usual, there was a nice size crowd spread between the park’s four corners.
I continued down into the Village that starts at 14th Street. I popped in and out of a few stores as I made my way over to the west side.
In order to heed Benny’s message and avoid the same route two days in a row, I bypassed 7th Avenue (I was there on a work errand the day before) and went down Hudson Street. From there I could circle around to the Mexican restaurant.
A shadow rushed over me. I looked up in search of some atmospheric oddity or other unknown entity.
I heard a low voice that was similar to the demon whisper, only this was sweeter and softer. Down the intersecting block, I caught sight of a wafer-thin man who had his head craned toward an apartment building. A micro-second later he flashed out of sight. It was his voice that I had just heard. I needed to see him again.
I stealthily crossed Hudson Street and came around from the other corner. The moment I caught sight of the impossibly thin man again, he was gone like a match blown into the night. I looked up at the street sign.
It was Barrow Street! The man surely had knowledge . . . or even something to do with Max Beckley . . .
(Barrow St. & Commerce St., Manhattan)
Max was a legendary Revolutionary War soldier who was abducted by demons from the Brooklyn marshes. He is said to currently live on Barrow Street in some form or other.
I knew I chanced more trouble, but this was a mystery I had delved into for longer than I care to admit. Right now I have enough material for two books on Max.
In hopes of getting another look at “the being” (he was no man), I snuck around to the other corner. Once again, when I laid eyes on him–his gaze set fixedly up at the same apartment–he flashed out of sight.
His perception was mind-boggling. I guessed that he was a demon. I’m far from an expert on them. Though if he was, it would be a terrifying prospect if many had the same perceptive ability.
I headed down Barrow Street a short ways and plopped down behind a car. I did not lift my head, though listened closely. It was a few minutes later that I heard the being speak. At first I thought the language was gibberish, yet soon could have sworn I heard a mix of English, and two or three other foreign tongues. By the being’s melodic and sweet tone, I guessed it to be some sort of inner dialog. Minute by minute I felt a silky calm set over me. I could have listened all night.
Into my head came a lively image of the Virgin. Her cheeks were rosy and her gaze broadcast a compassion that I felt in my viscera. Her robed figure was full of luminous color. Just as her veiled arms spread open, I was startled by a presence.
“Don’t move a muscle,” a man whispered, having a slight Eastern European accent. “I’m a friend of Benny’s.”
Startled, I sat up straight and began to turn.
“No, no, no, no, no, don’t move,” the man said.
(“To Disappear Completely” – Image by © John Springer Collection/CORBIS – Enhanced by Joe)
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Call me Ehrie,” he said softly.
“What did Benny tell you?”
“That you need to learn how to walk the streets unnoticed, that you need to learn how to disappear at a moment’s notice. Because too many creatures of the night know you.”
I thought of the being I had been espying on Barrow Street, and how easily he vanished from sight. “Disappear, now that would be good,” I said.
“Yes, it is a fine art that must be mastered,” Ehrie said. “But first, forget what’s going on here. Forget Max. There is absolutely nothing you can do, except further burden his soul.”
“Oh-okay,” I said, knowing I was way too deep in my pursuit of Max’s story to do that.
When Ehrie didn’t say anything after a few seconds, I tried fruitlessly to spot him from the corner of my eye. Then I said, “I have to go and meet my friends now. Another time then?”
“No, we begin tonight.”
“First, you must find and keep up with me,” Ehrie said.
“I don’t know what you look like, how can I find you?” I asked. When there came no answer, I turned and saw an empty sidewalk. Though focused toward the corner just in time to see a man’s leg below the calf and his rising heel as he turned onto Hudson Street.
(*Note: Benny’s eyes now appear to be green in color, not hazel as they had on other occasions)
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Nine – May/June 2010