To Disappear Completely
(Barrow Street, Manhattan – Photos by Joe)
A stranger named Ehrie with an East European accent paid me a surprise visit on Barrow St. in the West Village. My friend Benny, “the cigar store Indian” had sent him to teach me how to “disappear.” Ehrie said it would enable me to avoid the attention of ghosts, demons, and the various paranormal phenomena in NYC.
Along the narrow block Ehrie wouldn’t show himself to me. There was no need for him to duck behind cars or in doorways of the small brick apartment buildings on the street. A step behind me, he merely moved aside each time I glanced back. He did it in such an effortless manner, that if I whipped around, I was certain he would still be at my back.
It had been a few minutes into our meeting when Ehrie had said with solemnity. “You shouldn’t be on this street, ever.”
I grunted in seeming agreement and wondered if he knew that I’m writing a book on the Revolutionary War Soldier named Max Beckley. He lives in one form or other on Barrow Street. I glanced between my legs and saw Ehrie dance to the side, toes pointed out. He had bowed legs.
“If you want my help, don’t try and look at me,” he gently reminded me, his intonation adding a touch of menace.
“I’m in deeper than others,” I said, knowing my problem is that “I’m loud!” I walk, talk, and even think LOUD. I am loud in every veritable sense. It’s no surprise that I “wake the dead,” or at least, catch their attention.
“You’ve opened a door, Joe–” Ehrie began.
Ehrie’s accent reminded me of Hugh Grant’s Dracula rendition on the audio book recording of that novel. I could just hear Hugh saying, “Transylvania, Bukovina and Herzegovina. The Carpathians . . .” Images of a black forest set upon a craggy, cloud covered mountain range filled my head.
“–I’m here to help you shut it,” Ehrie continued, carefully enunciating each syllable. “You’ve been easing the door open for a long time.”
“I got a peek inside,” I uttered, bulging my left eye from the socket in an effort to catch a glimpse of the stranger. Without any success, I sighed and looked up at the brick apartment as I spoke. “We all know there’s more than ghosts and demons at work here. I won’t say the word,” I said and whispered, “I won’t say ‘alien.'”
“You must forget some things,” Ehrie said. “Try not to think about them, you know. Only then can you take your first step towards disappearing. Close your mind.”
I laughed. Impossible. Already on this blog are some of my deepest insights and experiences in NYC. Plus there’s the two books I’m writing about Max.
“For most hours of the day and night, my mind is closed to supernatural entreaties,” Ehrie said. “Only the most salient things come to me–like you. I’ve known your face for some time, Joe. That’s not good. Benny didn’t have to tell me what you looked like or your name.”
“I’m terribly loud.”
“You are,” Ehrie said and chuckled. “Over the past hour, I’ve followed you from Midtown and heard your footsteps in the crowds on Fifth Avenue. Just below that sound I easily picked up on your thoughts, loud and clear I might add. And when I had let you glance upon me, I felt a weighty glare. I could have looked upon your soul if it was my desire.”
“Oh boy!” I said with a sigh.
“You have to change.”
“How different are you?” I asked and clenched my growling stomach. It had been a long day, and I was hungry. Soon I had to meet my friends at a Mexican place on 7th Avenue S. I really did want to learn how to disappear, but wanted to eat first.
“I am nothing but voice and movement,” Ehrie said with confidence. “You will not know me, unless I want you to.”
I turned to my right and felt him brush against my back as he moved left. “What if there is something or someone I want to see?”
“Listen, that’s your truest sense. Steal a glance only when you’re certain no eyes are on you. Listen to the world, to the voices, to the music, and then you will feel, and eventually see with your inner eye. Find harmony, listen for it, it will lead you a step closer to disappearing,” he said and his voice grew thin. “In the coming months, I will check in on you. Someday, like myself, maybe you can disappear completely.”
“You want to join me and my friends for some Mexican?” I asked thoughtlessly.
“I must go,” Ehrie said. “Hopefully you will change your ways. It will take time. You must learn to be like a living ghost.” His voice echoed as it seemed he tried to leave a lasting impression. “No one must know you live.”
I looked aside and saw the bow-legged Ehrie striding across the street. To my surprise, he turned and gave a close-lipped smile for a full moment. He had smooth, white skin, a clear light in gaze, and wiry hair that was parted in the center. He looked much younger than his voice indicated. All of a sudden, I recognized his face and gave a guttural laugh. He was the spitting image of the late, great magician, Harry Houdini. A year ago I had bought postal stamps with his mug on them.
“No one living or dead knows me,” he said with a wide grin. “Like me, you must disappear completely and become a living ghost.”
I smiled as a buoyant feeling rose up from my gut. I couldn’t tell if Ehrie was a ghost or not. He looked to be flesh and blood though was encased in a baby blue aura that the untrained eye might miss.
“Shhh! I let you see my face and know my secret. Now close your mind. You must learn how to keep such secrets, especially if you want to disappear one day.”
(Harry Houdini – known to friends as “Ehrie” – uncredited/resized)
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Nine – May/June 2010