Someone’s Calling In The Night
(Morningside Heights apartment – Photos by Joe)
“I tell my lady friend everything, except stuff that’s gross or rude, or that she doesn’t need to know . . .” From: “When Benny was a cigar store Indian”
Everyone knew I was lousy. And that was after a Herculean effort to hide how bad things really were. Because I was ripe for the taking, I was going down. And after a while, I didn’t even know it . . .
It was a Friday night and I was munching like a nut on Cool Ranch Doritos. There was also an open bag of Garden Salsa SunChips on the table. I poked my hand in there every-so-often, but was concentrating on the Doritos. My lady friend(LF) came into the kitchen. On her way to the fridge, she ran her fingers over my dome.
I heard voices out in the hall and craned my neck. A Diet Pepsi in hand, LF turned from the fridge and shot me a curious look. The door to the apartment opened. The pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts) entered with blustery words and sweeping gesticulations solely directed to LF. I paid them no mind. In behind the two stepped the slight of frame, Benny, “the cigar store Indian.” He gave a pleasant smile as his eyes wandered the apartment.
A whisper came to me just below num and nuts’ chatter. “Downstairs, waiting,” someone said–
I knew it was “the woman.” Like last night, I thought she must be out in the street, waiting for me. Thankfully only I could hear her ethereal voice.
An inner fire lit my eyes. I gazed up with a detached smile and happened to meet LF’s brown eyes. A pang of guilt spread from my gut as I realized my smile was meant for another woman. I looked to the floor, thinking how no one can see deeper into me than LF.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“I’ve never polished off two whole bags of Doritos,” I said sheepishly, “and don’t know why.”
LF slipped into the chair next to me and pushed close. She murmured in my ear. The sibilance felt good. She always feels good. A tingle ran down my neck and arm as if set off by a teasing hand. “We need to talk,” she said.
“Yoo-hoo, come outside,” came the woman’s voice, seeming to tug at my core and touch on the bond I shared with LF. My breathing quickened. I fixed on the Doritos.
“Talk about what,” I asked, stone-faced as I remembered “the kiss.” I couldn’t say if the moment was real or not. It was late last night and I think I was sleepwalking. With the trust of a child, I entered the woman’s arms, met by lips that were like pillows. In her eyes was a beckoning light. They opened to a place that I couldn’t describe though wanted to know.
“About what’s going on with you,” LF said. Her face was puffy; she held back tears.
I shrugged and severely eyed Benny, who pulled off his overcoat and hung it on the rack by the door. “Jacket better not stink,” I said quietly, and noted that the old homeless man had on a nice green sweater.
Num and nuts sat across from me. Both fixed their hair and adjusted their clothes. When they caught my derisive gaze, their heads quavered, and it seemed like they were looking in nine different mirrors, and simultaneously at muah.
(527 West 110th Street – gargoyles and singing warlocks)
“What’s there a windstorm outside?” I said to LF, and motioned to num and nuts. The two immediately folded their arms and gave beady-eyed stares. Both had their hair slicked back. They looked like yuppie Internet executives.
“Baldie, be nice,” LF said.
Btw, if you’re from the burbs and are wondering why two guys who deliver food are home on a Friday night, it’s because delivering sh-t is more popular in the daytime in Manhattan. Oh, Scrappy D wasn’t there with us. He was on loan to LF’s niece. She’s real cute and does well in school, and has been begging to have the D-mister over her house for a sleepover. I won’t lie and say I said she could. I was nervous about the whole situation, but he has on like nine collars with his name and ph#, and an ASPCA chip implant. My only fear if he did get away, is that he’s the best dog in the world, and someone might not want to give him back.
“Have something for you, come downstairs,” the woman said, whom I had first thought was a demon. But I didn’t think she was a demon any longer. In that instant part of me believed she could transform me into something new and better. The other part of me wanted her as Adam did Eve . . .
“It could be that special,” she said, reading my thoughts, which since I think loud is no mean feat.
My feet shuffled and I looked to the door.
“You have to open up about what’s going on,” LF said, eyes fixed on me, surely knowing I was avoiding her gaze.
“Ask this bastard what’s going on,” I said and pointed to the cigar store Indian, who gave a warm smile like he was settling in for turkey dinner. “He speaks to the who’s who of paranormal NYC; he must know what’s up here.”
“Stop it,” LF said. “Stop trying to pretend you’re all right. No more ‘hiding behind Coltrane,’ nonsense,” she said, referring to how in the past week I’ve tried to mask my problems. One night in the apartment I had been so out of my head, I even wore my iPod earbuds, which I do for when I need to break into dance to hide frightful spasms. But she knows all my tricks, and when she asked me what I wanted for dinner, I couldn’t answer properly, so I started to dance and said “mac and cheese.” When she looked crossed eyed at me, all I could say was “baked with breadcrumbs and parm on top.”
“It’s really a bad situation you’ve gotten yourself into,” Benny said as he smiled like I was passing him a plate of turkey, cranberries, garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, with a biscuit on top. “I know who the woman is, the one you saw on Lexington Avenue.”
My brows shot up. “It’s really, partially, all your fault,” I said, and with those words steam didn’t come out of LF’s ears, but it seemed like it did. “It really is!” I told her with downcast eyes. “I asked him for help in dealing with the paranormal, and wound up in deeper trouble. But, um, she’s not, the woman’s not–anything. She’s not my problem,” I said, and it felt like the truth.
“She has the ability to turn you into a demon,” Benny said. “Though she wants more.”
“Don’t worry about me. I was actually thinking of becoming a vampire.” I said smartly and smiled. “That might be cool.” The pizza and Chinese delivery guys looked at me, and I showed them my fangs, or at least where they would be. “But I wouldn’t want your blood,” I told them. “Because I don’t want to wind up a whacked out vampire.” I laughed, but no one else did. They all looked at me without talking. “Num and nuts could both jump out the window for all I care,” I added, because it was the only thing I could think of to break the silence.
“Joe, this is serious,” LF said.
“She wants your blood, all of it,” Benny said in an ominous voice. “But to take it, you have to submit fully to her. And once she has your blood, she has the will of your soul.”
There followed a moment of suspended animation or whatever the moment is where no one is breathing and sh-t. It took a minute for me to laugh and make like I didn’t care. “Well, that’s easy, I won’t bother with her.”
“A wily, stunning beauty, you would think her sole purpose is that of seduction,” Benny said. “Her lust for you may seem sexual in nature, yet her desire is for an evil you could not understand. While her ways are such that a person, mortal or not, can’t resist. When you think she’s not near, you’ll turn to find her arms are locked around you. What can only be a sign of more trouble, is that she doesn’t even have a name.”
“You can’t kill her,” LF said.
I heard the woman outside laugh and say “Nooooo.” In my head I echoed the negation. I wouldn’t let them get to her.
“That’s a tough order even for a demon of the lowest order,” Benny said. “While this one is a succubus, and one without a name. She wants something and she gets what she wants.”
“Which is me,” I said and smiled as I heard the woman outside say–
“And it’s too late to convince her that he doesn’t have ‘the blood,'” Benny stated. “But we’re not without recourse.”
“What kind of blood?” LF asked.
I stiffened. I knew I had to get this inquisition over.
Benny’s eyes moved slowly over our faces, and he spoke in a whisper. “The blood of Christ.”
No one said a word for a moment. But I was smiling the whole time and when no one noticed, I laughed and stood up like I didn’t have a care in the world. “We don’t have to talk about this on a Friday night,” I said, making my way out of the kitchen. I made a turn for the door and snatched my jacket off the coat rack.
“Joe, where you goin’,” LF said.
“Out for a minute, clear my head,” I said with a laugh and opened the door.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Thirty-Two