Wednesday, July 6, 2022

How We Must Have Looked

(Photos by Joe)

How we must have looked as we traipsed uptown, the four of us and an invisible boy from a dream . . .

We stepped out from the shadow of the row homes on East 6th Street and into the late afternoon sun on 2nd Ave. The boy, whose name was James, became diaphanous in the brighter light. He scrunched his button nose and reminded us that he would disappear soon. My lady friend(LF) knelt down to whisper in his ear and then kissed his cheek. He nodded and gave a wistful smile. She then held his hand to ensure we didn’t lose him, while the pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts) began to watch him like two slouching hawks.

The five of us headed across the pedestrian heavy St. Mark’s Place, which is a main artery in the East Village. All around us, as is usual on the block, tourists, suburbanites and hipsters, all brushed shoulders. I checked the faces of those we passed. None of them seemed to light upon the boy. Yet most with “the gift of sight” would be surreptitious.

We went down into the Astor Place station. For god knows what reason, num and nuts swiped a MetroCard through the fare slot for James to pass through the turnstile. The blue-eyed boy’s face turned ruddy as he struggled to budge the turnstile arms. When a moment later I heard the clap and rattle of a train, I manipulated the arms, and guided him through with a hand on his sponge-like back.

There was a handful of empty seats in the polished, stainless steel subway car. James sat on LF’s lap. He turned fully transparent under the fluorescent lighting.

LF was radiant, having gone that afternoon to an East Village salon with num and nuts. I sat next to her and pushed aside her sleek black hair. A musky scent filled my airway as I kissed her neck. Her brown eyes popped open wide, and she touched the spot I had kissed. Right there blue veins rose gently under her pale skin. Her look told me that I shouldn’t have done that. Not now. Not given what we were about to possibly do.

We exited onto Lexington Ave and East 53rd Street. By now it was early evening, and bright orange clouds drifted beneath a violet  firmament. Once again, James became fully opaque, though it still seemed that only we could see him.

We came upon the dead end street in the East 50’s where I had seen James’ home, a home that I since could not find. A medium height man in an overcoat, stepped out of the shadows on the corner. It was Benny, “the cigar store Indian.”

(Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon – 26th St and 5th Ave)

“I got him a free cell phone from senior services,” LF said, cutting me off before I could get in a word. “And I texted him to meet us.”

Benny came upon us and gave a somber, gap-toothed smiled. The old homeless man smoothed his hand over James’ thick black hair. I assumed he knew the boy’s mother, if not a vampire, was a demon whom we might have to kill.

As we walked down the block, Benny discreetly gave out wooden spikes to everyone but the boy. The wood was gunmetal gray. It looked terrible in LF’s hand. I pictured her rearing back, in girlish awkwardness, to strike a killing blow.

Num and nuts slipped the spikes into their pants pockets. I didn’t expect them do anything with the instrument other than poke holes in their pockets and hurt them themselves.

When we could see beyond the last home on the right, James’ three-story home came into view. The facade had an insubstantial air, looking at it was akin to watching an old movie reel film. It was a sea foam green color and had three turrets that reminded me of rocket ships. The windows overlooked the FDR Drive and East River.

I slipped my hand inside my coat, and ran my fingers along the spike to the blunt point. I looked down at James. “You should stay outside with (LF),” I said, and looked at her. “We have no idea what we’re going to find.”

“The house has secret passage ways,” James said, his blue eyes confidently meeting mine. “When Pie-eyed Pete comes into the house, I can always smell the river. I’m pretty sure, I know the passage he takes.”

“I don’t think you coming inside is a good idea,” I said.

“I know all the secret doorways,” he said. “You don’t want a vampire sneaking up on you.”

At the mention of the word “vampire,” num and nuts began to squawk and banter like unruly parrots. Benny gave a shrug and gazed over his shoulder. He took a full step back.

“Okay,” I said with a huff, “we all go in.” I gazed up at the “grainy” doorway, then led the way up the solid wooden stoop. Our footsteps made no sounds. Benny hurriedly followed and waved his hand, urging us to go inside.

Two guys and a girl came diagonally across the street. All three wore black windbreakers, and one man filmed us with a video camera. I recognized them from the train we took uptown.

“They’re ghost hunters,” Benny said, as we filed into the front door.

Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Thirty-Four

House on the River’s Edge


What You See

How We Must Have Looked

The Last Embrace

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