The man with the light eyes
Imagine sleeping quietly in your small room in the middle of summer. We couldn’t afford air-conditioning , so our windows were always open, offering the slightest relief in the form of a wayward breeze. But along with the welcomed air, heavy with the smell of the city, came the noises of the concrete jungle. Police sirens, the 24 hour elevated train and the constant barrage of rowdy teenagers winding down the busy streets was commonplace. City kids learned to be heavy sleepers by necessity. So much so that when I moved to the suburbs of Bergen county in my thirties, I found it hard to sleep in the silence. But back to the Bronx….
It was three in the morning, and I found myself restless, sitting upright in my bed. I was eleven, and in full disclosure, suffered from a raging imagination. But this was different. Something woke me up. I was wide awake, and I knew it.
I shifted several times, rolling the pillows under my neck, desperate to get back to sleep. I began looking at the posters on my wall. Adam Ant and John Schneider occupied equal occupancy in the early Eighties. I was desperate to distract myself back to a sweet dream of either. But something was wrong. It was hard to explain. A subtle shift of energy in the room. The hair on my arms was standing up.
After a few failed attempts to get comfortable, I walked to the bathroom. It was the very next room from my door, and in a tiny hallway that lead to our living room. As I stood in that hall, barely five feet in length, I sensed a presence. I don’t recall exactly what I felt, but I sensed someone was in the living room.
Initially, I called out to my mother. It was a muffled cry as I was too scared to scream in fear of getting her angry. When she didn’t respond I investigated on my own. That’s when I saw him. Standing in the corner of the living room. He was silent and motionless. His shoulders broad, positioned against a standing lamp between a window and a large standing radio that doubled as a curio cabinet.
The room was dark, save for the light that streamed in through the windows from the streetlights outside. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness and I could see the shape of his face, his eyes wide opened and gazing back at me. He was fully formed, three dimensional, not a shadowy shape that you see depicted in movies. He was as real as I was.
I was frozen. The kind of fear that immobilizes you, makes it hard even to breathe. But it occurred to me that this man was as frightened of me as I was of him.
He was middle-aged, wearing suspenders and I remember boots. A dark hat, something like a cowboy hat, but not quite, sat on his head. I couldn’t see his facial features, but I distinctly remember his eyes. They were steady and fixed on me. Light colored and intense. I opened my mouth to say something but found myself speechless .
Then the barrage of questions rushed in my head. Why was he here, in the middle of the night? Why was I the only one in the room with him? Why were the lights off? Where was my mother or my brother? I knew this was wrong. So I darted back to my room, closed the door quietly so as not to wake anyone, and remained leaning against the door for what seemed like hours. Finding it hard to breathe, finding it hard to think, I remained frozen. At some point I quietly shifted away from the door, turned the doorknob which had a small lock, and retreated to my bed.
My bed was nestled in the corner by a window. I curled into that corner, forming a cocoon by wrapping the sheets and pillows around me until morning came. It was a long, sleepless night.
At some point I had fallen asleep, and by morning I heard a movement in the living room. Grateful that my mother was an early riser, I rushed in to meet her and told her what had happened. The revelation garnered me nothing more than a roll of the eyes. Like I said, full disclosure, I had a raging imagination.
Later in the day, my mother was entertaining family friends for dinner. I brought up the conversation at the table but was met with laughs and chuckles by everyone seated around the meal, and when I insisted what I had seen was not a dream, I was admonished with a discrete slap in the face by my mother.
I learned a very important lesson that day. Be careful who you tell, because unless it’s happened to you, it is hard to believe. This was just the beginning of my haunting. A haunting that scared not only myself but several of my friends through the years.