I re-publish this column of a few months ago because since it appeared I've received a surprising bevy of comments, some critically negative regarding disturbing details in the tale and their overt implications. A couple of others were from two former associates who worked with me in the 1980's on The New Vision Theatre, a joyous and ill-fated project that imploded in the socio-political ping-pong between the American Foundation for the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind (emphasis on for and of). More about that at a later date. They also spurred my memory of an astonishing young woman, Evaline Rubens, who blossomed as an actress in this project and mesmerized everyone with her beauty and talent. They were reminded of her by the young, blind woman in this story. More on that at a later date as well.
This is a story that was told to me recently by a college chum of mine who later became an intelligence operative for the American government. I'll keep it short with cloudy details because I haven't retold it much and I'm uncertain as to the final outcome of the events and the relevance or danger of the facts today.
In 1972, a young man came to the attention of authorities and other interested non-governmental parties. He was eyed because his old Hungarian uncle began to talk about him indiscriminately whenever the old man loosened his tongue and sense of discretion with too much to drink. It was hotly rumored that the young man had developed or come into possession of a "Thing". Let's just call it that – a Thing. In all of its float-around variations, the rumor focused on a core fact: the Thing had the power to make other things happen, to change anything into anything.
Imagine that. No one seemed to know precisely what that meant, how this device (was it a device?) worked, what its limits were (was it limitless?), and who did, could and would control it. Imagine that. Imagine the possibilities because that's what everyone else did at the time, imagine the possibilities, the facts, as they sprayed out into the visage, the fantasy of the imagineer.
Apparently, the first to get to the young man and his Thing was not the government and its FBI/CIA minions. It was a consigliore from a New York Mafia family. His name was Tommy the Jew, (a typical gang moniker because Tommy was married to a Jewish woman and lived on the lower Eastside). His smooth-tongued, silky white-suit manner washed in and out of the "deaf" ears of the young man. So he returned with two friends, hulking well-dressed no-necks named Vincent and Votan (Vinnie and Vo to their friends and victims). They offered him a life of riches, they threatened him, they horrified him. They tried to convince the young man to show&tell the miracle of the Thing. How he avoided their persuasion and made them leave is unknown (they came back again many times in greater, grinning, darker numbers).
The next invasive wave that haunted the young man appeared as two FBI agents. They were both called Smith, both had short crew-cuts, both wore tailored dark suits and both wore dark glasses. They told him that he was on the 'list'. What "list" they didn't say. What they did say was that he was a threat to National Security, that he could be sent to a "rendition" camp, that they would extract the information they wanted with great pain and harm to him. The young man was silent. They then did an about-face and with slight smiles urged him to be a good American citizen, to be loyal to flag and country, to save the American Dream. He was still silent. They told him: they wanted the Thing. He told them: he didn't know what they were talking about. He told them: there was nothing, he had no Thing. They gave him a business card and said they would be back (they came back again many times with many more Smiths).
Another significant univited visit was a religious delegation: a Rabbi, an Imam, and a Monsignor. They addressed him in that order, for some reason, perhaps it had something to do with Tommy the Jew. They told him that Mankind has been waiting for the Thing since the dawning of... well... Mankind. They told him they knew that he was not the Savior but with a new vision of all of the scriptural writings, of all of religious history, they knew he had the Savior in his hands, or wherever he had it. The young man was calm and silent. They cried, they pleaded with him. They held hands and danced around him, three holy men sweating in their holy garments. They fell to their knees moaning and singing and begging him to give them the salvation of all people, the instrument of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. He told them: he had nothing, he had no Thing. They stared at him for a long, long time. Then they left, shuffling and muttering about reading the holy words again and telling him that they would return (which they did, many times, with more and more crying and pleading and singing clerics).
The waves and floods of visitors and beseechers became unbearable. A crowd of unorthodox, ungainly, uncontrolled, imploring beggars entreating, pleading, pressing, demanding. There were times that if they weren't so menacingly bizarre, they would have been hilarious: Mafioso elbowing CIA agents, priests shoving missionaries, doctors back-handing hookers and lawyers (or vice versa). All desperate, yearning, obsessed. The chaos forced the young man to move, to hide again and again. But each time they found him. Until he evidently located a place that was invisible, off the map, a house behind a house. He lived there with a woman, a girlfriend, his lover. And he felt safe.
She was also young, lovely, bright, and exciting. And she was blind, from birth. They were happy together. One day, after many days of reclusive quiet, he sat in the living room reading. At one end of the room was a staircase that led to a bedroom loft with a balcony. She appeared on the balcony clutching the railing with both hands. She said to him: she needed his help. She said that now they were truly alone, that the craziness had disappeared, she wanted him to help her... she wanted him to use the Thing to give her the sight she never had. After a long moment, he said quietly that there is no Thing. She said, more adamantly: There is, I know there is. He said, again: No, there is nothing... no Thing. She raised her voice: Why, why if you love me, why if you want me, why won't you do this for me? He said: There is nothing. She said, her voice trembling more loudly: I've heard you, I've seen it, I know it exists, I've seen it. He closed his eyes, his face tightened, he said: You see nothing. She screamed at him: HELP ME! He screamed back at her: I CAN'T! I WON'T! WHY? she screamed as she ran to the top of the stairs... and tripped, and fell down the stairs, first one flight, then another, until she lay at the bottom. He ran to her and evidently saw the pool of blood forming around her head. Evidently he thought she was dead (she wasn't). He ran out of the house and hasn't been seen or heard of since.
She told all the interested parties most of what she knew. She recovered slowly. She heard from him once more. She never forgot him. They searched for him for years. They had many leads, many sightings, many hopes.
He had disappeared. Not a trace of him... nor the Thing. Imagine that!
If you read the original publication a few months ago or this is your first reading, you should sense that there is a compelling love affair builit into this series of events. It is reminiscent of Evaline Rubens, about whom, as I said, I'll write more.