I Do Believe in Spooks

Either I was time-traveling or she was visiting from another dimension, or maybe it was something else

Photograph by Getty Images

I have never had a problem believing in ghosts. Half the people I know have seen one, and at least 30 percent of those people are sane. Likewise, zombies and vampires. I figure anything that’s on TV 22 hours a day must have some basis in reality.

But I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around the concept of the time warp. Stepping out of your apartment into the Napoleonic Wars, or Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Supernaturally speaking, that’s a whole lot to swallow.

Until one cold and misty autumn evening in 1984. I was walking home from the annual co-op meeting, feeling pretty chipper as the meeting had ended without any bloodletting. Suddenly, a dark-haired woman sidled up to me on the street and began chatting. I recall she said her name was Linda and she had just moved into an apartment on the second floor of my building. She was attractive and smart and perky, but there was something a little off about her demeanor and the whole setup.

While our discussion that night occurred strictly in the here-and-now — the ineptitude of our co-op board, the best local restaurants and so on — I couldn’t shake an indescribable feeling that what was happening between us was not as simple and straightforward as it appeared.

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Anyway, we walked into our building and I saw her to her door. We said our goodbyes and I walked up the stairs to my third floor apartment, quickly forgetting about smart, dark-haired, perky Linda.

A full six or seven months went by without my bumping into her. Then, on another fateful evening, I needed a few quarters for the laundry machine and couldn’t find any change on my floor, so I went down to Linda’s apartment and knocked. An elderly black woman opened the door with a scowl that would have intimidated the Grim Reaper.

“What do you want?” she barked.

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“Is Linda home?” I asked, as meekly as possible.

“Linda who? she said. “There’s nobody named Linda living here. Go away!”

“I’m sorry,” I replied. “There must be some mistake. Was a woman named Linda living here 6 months ago?”

“I’ve been living here for years,” the woman snapped. “I don’t know no Linda. Now get the hell away from my door.”

And, with that, the door slammed shut, along with my chances of having a clean shirt in the morning.

I stood in the second floor hallway, mulling over this conundrum.

After some thought, however, I managed to piece together the puzzle with cool, exacting logic. Either I had briefly time-traveled forward or backward and rendezvoused with a woman from another dimension, or it was Linda who was passing through time and happened to alight upon little old me in 20th century Queens.

Either way, it didn’t matter. I was intoxicated with the mystery and romance of the short-term time warp (see “Midnight In Paris”) and hopeful that I would one day experience it again. Maybe next time I’d be joined on the street by Hemingway or Gene Tierney, or Pope John XXIII.

I held onto that magical thinking until I entered the building elevator a few weeks later and encountered Linda. My heart deflated. I told her all about the woman at her door and my time travel theories, and she explained that the woman was her cleaning lady who gets extremely anxious when strangers come to the door and sometimes behaves bizarrely or rudely. She apologized on the cleaning lady’s behalf and we again parted company — me, disappointed as hell to be stuck forever in this boring dimension, and she, very glad to get away from a crazy person.

I moved out of the building shortly thereafter and never saw Linda or the cleaning lady again.

But last week, on the No. 32 bus to Manhattan, I could swear we almost hit a Model T.

Tags: memoirs

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