The Man in the Black Suit
by Joan (Studer) Levine
From 1929, the year of my birth until my father’s death in 1978, the Studer family lived in various apartments and one-family houses on practically every street in Sunnyside Gardens. Up until I was eight or nine, we lived on 43rd Street right off Skillman Avenue on the first floor of a two-family house. In my recollection, the layout was as follow: After entering the house into the vestibule, you turned left and walked directly into the Studer living room. My parents’ bedroom was to the side of the living room and my bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen were in the back.
One night in mid-December, I was asleep in my bed when I heard a loud thud. I sat up and saw a man in a black suit lying on the floor near my bed. I was surprised and scared but able to say: “What are you doing here?” The man slowly raised himself up, struck a match and looked around. Seeing me, he scrambled to his feet and staggered out to the living room. Then to my amazement, I heard the loud crash of piano keys. This really startled me as there was no piano in our apartment.
Actually, I had been taking piano lessons for a year or so but couldn’t really practice because of the lack of an instrument. I ran into the living room as the man hastily made his way out of the front door. Entering the room, I spied a beautiful new shiny upright piano. A holiday present for me, I presumed.
I ran into my parents’ bedroom and woke them up.
“A man was in my room!” I cried. “He was wearing a black suit and fell on the floor. When he got up, he fell on the piano.”
“Oh Joannie,” my mother exclaimed, “It was just a dream.”
"It couldn’t be”, I cried. “The man banged the piano and I didn’t know we had one."
“It was all a dream,” my father said. “Go back to sleep!” But I knew it wasn’t a dream. After all, I didn’t know we had a piano.
On New Years Eve, my parents had guests for a late holiday dinner. We all sat around a big table they had opened up in the living room. In those days, nobody in Sunnyside, to my knowledge, ever locked their doors. In the middle of our festive dinner, the door to the living room suddenly opened and in staggered the same man in the black suit. He looked around at the guests and quickly stumbled out again.
I was vindicated! The man in the black suit really did exist! It was not in my dreams. But somehow my parents never believed it...
Afterthought: There were many doors on 43 Street which looked almost alike. I believe this man got drunk on the holidays and happened to walk into the wrong door twice. Do you agree? Or was it only a dream?
39-65 and 39-67 43 Street
39-67 43 Street with alleyway in 1940