Previously: It is the 80’s. A man disappeared. Naomi and Eve host a potluck, to entreat their building to find him. Eve’s new boyfriend Charles, an agoraphobic with a strong personality, acts as the evening’s MC. Twenty-one tenants cram into Naomi and Eve’s one-bedroom apartment. Their galley kitchen is full of food.
“Ladies, gentlemen, and others,” Charles begins again. If he had a moustache he would twirl it. But he was an unhairy man. He looked, for once, as though he could be competent. “Turn down the Donna Summer,” he said to Eve. “The atmosphere is set.”
So she did.
“I object to the word others,” said Pin Ball, the building drag queen. He was always resplendent. For the pot luck dinner, he wore a silver sequined dress. And around his neck, on a long leather string, a one cup pot. “I’m the rich man’s Liza Minelli,” he always said about himself, if anyone asked. His eyelashes were extensive. He glued them on every single day.
“Good point,” said Richard and Richard, almost in unison.
“Friends in this building,” Charles began again. “Although that sounds presumptuous. How’s this? Stairwell acquaintances” he shouted into the room of random people who happened to live in the same building.
“Well said,” shouted Pin Ball.
Mo, a handsome jazzman from a small town in Mississippi, whistled his approval. He’d moved into the building to live with a woman who’d left him. He did not seem unhappy.
“We are gathered together,” said Charles, “to form an unusual alliance. Today, we will declare that alliance formed. That is, if we agree.”
Eve, most comfortable speaking the words of others, maybe the reason why acting was what she wanted, Eve, nearly as resplendent as Pin Ball, wearing her good red snakeskin boots, she called them Ethel Mermans, Eve replied from the corner where the radiator was. A wooden cover that looked a little like a tiny picnic bench turned the radiator into an occasional seat. She sat on the edge, legs crossed so that her boots could prominently swing. “We are gathered together,” she repeated for emphasis.
Mrs. Israel, in navy, sat primly on an oak chair with a high back. Someone down the block, in a more prosperous building, had discarded the chair on pick-up day. Usually Tuesday. She might not have been sitting so comfortably if she’d known the chair’s origins.
Naomi’s impulse was to stand next to Charles. To give him support. Maybe even to take over. It was always hard to know what Charles was doing, how competent he might be in the end.
That people came, not just for the macaroni and cheese variations (there were three – one even had tiny shrimps) but to be unified in something, made her unexpectedly happy. There they all were in this room, wanting to do something together. And that something, however small, might involve finding a man who disappeared, a man whose name might or might not be Alyosha.
“People,” Charles repeated. “That might be our easiest solution. For now. People,” he repeated. “I declare us a team, a detective team, committed to working together to find a missing stranger. Can we take a vote? We will call ourselves Eve and Others. How’s that?”
“Ay yi, Captain,” said Pin Ball, who led the room in a resounding clapping.
“Then let the unraveling begin,” said Charles.
For more on this series, visit us on the web. Esther Cohen posts a poem a day at www.esthercohen.com