A group of people who live in the same building, a tenement in the Upper West Side, decide to band together to find a man who his neighbor says is missing. It was the eighties in New York City. The man’s name was Alyosha Zim.
Come to Another Potluck Naomi wrote, in big balloon letters. She used a thick red Sharpie. Maybe the sign needed more explanation. We Have to Find Alyosha Somewhere she wrote, in smaller letters. We Need All of Us To Do This. Then she arbitrarily chose a day and time: Wednesday at 7 PM.
Around the corner was a Xerox place, family-owned small store operated by a Korean family with relatives enough to keep it open long hours every single day. The store sold every possible stationery supply, from infinite pen choices to rainbow post-its. Their specialty was Xeroxing. Polly ran the store. She read every single document before she carefully placed it, centered, onto the Xerox machine. “Where did he go?” she asked Naomi. “Did he leave the country? People like the Caribbean. My guess is he’s there,” she said.
She put flyers under every single door in her building and by Wednesday night, the apartment was once again full. Eve made a big pot of lentil stew. Just lentils really, but she called it stew. Even Charles made a dish: baked brie. A wheel of it stuck in the oven until it was extremely soft. He made a big daisy out of Ritz crackers, and placed the cracker dish right next to the cheese. Charles wore a top hat for the occasion of the meeting. And Eve a long black forties dress. Naomi wore her silver boots.
Mrs. Israel called the meeting to order. She stood in the center of the apartment, surrounded by people from the building, every single one of them some kind of artist, you’d think the word business didn’t exist: people who juggled, who wrote music that sounded like high pitched dog whistles and running water, operas about Pac-Man, hyper realistic paintings of Cabbage Patch dolls. Mrs. Israel was the odd exception, in her ersatz navy Chanel suit, her matching pumps. Her boxy handbag on the floor. Mrs. Israel was their queen with her clipboard, her yellow pad, her well-considered questions:
“How many weeks will we pursue this?” she asked the room.
“What are your thoughts?”
Pin-Ball spoke first. He was a surprising regular in the group, an old-fashioned drag queen with one fantastic outfit after another. For the Pot Luck, he was dressed as Cher in a Bob Mackie sequined gown. “Forever,” he said. “Until we find him.”
“I think one more month is reasonable,” said tall Richard.
“I disagree,” said Richard two. “Six more weeks,” he said.
Albert, who had joined the dinner, Alyosha’s neighbor and occasional lover, stood up with vehemence. “We can’t give up ever,” he said.
“We can and we will,” said Mrs. Israel. “A month seems reasonable to me. And I would guess that I am the most reasonable person here.”
“All in favor say AYE,” said Charles.
Everyone except Albert said AYE.
“I want the chance for my NAY,” he said.
“OK,” said Mrs. Israel, “but the ayes have it. One month from today,” she said.