Previously: It was once the 1980s in New York City. Life was crazier. A man disappeared and a group of people in a nearby building decided they’d try to find him. Roommates held a few potlucks to recruit a posse. A group quickly formed. Maybe they’d find him maybe they wouldn’t. Sitting around was a central activity for Naomi, Emily, and Charles. They talked and talked. Although he was agoraphobic, Charles was a particularly able talker. Naomi and Eve did OK themselves.
“Did I ever tell you about my Aunt Pearl’s love affair with Jose Feliciano,” he’d begin.
There they were, sitting around their living room, just sitting. Many days felt like Saturdays. Because of the piecemeal ways they earned their living, because they were young with responsibilities only for themselves, because the life they each envisioned, separately and together, was one they didn’t yet know. All they knew for sure is that it would not be ordinary, would not be predictable, would not even be familiar. That is, they would not live their parents’ lives. They changed the room often, as though it were a stage set, moving velvet Goodwill couch, deep purple, to all four walls, to the room’s center, in a corner, askew. What they wanted, each of them, was not to be fixed.
Eve, dressed in turquoise for the day, Howard Johnson turquoise, positioned herself on the floor, cross-legged. She hoped she looked enlightened. “We are spinning our wheels,” she said. “Of course I want to hear the story, but we don’t have forever. Let’s talk about Alyosha first. Time is running out. At this point, what do you both think we should do? We have help, of course. But the direction, I think, is up to us. How will we ever find him? This is a big city. Finding someone isn’t easy.”
Naomi, a painter in her bones, the sort of person who understood life by the many ways life looked, more with colors than with a vision quest, Naomi, all in yellow, paused a minute or two. She knew that Charles and Eve both waited for her answer. And then, she closed her eyes. She kept them closed for two whole minutes. “I saw his shape, his essence,” she said. “Albert was right with his divining fork. He is absolutely in range. Nearby even. He’s within our reach,” she said. She spoke with uncharacteristic certainty, as though there should be no possible doubt. “I know it for sure,” she said. “Even though I have never seen Alyosha Zim,” she said, “which occurs to me just now that we don’t have his picture. Why didn’t we ask? We need his picture to actually find him. I’ll bet Albert has one, and if he doesn’t, he can tell us what he looked like. Albert and Anibal have both seen him more than once. What a funny thing we have all overlooked,” she said.
“All we know is that he’s young and thin,” said Charles.
“And handsome,” Eve added.
“So the next step is his picture,” Naomi declared. “Or a reasonable physical description. Thin and handsome isn’t enough to go on. Now tell us about Aunt Pearl and
Jose Feliciano,” she added.
Charles smiled at them both, eager to begin.
Esther Cohen posts a poem a day at esthercohen.com.