Previously: Some people in a building on the Upper West Side (they didn’t know one another well) decided they’d try to find a man who disappeared, a few streets away. His name was Alyosha Zim. It was the ‘80s. People banded together over potluck dinners for any number of reasons. But the idea of finding a disappeared man was something that none of them had ever done before.
The room was silent after Albert made his declaration. Albert, always a fashion plate, even when he went to Big Apple Supermarket to buy whatever yogurt was on sale – he always intended to make his own, even had a Salton Yogurt Maker, he imagined he’d make mango and papaya or cherry blueberry but never did not even once – Albert was always dressed for Big Statements. On the day that he declared he and Alyosha had been occasional lovers, his outfit was yellow-themed. Light yellow, the color of lemons on Mykonos. Yellow sweater, expensive dark pants, light yellow socks and shoes in a yellow leather that seemed to come from another universe.
“I was home the day he moved in,” he said. “It was a few years ago. In October, one of those perfect fall New York days. Very clear.”
The whole room listened. No one moved from their spot in Anibal’s studio. Even Anibal himself, a man who liked to keep his hands busy, fixing things while he talked to you, he stood silent.
“Alyosha had very few belongings,” he said. “A box or too. Even his suitcase was small. I am always suspicious of people who don’t have too many things. How can that be?
“I’ve had trunks and trunks, every since I was a boy. I invited him over for a cold glass of chardonnay. Knocked on his door. I thought, if he came over, he might explain his circumstances. And there was another factor, of course. He was adorable. Maybe a little too thin, but agile and lithe. He was not well-dressed. For some reason I can’t recall the specifics. We sat across from one another on my two facing red velvet couches. I have always had two couches, no matter how small the room. One can’t possibly be enough,” he said.
Albert did not stop his story for questions. He paused, but only for drama.
“So there we were,” he said. “I put salted cashews into my Aunt Claudia’s silver plated nut bowl for him. I placed the nuts between us on my Chinese coffee table. He drank his cold chardonnay. So did I. Our conversation was pleasant enough. Nothing really. Absolutely not memorable. I remember asking him why he moved to New York City from wherever he was born. The answers are always the same. To Do Something, whatever that something might be.
“And then,” he paused, and looked at the room to make sure that every single person was still paying attention, and they were, “and then,” he repeated, “there we were in my bedroom. Neither of us said too much. Ours was not an earth-shattering occasion. I was seeing Joshua Obstbaum at the time. A neighborhood dentist. Not my type at all. Very chubby. But afterwards, when Alyosha left for the evening, when I got dressed to go to dinner myself, I knew there was something mysterious about him, elusive even. I thought one day he’d surprise me. But I had no way of knowing he’d just vanish.”
“Did you see him again?” Eve asked. “And how often?”
“Occasionally,” said Albert. “Although the day before he disappeared, I bumped into him in front of our building. He was going somewhere. Who knows where.”
“Was it love?” asked Pin Ball.
“Of course not,” said Albert. “Only curiosity. And lust.”
Esther Cohen writes a poem a day at esthercohen.com.