I live here with my cousin Mikhail/Miguel, heir to the Tel-Aviv Coin-Op laundry fortune (perhaps you’ve heard of him?), a man with the kind of face on him that makes you start sentences “if he weren’t my cousin,” which of course, he is. Truly, if he didn’t wear that garish green and yellow Adidas track suit all the time, you wouldn’t even know he was family.
Mikhail/Miguel is half Mexican and half Russian and 100 percent fantastically good looking. My mother’s oldest brother, my fat uncle, gives him everything—the best MediCal plan, a 300-guest bar mitzvah at the Pico St. Chabad, and most recently, the Landromat, which is the best present that anybody could give anybody in my opinion. That, and a set of genes slightly less suboptimal than mine, which are supremely suboptimal. The only thing I ever got from my fat uncle was a husband.
I woke up in the living room.
“You should pray to the ever living G-d, blessed be he, that American Dream has something to remove that from the velvet, cousin.” Drunk, Mikhail had dragged the Raskolnikov sofa back into the living room—with the intention of sleeping on it, although he has a perfectly good queen of his own. It occurred to me that dragging the sofa had perhaps unsettled him. I lifted my head out of a pool of sweat and drool and pulled the curtain of hair from over my eyes.
“Alexei,” he switched on the lamp over his desk, an accountant’s metal workhorse, 90% of which is covered in the 917’s of senoritas he’s fucked or would like to. Mikhail swallowed with visible effort, reaching to loosen the black silk tie from around his neck. “My brother, Alexei Alexeivich Goldshtyn.” He steadied himself against the arm of the sofa, retched, and lunged suddenly for the wire-mesh wastepaper basket tucked under the desk.
And yet, we endure. Since January, Mikhail/Miguel has taken the struggle block by block: the Tel Aviv Coin-Op laundry on Neptune has expanded its market to bleach-white first communion dresses and our Coney Island Avenue outlet introduced “color-stay Tuesday!” for the sari set; on Ave U, the Goldshytns still keep your blacks black and your linen separate from your wool. Mikhail is even making headway into the towers of fixed income babushkas that line Ocean Parkway. On Mermaid, we gladly accept W.I.C. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
This is phase one of Mikhail’s plan. He is gambling that his will be the attractive young face of gentrification in the coming development. Like all of greater Coney Island, he is gambling on whether it will come at all.
His cherubic, vomit-caked face. Mikhail pulled his head out of the wastebasket. “Kindly go fuck yourself, cousin,” he retched again. “And also please go down to M&I and get me some Manischewitz seltzer. My stomach is bad.”
“Nu, what time is it?” I found my glasses squeezed between the cushions, where the springs meet the backing meet a foot solid of velvet, from which the Almighty himself could not extract my DNA.
A loud smack of flesh on metal echoed through the narrow apartment, raining phone numbers down like dead eucalyptus in summer.
“Coño Ursula, it’s like 12:30.”