The First Shapiro
Ellen Shapiro was 24 years old. There was something about her face that was a little bit pinched, like some invisible force was clenching her cheeks to keep them from spreading apart, only it was pushing too hard. Her nose was similarly squeezed, so hard that it had elongated it ever so slightly. This was a better explanation for it than recourse to some tired rumor about a Jewish nose, Jamie thought.
"Hi, Ellen! It's good to see you again. You look well. Very fit. Escaping Brandeis suits you"
"Yes, Ben's guest room is very nice. Comfortable. He went out of his way for me, fresh sheets and everything. He's a nice guy. The room's really comfortable."
"Yes, the walk over was no problem. Here, I brought a bottle of Cabernet. Baron Herzog. Should be kosher, I think. Check the label? Yes, right here. Kosher for Passover. Mevu... Mevushal. That's okay, right? The man at the wine shop said it would be good."
"Oh, no trouble at all. Really, don't think a thing of it. The shop was on the way. Anyway, my blessed mother would kill me while I slept if she knew I hadn't brought something. She'd take the next Jersey Transit train in, or my name isn't Jamie Wellerstein."
"Fine, I'll sit down. So who else is coming?"
"Nobody, eh? Just you and me? Uh.. That's great!"
The Second Shapiro
Chana Shapiro had dark, curly hair and a seriously lopsided smile that never seemed to be far away. And eyes that had a strange tendency to drift off this planet for a few moments before relocking on something tangible. And long, dangly musician's fingers on thin, veiny hands. And a very nice pair of breasts.
"Good to meet you, Chana. I'm Jamie. I went to school with Michael. He's told me a lot about you."
"Ha! No, nothing bad, I promise. He said you're a great pianist. The next Vladimir Horowitz, perhaps!"
"No, I don't know much about classical music. Just the stuff everybody knows. The Nutcracker, the Moonlight Sonata, the Four Seasons. I guess I'm a bit of a philistine."
"Haha, well, Chana, I promise I'm not Delilah! I certainly won't sneak into your room tonight to cut your hair off..."
"Huh, sorry. That was a pretty weird thing to say."
The Eighth Shapiro
Nina Shapiro is short and a little plump and kind of desperately pretty, with straight black hair that gleams under the light of a halogen lamp on the side of the dining room. Her face is very predictable.
"Oh, what's that? You went to Stern College? How interesting. What did you study?"
"Oh, psychology, right. Of course you studied psychology. So you know what I'm thinking right now, don't you?"
The Twelfth Shapiro
Judy Shapiro looks like she's fourteen years old and away from home for the first time. But she makes it very clear to him that she wants to be married by the end of the summer and if he's not ready to move that fast, he should back off. Jamie spends all of dinner chatting about football with Adam Rosensweig and studiously ignoring her.
The Thirteenth Shapiro
Ilana Shapiro looks more goyish than the previous 12 (and by this point, Jamie is keeping a careful count). She has blonde hair and blue eyes and wears makeup differently. Jamie doesn't know enough about makeup to know what the differences are. Maybe it's more brightly colored eyeshadow?
"Mindy told me you work for Farrar, Strauss? That's cool. I'm a bit of a writer myself. Mostly small literary reviews right now, but I'm working my way up."
"No, I'm not asking for a favor! I'm not, what did you say, cozying up to you to get introduced to an editor! Dear lord, we just met. I was making conversation! I thought it was common ground."
"Look, I'm sorry you get asked all the time. I promise you that wasn't what I meant at all. Can we talk about something else? What are your hobbies?"
The Nineteenth Shapiro (or maybe the Eighteenth)
Sarah Shapiro is his second Sarah Shapiro. Jamie racks his brain, but he can't think of any way to distinguish her from the first. They could be the same person. Maybe he's gone through all of the Shapiros and started repeating.
"So, how's your softball league going?"
"You don't play softball? I could have sworn you played softball. Sarah Shapiro, right?"
"Well, I must have thought you were someone else. I'm sorry. You meet so many people at these dinners. It's crazy. For such a small community, there's so much going on, isn't there?"
The Twenty-Fifth Shapiro
Mary Shapiro (Really? Mary Shapiro? Some parents have a funny sense of humor.) is tall. She's got an inch or two on Jamie, which is pretty appealing. She doesn't smile, but that's okay, she doesn't frown either. Her neutral face is hard to read, but not unattractive.
"It's great to meet you at last. I've heard so much about you."
"Hahaha, all of it good, I trust? Becca and I go way back. Sunday school at the JCC of Spring Valley. Moreh Michal's class."
"Yeah, she's a little more observant now, but I can't bring myself to call her Rivka yet. Your brain gets programmed a certain way and it's hard to change it. If you changed your name to Miriam, I'd probably still call you Mary."
"No, not that I'm saying you should. Just if. Everybody has to pick the name they're comfortable with. I like being called Jamie."
"No, please don't read anything into it. I'm a bit of a fool. What's in a name, quoth the bard. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I guess I'm a bit of a pretentious ass, too. I'm sorry. Boy, you do seem to be bringing out all of my bad traits tonight. Let's pretend I didn't say that."
The Last Shapiro
Jessica Shapiro looks like all the rest.
"That's it! I'm sorry, Joey. I appreciate you inviting me to this dinner, I really do, but I simply cannot tolerate being set up with yet another girl named Shapiro. I quit! Farewell, Washington Heights! There has to be a non-Jew out there for me!"