...the door opened and the most improbable trio walked in: a tiny dark-haired man, a very tall and big-nosed guy with long hair like a rock star, and a girl in a white nightgown with a toilet seat around her neck. They were Edmondo Zanolini, Michael Laub, and a fifteen-year-old girl named Brigitte—an Italian, a Belgian, and a Swede— and they were the performance-art trio who called themselves Maniac Productions.
They gave themselves this name because, among other things, they would enlist people from their own families to do strange things. For instance, Edmondo’s grandfather was a pyromaniac. And since he was also a bit senile, he was very dangerous—he had set his house on fire a number of times. His family was very careful to keep matches out of his reach at all times, except when Maniac Productions was performing. Then Edmondo would invite his grandfather to the theater and give him a big box of matches; the grandfather would wander around the theater lighting fires while the group performed and pretended not to notice him. This was his maniac thing. It was very original theater, and very satisfying to Edmondo’s grandfather. He didn’t care if the audience was looking at him or not, because he had his box of matches.
Edmondo and Brigitte moved into our flat. Michael came from a family of diamond merchants in Brussels and stayed in five-star hotels.
Another tenant was Piotr from Poland. Piotr had a book of logic—I think it was Wittgenstein translated into Polish—and for reasons best known to himself, he kept it in the freezer. This book was his favorite thing in the world. And every morning he would wake up with this imbecilic smile on his face, take his book out of the freezer, wait patiently until the page he wanted to read unfroze, read to us from it in Polish, then turn the page and put the book back in the freezer for the next day.
Brigitte’s father had started the pornography industry in Sweden—a very big deal; the porn revolution really began there—and she hated her father; she hated everybody. She was a deeply depressed person: she literally never spoke a word. All of us in the flat ate all our meals together, and she would just sit there, completely silent. Then in the middle of the night one night, Edmondo knocked on our door. I opened it and said, “What’s wrong?” “She talks, she talks!” he said. “What did she say?” I asked.
“She said, ‘Boo,’ ” he said.
“That’s not much,” I said.
The next morning, she packed and left.
(...) “I’m so happy,” Michael told us one day, about his pair of girlfriends. “The two of them complement each other perfectly.” Marinka and Ulla knew (and liked) each other, and knew (but didn’t like) the arrangement. Then Ulla got pregnant—not only pregnant, but pregnant with twins. When Michael told Marinka about it, she moved to Australia. And Piotr followed her there, and committed suicide on her birthday.