The Hotel definitely had history, but the girl who worked the front desk neither cared nor thought much about it. She could only think about two things on any given night – whether she could sneak a drink from the bar and how much longer her shift was going to last. Tourists would ask about the ghost, or the fire at the turn of the last century, or the glass etchings, or their room’s wallpaper, and she didn’t want to think about it. If she learned the answer, it would stay forever, and she needed her head space to think.
On the second floor, the man slowly packed his things into his suitcase and then sat on the edge of the bed. His suit, pressed perfectly yesterday, which felt so right just that morning, had relaxed its fit and wrinkled on cab rides and train trips around the city. He licked his thumb and rubbed it against a chocolate stain. The sundae from Ghiradelli Chocolate’s cafe was to blame, the suggestion of ice cream a last ditch effort to romance the client. The stain remained. A drink from the minibar couldn’t make him more destitute, he decided. Poor is poor.
Two empty rooms on the third floor had open doors. One room held the cleaning lady, who tried to be invisible and succeeded about 95 percent of the time, the other room held the forgotten things of a couple who were in too much of a hurry to remember everything. This happened all the time. The cleaning lady would find two wallets full of crisp fifty dollars bills, lots of different IDs, a bevy of credit cards, and a small bag of marijuana. She would gasp, sit down, and think about what to do for a very, very long time.
On the fourth floor, a woman felt more shakily alive than she’d ever felt in her life, more than the night of her prom when she realized her date had snuck in alcohol, more than the night of her wedding when she realized she would have to fulfill her “marital duty” as her mother called it. She waited for the door to be knocked so that she could say, sweetly, “Come in,” and the man would find her on the bed. She had 450 dollars in twenties and one fifty rubber-banded neatly on the night stand, next to a condom.
Two men who occupied rooms at opposite ends of the hall on the third floor stood on top of the Hotel and shared a joint they had purchased from the young couple that hurriedly checked out that morning. The men didn’t know each other, but they had both been asked if they liked to “relax” in the hotel bar by the messy-haired young girl. “When was the last time you did this?” one man said to the other. “I can’t even remember,” the other man answered, smiling. They coughed in unison and laughed. They didn’t say anthing after that.
The girl at the front desk got a call from a credit card fraud company about the room on the second floor. She deferred the call to the morning, when her stupid boss would be there. He could deal with that problem. Bernard made her a drink that was mostly alcohol, and she drank it swiftly, ready to be numb and sort of crazy when she finished. She could meet up with people after work, talk about real plans for their real futures, away from all the people who might ask her how to get to the Golden Gate Bridge.
The man felt considerably better after four or five little bottles from the bar, and he laid on the bed wondering what was next for him. He could get another loan, but for what? He could go back to managing fast food joints, but the thought alone made him go back to the minibar, maybe even kill himself. He didn’t want to kill himself. He wanted to be rich. He wanted to afford the minibar in this hotel room without thinking about the price of the bottles. He poured himself another little bottle, watched the drips make ripples, then disappear.
The cleaning woman decided to keep a quarter of the money, leave the drugs and the IDs, and destroy the credit cards herself, although she didn’t know how. She didn’t want to be caught with scissors in the room, and she didn’t want to take them home, so she decided to wait until the front desk girl left her desk to get another free drink – then, she could use the document shredder. In the meantime, she counted the money in the wallets, cleaned the room, and wondered how bad it would be to just keep it all.
The woman said her line and watched the man – no – boy, walk into the room. Too thin, too young, voice too highly pitched. She judged him to be about the same age as her son, and with that thought, covered up. “How old are you?” she asked the boy. He didn’t answer. She handed over the money and found another fifty in her purse, and asked the boy again. “I’m 20,” he answered. “Can I have a drink?” He went and helped himself from the bar, and the woman felt all of her shaky nervousness dissolve into worry.
The one man felt too weird on top of the roof, so he took his leave and went to his room, which felt too claustrophobic. He went outside, where a boy was smoking a cigarette, watched by an older woman. He didn’t know what to do about his hands. The other man wandered into the lobby and watched the front desk girl laugh with two boys. The hotel felt dirty, even though it was fairly clean. He looked up at the name of the hotel, etched in glass, and he wondered, briefly, whose job it was to clean that window.