Fiction by Manuel Chavarria
It was the eyes—always, her eyes. She’d tried every tip she’d ever read, but it was her eyes that gave her away, every time. She felt ugly.
Her name was Bianca, but today it was Laura… or Linda, she wasn’t sure what the ad said this time, just that it was there, and that she was anchored to her hotel room because of it. She’d passed a little park with a rather lovely water fountain—a sort of faux-Rodin piece, an Eternal Idol riff—on her way to the hotel, but she wouldn’t have time to visit it—to sit on it, or to dip her feet in the water.
She looked at the bottoms of her feet now: filthy and crusty. She always forgot her feet. So many guys were into that, these days. Once, while she was going down on a guy, his groaning gave way to silence, and she could feel his attention drift. She glanced up at him; he was staring at her soles, and he didn’t look happy. When she’d started, she just worried about keeping her stomach and ass in shape. Now she had to concern herself with her fucking toes.
Maybe this guy wasn’t interested in that. He hadn’t said. Usually, they say.
She adjusted her eyeliner and breathed. Staci had introduced her to breathing exercises, and she did them before every appointment now. She hoped they would steady her, and take the edge off her contempt. Who was she to judge, anyway? She wasn’t better than these guys. She closed her eyes, and she drifted away on the rhythm of her body.
The knock startled her. It shouldn’t have; she knew it was coming. She had sent him the room number not fifteen minutes before. But it did. It seemed like he was taking a long time. She looked herself over one more time, and then she answered the door.
It was housekeeping.
The cleaning woman looked at her with wide eyes and a blank smile. She seemed confused. Bianca was definitely confused, until she looked at the doorknob. She’d forgotten to put up the “do not disturb” sign.
Bianca said, “No, no cleaning now. Please. Come back later.” The woman didn’t move. Bianca looked past her, to the elevators. “Please,” she said again.
“Ah,” the woman said, and her smile warmed. “Ah, okay, okay. Okay.” She turned and looked at the elevators, too. “Okay.” She backed up and wheeled her cart away.
Bianca watched the woman leave, waiting for a judgmental look back that never came. The woman simply knocked on the next door, further down the hall, then went inside when she got no response.
Bianca put up the sign and turned back into her room. She looked at the clock by the bed. Now he was definitely late. She texted him: “are u close??” She set her phone down on the night table and looked at the pack of cigarettes next to it. She’d forgotten those, too. She started to slip them into the drawer, but stopped. She took one out of the pack and smelled it.
“I shouldn’t,” she thought. “I shouldn’t.” She bit her lip. She checked her phone again, even though it had been in her sight line while she considered the cigarette. Phones were weird sometimes. But there was no return message. “I shouldn’t,” she said.
She slipped the filter into her mouth and lit the cigarette. She dragged it deep and closed her eyes.
There was a knock at the door.
“Fuck!” she said. “Fuck. Of course. Fuck.”
She tried to wave the smoke away, and she stubbed out the cigarette in the sink. A lot of guys didn’t like the smell of cigarettes. Once, one had smelled cigarettes on her and sneered. “You didn’t mention you smoked,” he said. “You should fucking mention that. I hate that smell.” He left without another word, and Bianca could barely cover the cost of the room the next day.
“Stupid,” she thought, and she opened the door.
It was housekeeping.
She looked at the knob. The sign was gone. She looked at the cleaning woman, who smiled the same blank smile as the previous woman, then down at the floor. The sign had fallen, face down.
“Jesus,” Bianca said. “Jesus. How did that even happened?”
The woman lifted the sign and handed it to Bianca. “You want me to clean?” she said. Bianca shook her head. “No, no.” She looked at the clock again. Where was this fucker? “No, that’s okay. Later.”
“Okay,” the woman said, and wheeled away.
Bianca hung the sign on the door again, and closed it. She started for the bathroom to get her cigarette, but stopped and went back to the door. She opened it. The sign lay on the floor, face down. Bianca sighed and lifted it. The hanger was cracked, and it waved at her as she held it up to her face. “Damn,” she said. “Fuck.”
The cleaning woman was still in the hallway. “Excuse me!” Bianca shouted. “Excuse me!” She ran to the woman, holding the sign. “Hey. Do you have another one of these?”
The woman took it from her and shook it so that it waved at her, too. She looked at her cart, then at Bianca. “No, sorry, no,” she said. She handed the broken sign back to Bianca. “Sorry, no.”
“Okay. Okay, okay,” Bianca said.
When she got back to her room, Bianca checked her phone. Nothing. She had one last message for him. “Fuck u buddy,” she texted. She decided to go see that fountain after all. She grabbed the remainder of her cigarette from the sink, grabbed the pack from the drawer, and left the room. As she walked toward the elevators, she told the cleaning woman to go ahead and do her room. The woman smiled wide and said, “Thank you! Thank you, I be quick.” Bianca smiled back at her.
It was hot outside; Bianca could feel it by the open lobby doors. The day smelled of heat. She thought about going back to her room for shorts, but instead she just bent over and rolled up her jeans.
When she stepped outside, she saw paramedics and cops in front of the hotel. Fire trucks blocked off a section of road. There were a number of bystanders, too, hands over their mouths, some with tears in their eyes. They were all staring at some broken mush that looked like it had been part of a person. The middle of the road was stained with blood, and streaks ran halfway through the next block.
Bianca approached one of the more composed witnesses. “What happened?” she asked.
The man didn’t look at her. “Dude got flattened,” he said. “Crossing the road. Just absolutely wrecked by a truck.” The man pointed up the street. “That truck.” Bianca followed his finger, and saw a large semi pulled over at the side of the road. The driver was sitting on the curb, and a police officer laid her hand on his shoulder.
“Jesus,” Bianca said. “Jesus.”
“Yeah,” the man said, “I saw the whole thing. Guy just ran into the road.”
“Suicide?” asked Bianca.
“Nah. I don’t think so. Seemed like he just didn’t want to wait for the crosswalk. Seemed like he was in a hurry.”
“Oh. Oh. Wow. I guess it pays to be patient sometimes.”
“Yeah,” said the man. “Yeah, I guess so.”
Bianca watched the scene for a little while longer. Some of the paramedics were trying to figure out how to get the body off the street. Some were examining the truck, trying to find the rest. Bianca turned away, finally, and as she did, she noticed a young woman with her phone out, getting video of the scene. The woman saw Bianca watching her, and her eyes sank and she lowered her phone. “I know it’s bad,” she said. “But I just like fire trucks.” Bianca, flummoxed, walked to the park.
She sat on the edge of the fountain, and slipped off her sandals. She spread her toes in the sun, then turned and slipped her feet into the cool water. The sculpture really was beautiful. Not Rodin, exactly, but good. She smiled, and she pulled out her phone to check the time. There was a text message.
“hi linda this is david,” it read. “saw your ad and couldnt resist, ur so pretty. can u meet today? do u do foot fetish?”