"They invited me to have a glass of champagne with them, Sir". I explained to my hotel manager in his office, and I narrated what happened three hours before the accident.
"You know why I booked the 17th floor of this hotel?" Mr Perez asked me. His pure black business suit was as crisp as if he took it directly from the mannequin. Above the white-collar line, his face was cleaned but his cheeks were red and blown by alcohol. I suspected that he started to drink probably from the late afternoon with his friend Mr.Anderson, who dressed with the same elegance, was standing against the wall next to the couch, one hand holding the glass and the other inside of his pocket.
I couldn't tell if they were friends or not, honestly.
I sat on the couch; I took off my rubber gloves and put them on my knees: "Because it's the highest room in this hotel" I had a sip of the champagne they offered me and replied. "Exactly," he confirmed, "I enjoyed very much the view from my windows: all the buildings from the surroundings are just looking like small models of houses." He said while watching the windows, making the cheers gesture towards the air. I nodded, following his sight.
The view was indeed beautiful; I always liked to open the big windows at the center of the living room when I finished cleaning this particular suite. From the windows, the entire city's panorama was underneath my eyes. The night view was even more stunning. The summer breeze on the skin felt so fresh and relaxing. Mr Anderson went to open the windows, then walked back to the couch and sat with Mr Perez. "Don't you feel lonely up here? Just watching people from the windows... sounds lonely". he observed. "Maybe deep down you are afraid to interact with people..." I said, "maybe you need to take distance from everyone to feel safe, Sir... pardon, it's not my business..." I stopped talking after noticing Mr Perez's lips were pressed tightly together while looking down.
"I like to live alone. Neighbour is a bad concept to me. It would be a catastrophe if the person who lives next door doesn't like me." he explained, slightly annoyed.
"Neighbour is not a bad concept." Mr Anderson laughed. "I would say it's more like the person who lives next to your door, you always know he exists, but you don't feel his existence has any impact on your routine; he is like a character who is more relevant than a stranger". He continued. "A character who is more relevant than a stranger, but if one day he leaves, you would feel a certain emptiness that you never asked for." he said, "like you". Mr Anderson smiled at me. "You just met me,
Sir" My cheeks were turning red, so I took a big sip from my glass of champagne and looked away.
"Look, look our neighbors outside" Mr Perez pointed to the two very notable hotels on the other side of the street.
The Hotel Costa Bay on the left and the Hotel Waypoint on the right, they were attached to each other like twins.
"Those hotels remind me of honeycombs, you know? Can you see all the employees working inside those buildings? Running around... They are like bees... we all should be like bees...!" he started to have a drunk voice, "every person has its role, I think people should behave like bees". "Bees?" I was confused. "Yeah, bees...bees!" he explained while gesticulating a lot, "you know bees, they know what their work is about, who their work is for, and they just stick to it, everyone works in their position, people should be like that too!" "I don't think people are bees," I replied, a bit disconcerted. "People should be like bees!" he insisted, "a bee queen would never be less than a bee queen and a servant bee has to know his place and should never have delusional wish to be anything else than a worker! " Mr Perez raised his voice and took another sip directly from the bottle. "Not sure this idea is fatalist or just coward," I replied coldly. Mr Anderson laughed again.
Mr Perez lay back on the couch opening his arms wide, and grabbed the back of the couch with his hands, crossing his legs and shaking his foot instead of answering.
Mr Anderson poured more champagne in my glass, finished his in one sip and opened another bottle. "Let's make a bet!"
I stood up by reflection, "maybe I should go back to work, Sir... you both look a bit drunk; I am not sure this is a good idea...."
"Wait a second," Mr Anderson took a sip from his glass of champagne and put the glass on the coffee table. He unbuttoned his cuffs, rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt, and untied his golden Rolex watch. "You can have this if you win the bet". The Rolex reflected the transparent lights from the chandelier, making it look even shinier than it was supposed to look.
"Another glass of champagne is not that of a big deal." I thought. The Rolex is worth three months of my salary after all.
I tide up my apron and sit down again. "What kind of bet?" I asked.
"Let's bet on the bellboys." Mr Anderson smiled. He smiled like a kid.
"Bellboys? Do you mean the boys who run up and down the Hotel to carry guests' luggage and run errands? Why Bellboys?" Mr Perez asked.
"You Perez, your pawn is the bellboy from Hotel Costa Bay," Mr Anderson said, pointing to the blond bellboy wearing a black blazer with a light green tie.
"And you, mademoiselle", he pointed towards the bellboy on the other side, who had a very clean white shirt and a red bow on his neck, "Your pawn is the bellboy from Hotel Waypoint."
"What are we supposed to bet on?" I asked.
"Very simple, the fist bellboy who makes a mistake with his job loses." He explained.
"What can be considered as a mistake?" Mr Perez kept drinking from the bottle as mineral water.
"Within the frame of an employee that works for a Hotel, whatever that considered morally incorrect or mistakes as bellboy", I felt that Mr Anderson was making up the rules on the spot. "What will happen if my bellboy loses, I have no money to offer to you."
"If you lose, you can walk away without paying us anything."
Mr Perez waved his right hand in the air as a gesture of "Ok for me", and I took a sip from my glass and said: "All right".
Mr Anderson pulled the curtains completely open is as grand as a theatre pulling back the curtain. He grabbed the Rolex and gave us the start.
For the following hour, the two bellboys have no idea that every micro-action their accomplished have been intensely observed and analysed from the windows of the Hotels they work for.
I never stared at someone's window like that, it felt like I was spying on a group of people, but without feeling them, the action in the game itself made me feel strange. It felt like hollowing out their identities as human beings and turning them into abstract and simplistic symbols: pawns, as Mr Anderson would say.
My bellboy looked like he didn't have the age to work there. His shirt was visibly oversized. All his movements were a bit stiff and clumsy, as if he was unfamiliar with the environment. For starters, he was just repeating the gestures from a guide for a well-behaving employee. Instead, the bellboy from Costa Bay seemed to know all the welcoming gestures very well. Every move by him was very decent.
They were both running frequently between the entry of their hotels, the elevator and the various flat within the building, sometimes carrying the luggage and sometimes holding up the ladies on high heels.
I was emptying my third glass of champagne when the Waypoint bellboy took a tray that the barmaid gave him. He walked with five slim goblet mantling with foam on a fancy tray with one hand. Me and Mr Perez had both eyes on him, and I felt much sweat coming out of my palms. He walked to the elevator and pressed the buttons. He tied up the bottom of his shirt with his free hand and waited for the elevator to open.
Mr Perez inclined his body towards the enormous windows. The elevator's door opened, and a man carrying two children walked out from there. I took a sip from my glass. The younger child ran out of the elevator, his hand pushed on my bellboy's leg, making him almost lose his footing. He spun around himself counterclockwise; the goblets on the plate were shaking uncontrollably in his hands. Mr Perez was staring intently at the dancing foam in the glass, wishing for the moment when the alcohol drips would spill onto the tray. Just a single drop would be enough. But that moment didn't happen. The Waypoint bellboy rearranged his grooming, entered the elevator and smiled politely at the man. The man hastily nodded his head in apology. Mr Perez took a big sip from his bottle while I took a deep breath and smiled at the two men in suits I was offering my company to.
On the other side, the Costa Bay bellboy walked confidently and firmly. All his movements were fluent yet elegant as if there was no space for imperfections.
It was less than five minutes after my bellboy delivered his tray to the fourth floor with the success that he almost walked to the woman's bathroom by being too spaced out. When he walked out of the bathrooms a few minutes later, he ran to answer a phone call. Then we saw him carrying a piece of luggage bigger than him, trying to transfer the bags from the carriage to the cart. The luggage was slipping out of his hands, and there were just two millimetres to hit the floor when the greeter ran over and caught the bottom of the precious luggage that almost fell on the ground with his hand.
Meanwhile, the Costa Bay bellboy was chilling in the corridor.
It almost looked like every movement the Waypoint bellboy did was like an untimely bomb that could detonate at any time.
Mr Anderson was quietly drinking, and he seemed to find all this very entertaining.
All my hopes to gain the Rolex watch went down when I saw that my bellboy had an ultimate mission: he had to get out of a locked room without using the keys.
He was escorting his guests out of their room. He went to drink a glass of water while the couple walked out of the room forgot about the bellboy inside the room alone in the dark.
"What is he gonna do?" Mr Perez laughed.
"I don't know, Sir...." I replied.
"He is locally famous for winning all kinds of bets", Mr Anderson informed me as if it was a compliment to his friend.
At that moment, in front of the entry of Costa Bay, a young woman came out from a sportive car, carrying her dog, a tiny poodle. I can tell he was just a puppy. The bellboy from Costa Bay welcomed the woman and took her dog leash. After giving him some indications, the woman went to the bar alone.
My bellboy opened the windows; he was looking outside as if he imagined jumping from one windowsill to the one next to the room. "What the hell he thinks he is doing?" I was so angry! Mr Perez made another gesture of cheering in the air.
Meanwhile, the bellboy from Costa Bay walked with the dog in front of the elevator. He kindly waved to a waitress and pushed the button.
The Waypoint bellboy looked just so anxious and lost. He started to walk back and forward inside the room. The couple that left seemed to recall something; they turned around and took the stairs back to the third floor. We saw the Waypoint bellboy biting his nails, he went to the windows again, but the moment he raised his legs to get on the windowsill, the lights of the room turned on, the couple went back to free him from the room! "I can not believe it!" Mr Perez exclaimed out loud. I laughed. I thought I was having fun. The bellboy walked out of the room with the couple. He tied up his shirt and red bow once again, and with his head up. He walked towards the corridor.
In the interval, inside the other building, almost 15 people came to line up behind the bellboy to take the elevator. The Costa Bay bellboy hesitated a minute then finally decided to take the stairs instead. He probably didn't want that people step on the little dog in the elevator. He tried to walk the dog towards the stairs, but the dog got scared from the number of people there. He started to yelp and panic instead of moving. The bellboy increased the strength of the hand holding the leash, pulling it towards him. The little puppy posed greater resistance than before, and the bellboy started to drag him towards the stairs. The dog jumped forward some steps, and the bellboy increased once more the force, and then we saw the dog. Instead of walking with the bellboy, he started to pee on the red carpet of the Hotel. The bellboy slipped on it and fell on the floor.
Mr Perez's face was turning purple.
I burst out laughing, and Mr Anderson was laughing too. The sound of both of our laughter echoed throughout the hotel room.
"You lost!" I stood up from the couch and took his Rolex from the coffee table.
Suddenly, Mr Perez stood up too. He took the gun from his pocket and shot at the window towards my bellboy. I screamed from the shock. The silence after the shot felt like a scene in slow motion. Me and Mr Anderson were both frozen in our position while Mr Perez was breathing heavily, with the gun shaking in his hand. He was drunk and angry. I realised that a window was broken into pieces on the other side of the street. I ran to the windows to see if my bellboy was hurt. And he was.
I saw the bellboy on the ground, with his hands on his left ear which was bleeding and the blood-smeared from his shoulders, staining a large white shirt red. I suddenly felt heartbroken: he was not a pawn, he was just a young boy working in a Hotel! Everything was as silly as it went. I saw panic and confusion happening on the third floor of Waypoint. A couple of waitresses, confused and terrified, were covering their mouths with their hands, and the Hotel's security was talking to the bellboy, trying to understand what had happened. Then someone pointed towards our window, and everyone from the room was looking up and noticed that we were looking at them from our wide opened windows.
"That is how it went, Sir...." I finished to narrate and looked at my Hotel manager, who was listening to my story while looking at me incredulously. After a long moment of silence, he told me that Mr Perez and Mr Anderson were currently under arrest for being suspects of premeditated homicide. The gun had been confiscated. The bellboy from the Hotel Waypoint had a superficial injury on his left ear's external helix.
Looking exhausted, he made a sign with his hand without looking at me and asked me to go home.
I took the last bus home and went straight to bed.
The thought that a bellboy got shot in the ear because the dog that his neighbor bellboy was carrying slipped on the stairs kept me awake that night. The gunshot kept reverberating inside of my head until dawn.
When I finally fell asleep, I had a nightmare:
I saw a shark's fin moving upon the water in a public swimming pool, coming towards me, and I remained vigilant. Still, people in the pool didn't seem to see it coming, I understood that I was the only person who noticed the shark, and the shark had only one target: me.
The predator attacked. I remembered seeing its silver body and pointed teeth. Its firm eyes said it was ready to kill and eat its prey. I took the stairs up to the diving platform and realized that sharks are attracted only to bleeding creatures. I looked down, and I saw my hands were full of blood. The blood dripped on my bare feet and slid to the ground. It slowly melts with the puddle of the swimming pool.
The danger was getting unfocused at that point, the blood was silently shining on my palms, under the artificial lights of the public swimming pool, and I was trying to understand if I had an injury or I was carrying someone else's blood.