Javi worked at The Orchid Beach Resort in the laundry room. He spent eight hours in a mint-green tiled covered room. The air stung with the chemical cleaning supplies. There he washed, dried, and folded towels. The towels went in into piles; beach, bathroom, and others. The towels constantly entered and exited the room.  Their high volume kept Javi’s morning busy. He took lunch at 12:00. He left the room and stood in the shadow of the alley. The opposing building housed a break room. Toned lifeguards ate fast food and talked. Javi heard them through the thin cinderblock walls. He overturned a milk crate and smoked a cigarette. Lunch hour alternated between slow drags and bites of an orange. He added to the pile of ashes and orange peels next to the milk crate.  At 1:00 he went back in.

The mint-green tiled room had a small window high on the wall, used for ventilation. It aligned with the local airport’s flight path. Throughout the day small propeller planes framed themselves in the window. Javi heard the planes. As they entered the window’s space, he closed his eyes and counted. He opened his eyes at the last moment.  Plane’s tail disappeared.

Javi worked amongst the noise of the building. The machines whirred and dinged in intervals. The lights hummed. The ocean broke in the distance. He could not see it but heard it.

He worked in a trance. No thought crossed his mind. Javi wondered if he existed during his eight hour shifts. Co-workers never saw him enter the room or leave.  If he slipped, smacked his head on the folding table, and bled out on the mint-green tiles. Would anyone notice? For how long? 2 days? 3 days? His supervisor, an old tug boat captain with large scabbed knuckles, trusted Javi. Never felt the need to check up on him. Would the resort use the same bleach to clean his blood? These were thoughts for afterhours in his bed. He folded more towels. Salsa music drifted in from the kitchen three buildings away.

A shadow passed the open doorway. It caught Javi’s attention. He stared at the doorway and waited. The shadow hung slightly outside his vision. Gravel under expensive sandals echoed in the small alleyway. He followed the noise to the dead end. Then followed it back to the door. Javi looked down as the noise crossed the door. It stopped.

“Do you know where Steve is?”

“No”

“You know, Steve with the hair that goes like this”

Javi looked up to see the description. He watched the very tan skinny girl twist her wrist to approximate Steve. Her arm, full of bangles, clanked along like orchestral accompaniment. She waited for an answer with her shoulder against the doorjamb. Javi saw himself fold towels in her large sunglasses. The dryer buzzed.

“So no?”

“So no”

She sighed. Javi placed a red towel with the resort’s monogram into a pile of identical towels. She crossed one leg over the other. Legs; shapeless, thin, and featureless, like a doll’s. Hip bones bulged under her bikini bottoms. Her body revolted against its weight. She lingered. Javi wanted it to end. It didn’t. Her presence absorbed the room. Machine grew quiet. Lights silenced. The mint-green tile room feared this girl. It prepared itself.

“Do you smoke?”

“No”

“Then what’s this?”

She picked up Javi’s cigarettes, with the lighter shoved under the cellophane wrapper. The skinny girl motioned the pack towards herself. Javi shrugged. Red towel into red pile. She exhaled a stream of smoke into the laundry room. She winced at Javi’s cheap brand.

“Outside”

The skinny girl backed into the alley. The mint-green tiled room exhaled. The evil spirit exorcized. Javi hoped she would leave. She didn’t. With all her weight on one leg, she smoked outside the doorway. The motions so exact it appeared if she lived in a recorded loop. Blonde Hair tasseled. Blonde Hair fixed. Inhaled smoke. Rubbed nose. Cigarette hand to thigh. Exhaled smoke. Repeat. Her presence applied comfortable pressure on Javi’s ears.

“You don’t want to talk to me?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“I work”

“It’s not hard work”

“Still work”

“Can I talk to you?”

“Why?”

“Maybe because I’m tired of my family? Maybe because I just like to talk to staff? Maybe because you don’t want me here? Maybe because I know you want to? Does it matter?”

“I guess no”

Javi continued his loop. She continued her’s.

“Say something”

“Why you want Bat-man?”

“Steve?”

“Everyone calls him Bat-man”

“He was supposed to help me with something. Why do you call him Bat-man?”

“Cause he’s Bat-man”

“That’s dumb”

“He’s called what he’s called”

“What do they call you?”

“Mr. Clean”

“Why?”

Javi gestured to the mint-green tiled room. She grinded the cigarette butt into the gravel.

“Bat-man is bad man”

“I know. I’m not scared”

“Should be”

The skinny girl smiled at Javi. Her teeth grown too large white and square in her small mouth. It was the same teeth most of the resort’s visitors have, uncomfortably clean.

“I have an idea. For us”

“No”

“You don’t even know what it is”

“Still no. There is no us”

The skinny girl whirled the air with her hand and with that Javi’s resistance seeped through the crack of the mint-green tiled room. His stomached ached. The orange rampaged against his organs. It wanted out. She moved closer. The barrier of towels overtook easily.

“Maybe I wouldn’t need Bat-Man. Maybe you could help me”

“I don’t do what Bat-man do”

“You don’t like money”

“No. Just no”

“Don’t lie”

“I have to go”

Javi shoved towels under his armpit. He left. Outside the air tasted clean. He entered the cold air conditioned break room. It was empty. His sweat paused on his skin. A TV played. The plastic furniture and vending machines watched the violence on screen unaffected. The news program showed bodies lined up alongside a dirt road. Boys looked into the TV camera with machine guns perched on their hips. The simple nondescript road looked familiar to Javi. Something from a family road trip years ago. A blonde newscaster with teeth like the skinny girl appeared. He turned off the TV.

The mint-green tiled room smiled upon Javi’s return. He finished his work. Beach towels with beach towels. Bathroom towels with bathroom towels. Others with others. The afternoon sluggish came. Javi smoked another cigarette in the alley. In the cigarette pack, forced between the cellophane and his lighter, was an old grocery receipt. He unfolded it and read.

“Room 313 at 7:30”

Javi folded the last towels. The soft towers scattered around the room swayed lightly with the night breeze off the water. He turned off the machines. Then turned off the lights. The mint-green tiled room yawned.

Javi walked through the resort’s lobby to the elevator bank. His thin t-shirt clung to his body. He nodded at his co-workers. They nodded back with disapproval. They liked him but he was Mr. Clean. Rose, who worked the front desk, clicked her tongue at Javi. She never went to the laundry room. Why would he come here? It confused her. When outside staff, like Bat-man and Javi entered the hotel proper no good followed. Rose and the others knew that.

Javi sat down in large leather recliners in the lobby. A bowl of complimentary disinfecting towelettes lived on the side table. He washed his face and forearms. Brown splotches covered the towellette. He stared at it. It was the same color of his skin. With a quick rabbit like motion, he crumbled it up and threw it in the trash.

He took the elevator to the third floor and followed the floral carpet to room 313. Large gold-framed pictures of beaches aligned the wall. Women with baskets of fruit on their heads strolled the fake beaches. Perfect beaches populated by perfect calm natives. These beaches only existed in the resorts and no natives were invited. He reached the room. Behind the door, Javi heard the sounds of an action movie. Gun shots mixed with screeching tires shook the door. He knocked. Someone inside muted the television. The skinny girl opened the door. She wore a black dress with large plastic heels. She smiled. Javi didn’t.

“Come in”

Javi entered. The room had two full sized beds. On each bed sat two girls. The beds appeared large under their small frames. Toned legs outstretched in front of them like children. They looked like the skinny girl. Their essences varied to the bare minimum. Different haircuts and colors were used to facilitate separation but their general bored attitude ruined their efforts. They stared at Javi with heavy eyelids. One of them cleared her throat. The room turned to her. She rubbed her earlobe and kept silent.

“Take off your shirt”

Javi did.

“Now do it”

Javi stood still. His brown skin contrasted harshly with the room’s décor. The skinny girls wanted exotic sexuality. Javi’s ropey muscles and little boy stomach disappointed them. The heavy comforters with the gold sticking shrank from Javi. His poor repulsed it. The large flat-screen television perched upon a polished dresser giggled at him. Unlike the mint-green tiled room this one attempted to expel Javi.  The air conditioner started. They shivered in unison.  He bent down to pick up his dirty shirt. In one motion it was back on. The girls continued to stare. No one spoke. Javi lifted his hand in an attempted wave and left.

Javi stood in the parking lot with his bike. A sea plane flew overhead in the cloudless night sky. Its lights blinked rhythmically like false stars. Javi waved at the plan. Inside he imagined the pilot, dark skinned like him. The pilot saluted him. Strong muscular hands that worked the plane have complicated gadgets. He watched it fly away. The lights grew smaller. It disappeared. The plane looked tinier without the border of the ventilation window and the sky looked bigger. Javi went home. He never came back to The Orchid Beach Hotel.

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Julien Llerena

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