All Guests Must Be Announced – Ch. 3

534 East 57th street, was a cooperative building, you didn’t own the apartment, but instead you were a shareholder in a corporation. A lovely prewar building designed by famed architect Emery Roth. 21 stories, 60 units, 2 elevators and a full-time doorman. Dogs and cats are allowed. Some ghosts. One stowaway. A modest amount of scandal. Blind eyes aplenty, and often turned away to ignore many of life’s indiscretions. 

It was a busy morning, one I might never forget, but mornings in my industry tended to be bustling. The pattern of movement followed the nine to five work schedule, lots of foot traffic in the two hours before and after those time slots. It was a friday, but that meant nothing to me, as all the days just seem to mesh together, it winds up being one long endless day, or a sad bout of deja vu. 

Unhurriedly rain fell, lazy little droplets of water on the glass separating me from the courtyard, sluggishly bumping into each other, absorbing into one another, like lovers than splitting apart like atoms in a centrifuge. It had been a mild november. Thanksgiving will be here before you know it. It brought to mind the Leak Bros song Follow The Liters.

And I don’t hate you, I hate me for livin’

Tell the motherfucking worms it’s Thanksgivin’

I don’t have much to be thankful for, but I was grateful for what little I did have. I appreciated Murphy and Gerry and all my friends who I didn’t want to see. Who else would I be thankful for? Not my parents. Absolutely not the slightest thankful for them. You can’t choose your parents or your own abortion, and yet here I was. 

It’s an experiment in subsistence and I was the subject. I had a cot. Some books. Some tunes. A drawing pad. A toothbrush. All the clothes I could fit into a black Jansport book bag. I survived. I won’t be upset with you if you have better things than I do or more things to be thankful for. Odds are the things you have and cherish I would find no value in. I appreciated humility. On the other hand I would also daydream about cutting open your belly and spilling your intestines if you were impolite, boastful, and egotistical. No level of education, nor bank account balance should be a factor when it came to manners. You could say it was a pet peeve. 

One that triggered homicidal thoughts.  

That somber morning had more of a Samhain feel to it. The truth was I preferred Halloween. Dead souls rising up from the earth like the steam from my cup of coffee. Coffee complimentary of the stunningly beautiful Agnes Brunswick. The cup she gave to me had a log cabin on it, and it said, home is wherever you are. I’d argue that sentiment with anyone else. In a parallel universe Agnes and I would be a perfect match. 

The coffee was strong, bitter, even with a splash of milk. Agnes knew how I took my coffee and I relished the little hint of intimacy it whispered about us. A little milk with no sugar. Nothing fancy. I disdained fancy. The color was a darker shade of nougat, one that matched her skin, with oily swirls at the surface. I thought of the Exxon-Valdez spill and I pictured all those poor animals caught in the crude muck, left to perish in the Prince William sound. What is your existence value? Mine was low. We all hit Bligh Reef at some point. I, too, was a disaster. 

Mauricio, my coworker, was miffed that Agnes would bring me coffee or food and not him. She never brought him anything because more often then not he acted like a cunt. It was obvious to many in the building that there was some connection, something there between the two of us but it was forbidden. No fraternizing with the help. Agnes and I got on well, indeed. Mauricio and myself, well, not so much. I did not care for the man. I especially disliked how he’d check out her ass, then give a slight head tilt, and a low whistle whenever Agnes walked by him.

If I’m being completely honest I had thought of c-sectioning his face from time to time. 

Mauricio Soto, doorman extraordinaire, was seated on the bench on the right of the front door. He was the doorman, and at that moment I was the elevator operator. My sole purpose for the duration of this shift was to accompany the tenant to and from their floor. I pushed the buttons so the shareholders wouldn’t have to. Mauricio and I got paid a fair wage to do this job, honest work, but we weren’t necessarily compensated for the brandishing of inflated egos or occasionally becoming the verbal punching bag of some rich asshole. It’s more natural for me to focus on the negative encounters I had with pompous occupants, but don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad. There were plenty of cool, kind, down to earth shareholders, but the good ones and my interactions with them didn’t enter my racing mind during those endless nights where everything in the world is wrong.

Mauricio might have been one of the biggest cunts in the building. That was saying a lot for a man who didn’t actually reside there. I knew little of this man, but I never cared to learn more about him.  He was originally from Puerto Rico. He appeared to be a married man, albeit unfaithful, and had at least one child that I had overheard him mention in the form of a complaint. He had a long standing feud with the porter Nelson Burgos, who was recently forced into retirement, which Mauricio took as a personal victory. Their quarrel was over who started working at the building first. Seniority was everything to these two, fighting over who takes vacation first every year. They had not spoken to each other outside of anything work related in 30 years. No hello, no goodbye, only silent treatment, only passive aggression. The superintendent Murphy would tell Mauricio that he was there longer and then say the same thing to Nelson. When I asked him about the truth, Murphy said to me that he’d never tell. 

Mauricio and Nelson both felt as if they were shareholders and not the help. They felt ingrained into the foundation of the building. The only difference between these two idiots was that Nelson was sloppy and deathly afraid of the shareholders, whereas Mauricio was well kept and behaved unpleasantly to the people he serviced.  

Mauricio came to work, and put his uniform on with the pride of a drill instructor, or an admiral. I did not feel the way he did when I had that uniform on, but I really tried to not pass judgment. If it made him feel empowered, good for him, I felt the opposite no matter what I wore. I never felt good about myself. His clothes were always neatly pressed, the cleaners up the street handled that responsibility. The building had an account. Mauricio carefully watched himself get dressed in the 5” by 5” mirror glued to the inside of his locker door. It was a ritual for him. The knot of his tie tied impeccably. His shoes were perfectly polished. He carefully buttoned the jacket, then placed the hat on his bald head. The last step in the routine were the white gloves. The cherry on top. I’d swear that he saluted himself in the mirror before he reported upstairs to the lobby where he pouted for 8 hours. He thought he was in the honor guard performing some funerary ceremony. He looked like some kind of winged animal that Darwin studied in the Galapagos. For the record, he was the only doorman who adorned the hat and gloves. 534 was not a white glove building to the chagrin of certain shareholders.

He wouldn’t help or speak to anyone he disliked, so basically everyone was on their own. He wouldn’t physically open the door for you if he detested you. If you walked up to the front door, his frown would deepen and he’d move slowly to buzz you in. It didn’t matter if you were a tenant, a maid, nanny, tutor, staff, postal worker, UPS, Fedex, delivery guy or maintenance worker. It boggled my mind that he had remained employed, and for so long, and a handful of tenants would even go to bat for him. I don’t understand people. 

  My first day working with Mauricio, a lovely woman stood at the door, waiting to be let in. A maid that over time I had grown quite fond of. She worked hard to feed her family. At that initial moment I was unaware of which tenant she was employed by. What difference did it make? It was unpleasant for the both of us. Mauricio and I were paid to help and I would have helped this woman regardless. She perspired, standing there with heavy plastic bags of groceries, the handles stretching, about to rip. Mauricio pretended he didn’t notice her or the fact she was struggling. This was his game. 

A power trip amongst a series of power trips. A pathetic way to wield some control over someone else, to exert dominance. The buzzer was in his hand. He stood on the left of the door, his back against a black lacquer table, looking at her but right through her as if she didn’t exist at all. A spiteful trance of sorts. I got off my stool, walked across the glossy marble floor and opened the door for her. I took the bags from her and escorted her to the elevator. I asked her what floor and the elevator door closed. 

“Thank you,” she said, in a beautiful Jamaican accent. I was fond of accents. “I’m Joyce. 

Don’t ever grow up to be like that bad man.”

I told her my name, Rainer Manning and that I would try my best. I couldn’t make any promises. 

When I returned to the lobby it was obvious Mauricio was angry with me that I had interfered and helped her. He was slamming things around the lobby, having a proper little temper tantrum. I was caught off guard by his behavior. I wanted to laugh at him. The anxiety did that to me. He looked funny to me but it was my first day and I wasn’t trying to ruffle any feathers. I needed to work if I was ever going to get out of my house. My home was detrimental to my mental health. I wondered what went on in his personal life to behave like this to others? What the fuck was wrong with guy? 

Hey man, I said. Are you alright?

“Don’t you ever touch that door,” He yelled. “That is not your door. That is not your job. You do your job. I’ll do mine. No one told you to open that door. You run the elevator. You are the elevator operator.  I am the doorman. I man this fort.” He made an imaginary line with his foot, “See that line, don’t ever cross it again.”

I thought to myself, did I really need this job? I felt uncontrollable fury, and I drew a deep breath. I possessed an impeccable imagination. It was a curse. Anything I thought about I could visualize with great detail. It was a problem for me. I could see what I was about to do and what I really wanted to do and worse, I could see what other people might’ve done. It unfolded before me in the mind’s eye. I hit him with a heavy right to his jaw, his stupid hat left his head as his feet left the ground. Everything that had been welling inside me, everything that has turned my heart cold and black, he had provoked, luring the hatred out of me. I saw myself pummeling him, with quick alternating blasts of fists into his face, smashing flesh and bone into a puddle of viscous liquids. His legs twitched until his frail heart tapped out. His pristine white cotton gloves were covered in thick sticky red. I crouched down and stole the buzzer from his lifeless gloved hand and placed it gently in the messy cavern where his face used to be. A second passed and the vision left. 

This man had no idea what I was capable of. Someone was going to get it. My timer was set for detonation. 

Mauricio’s demeanor had changed. I don’t know how I appeared to him at that moment in the lobby but he walked away. He was a piece of shit, but did he deserve my wrath? If I read in the newspaper about a 20 year old beating to death a senior citizen I wouldn’t think fondly of it. I was trying my hardest to be a civilized person. If he would have tested me somewhere else it would have been open season. I hated being the bigger man. That was the last time we spoke, that was two years ago, and it was not necessarily a bad thing. He avoided me like the plague, as cliche as it was to say, a plague wouldn’t be so bad right about now. 

I realized when he yelled at me I had balled up my fist and brought it to my growling mouth, I had bitten down as hard as I could on my hand, leaving deep indentations of my teeth, almost breaking the skin, which left me badly bruised for a week. 

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