It was the smell of well oiled leather that drew me beneath the desk. Take off my rubber gloves, gently wheel back the plush chair, bend down on one knee, reach into the shadowed interior. My hand returns with a warn briefcase, a hand crafted time capsule that wears its skin better than a cow ever did.
MR J R FALOY
The typeface reflected perfectly the name of it’s proud owner, and for the first time I felt true envy. I have been cleaning the offices of JM BARRY & PARTNERS for only five years, but my brown skin is already more lined and cracked than this age old work of human love. Next to the life and warmth of the brown leather in my hands, it was my skin that looked dead and stretched. I put the masterwork down on the chair, push myself up to the desk and catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror on the wall. Clear brown eyes center a round face with some rose on the cheeks. Wisps of brown hair spill out of a gaudy service hat. I lick my lips and adjust the hat, making sure the PINK LADIES CLEANING SERVICE logo is dead straight, the pink character in the print glaring at the general level of disorder around her. Mrs. Klaprite says our pink lady mascot projects trust and tranquillity, but I only see an angry abuela with a wooden duster. I’m stalling now, getting finicky and playing with my uniform. I turn back towards the chair.
I’m not thinking of stealing the briefcase. I’ve seen too many girls blacklisted by the surprisingly omnipresent cleaning service cartel to consider stealing from the offices of JM BARRY & CO. I’m thinking of something much worse than stealing a briefcase; I’m thinking of stealing into J R FALOY’s life. I’m thinking of being with a man who works in these rooms, shuffling papers in inscrutable patterns and signing on pages three and four and seven and nine. Initials on pages three and five.
I try to explain this feeling I get in my chest, when I think about how many people I’ll never meet. It’s an inverse constriction, like my heart is trying to swell out of my chest, bursting with the pain of living and beating the same beat as another heart, a heart it will never connect see. What a terribly sad thing. I always try and explain that feeling to Maria, and she says I must be sniffing toilet cleaner. I try to explain it to Lucia, but she won’t let you string five words together before interrupting with something about her kids. I know, staring at the care applied to the stitching, at the toothy shine of the buckles, that J R FALOY would understand that feeling. Which is why I don’t feel guilty click-click-click-clicking it open.
The contents are unextraordinary. Pens and pencils and a calculator and what looks to be an address book. A technical pamphlet with the pages wrinkled. I’m expecting to feel disappointment, instead feel a warm egg feeling in the pit of my stomach. The everyday clutter of the items make J R FALOY seem so much more approachable, more like a J R, or maybe even a Jason Richards. I’d call him Jay in person because of how I came to know him. He’d call me his pink lady and we’d take walks in the park. And he’d read to me. Read me books I didn’t know existed until I met him.
I’m about to put everything back where I found it (Mrs. Klaprite’s third most important rule for proper cleaning) when I decide to leave a note. As certain as I am about the need for a note, I have no idea what it should say. Do I write him something about me, share something of myself with the man who I now know so much about? Should I write something cryptic, something enigmatic? Should I tell him to be sure to lock his office door at night? Should I sign it from “your Pink Lady” or “a Pink Lady” or nothing at all? I’m running late and getting mad at myself, so I scrawl down something and gather my supplies and lock the door behind me. I finish up the floor and leave the office of J M BARRY, L.L.C with Lucia, whose son Lucca is playing football and she can’t believe the price of equipment and how does anyone get away with charging fifteen dollars for a football and this is America how is it alright for rich fat men to charge poor old women fifteen dollars for a football for her son? Oh but Lucca is so good, she doesn’t mind paying all of her money just to see him race up and down the field, laughing and sweating and after the game he and his friends all come over and eat all of the food and tell her what a good cook she is. Lucia says goodnight to me at my door, then keeps on talking to the street and street bums about her son Lucca and how he runs and sweats.
I’m in bed and watching the sun whisper rays across the early morning skyline when I start to cry because of what I wrote on my note. So stupid, to write a note to a man like J R FALOY. Then I cry about it, making it even stupider. Then I’m crying about the fact that I’m crying, then crying about crying about crying, then I feel a great wall of snot draining down my nose like unset concrete. The sunrise is painful bright by the time I’m done, so I turn over and fall into sleep.
Tom G. Faloy had to have Ms. Gary unlock his office door that morning; he always forgot to grab his office key, and the cleaning staff always locked his door. Ms. Gary was sweet about it though, and he gave her change to grab them both some coffee. Juggling crisp manilla folders, he grunted in relief when he spotted his briefcase, sitting as majestic as you’d like it in his office chair. He dropped the manilla folders on his desk, click-click-click-clicked open his briefcase and drew a pack of cigarettes from one of the many satin pockets. He patted the case closed, moved it back into it’s den under his desk, feigned interest in a few of the manilla folders until Ms. Gary returned with steaming cups.
“Yeah, join me in the lounge for a smoke break?” Tom G. Faloy grabbed a loose piece of paper from his desk, using it mark his spot in the folder. Tom and Ms. Gary smoked their morning cigarettes and drank their morning coffees, and the pink lady’s note, which read simply this is beautiful, served its purpose as a placeholder.
Planned on writing in line with the prompt, but wrote a lot more than I planned before I got there. If there’s interest I’ll do another section tying it up.