Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel. (Monday, part 2)
You are running late and although it is not allowed, staff being strictly forbidden to be seen when not necessary in the public areas of the hotel, you cut across reception smiling at Felicity whose red wavy hair and full bust calls to mind Allison Hayes in the movie poster for Attack of the 50 foot Woman. Because of this you are slightly in awe of Felicity and you have a recurring fantasy in which she appears outside your second floor hotel window in the dead of night and exhorts you to climb out, climb between her breasts, and she will take you far away from all your troubles.
This has never happened.
You and Felicity started work at Hotel Flamingo on the very same day five years ago and while Felicity has been promoted on numerous occasions and is now front of house manager, five stars on her chest, you have not been promoted even once.
And this hurts because when you started at the hotel you were going to be manager ‘within three to four years’.
“Good morning. Manager, sir.”
Felicity wonks this in your direction, very quietly, without looking at you and you forget the fantasy in which she appears outside you window and instead you have another fantasy in which you leap over the melamine desk that separates you and punch her to the ground but you do not. Being a coward you have an aversion to any sort of physical violence.
Affixed to the wall behind the reception desk is a map. The hotel is part of a worldwide chain and little glowing pins stuck in this map show the location of all of the sister hotels and it is a running joke that every one of these seems to be in a more desirable location; New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Florence, Dubrovnik, Ulan Bator.
It is exactly because of these pins and their prominence for all to see that all staff are always talking of the potential of a transfer.
Nobody knows anyone personally who has ever been transferred although there is the mythical Cynthia.
Cynthia once winner of the Barnstaple beauty pageant was another of the starters on the same intake as you. Now thirty but still a stunner it was clear she was destined to go on to great things. She always had a smile and a kind word for everyone and it was her who was most encouraging when you told of your plans to be a manager.
“Don’t forget about me when you’re manager Mr Big Shot Sir.”
The final four words of this phrase resonated so much with you that you wrote them down on a card and sometimes when you are feeling down you will take out this card and repeat the words to yourself.
Mr Big Shot Sir.
You have even considered getting them printed on a t-shirt but the furthest you have got is handwriting them in red biro on your best underpants.
Mr Big Shot Sir.
It was on the same day that Cynthia didn’t turn up for work that it was rumoured she had been transferred. Some people said it was to Barcelona and others to Moscow but as in the nature of rumours over the months that followed it became fact. New staff would be told, “Work hard and keep your nose clean and the world could be your oyster. Look at Cynthia. She started as a receptionist and now she is the area manager of New South Wales. She has a house in Sydney. She’s married to a millionaire. But it is Cynthia who wears the trousers.”
The next week it would be the East Coast of America. The week after that Southern Italy.
Unable to help yourself one night while drunk you had dashed off a postcard you had once purchased and never sent, “Having a lovely time in Monaco! Weather a beaut! Just watched my husband compete in the Grand Prix. So proud. Cynth.”
To actually get the card sent from Monaco was not a problem for someone of your resourcefulness and so your new hobby began.
Each week you sent a new card and watched with superiority as the other staff cooed over the soap opera you were creating. Cynthia having a baby. Cynthia meeting the Swedish Royal Family. Cynthia undergoing a face lift and boob augmentation. “Why not if you’ve got the money! I recommend it girls.”
And the thing was you began to believe in this fiction. You dreamt of Cynthia and when you woke up you had the phrase on your lips, “If she can do it then so can I! Good on you Cynthia.”
You were even considering requesting a meeting with the new area manager Keith and demanding that if Cynthia could have a transfer then why couldn’t you when you bumped into the actual Cynthia at the local Lidl.
Her hair was lank, she had developed a stutter and from the smell coming off of her it was clear that she was both steaming drunk and hadn’t washed for days.
As you watched from around the corner of an aisle she stuffed bottle after bottle of Lidl own brand vodka into her elasticated trousers.
Bravely, and with some brio, she tried to walk, clanking, past the black security guard.
It was no surprise to you when she was stopped, led to the manager’s office and then fifteen minutes later led away by two strapping policemen.
The tears running down her cheeks were heartbreaking.
“All is perfect,” you wrote in the next postcard. “Another transfer! San Francisco this time. Apparently from the hotel you can see Alcatraz Island. Now that is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. Such history!”
You are last to arrive in the kitchen and Angela, the kitchen supervisor, glares at you as you pull on your apron.
Deadeye Dave, who is already at his station, speaks from the side of his mouth.
“Did I tell you about the time I was a card sharp in Monte Carlo’s top casino?”
Deadeye Dave’s features are those of Mr Potato Head, stuck here, stuck there, apparently at the whim of a blind and cruel child.
“You did not,” you say. “Was this before or after your time in Ringaling Circus or your days as a sharpshooter?"
You have seen Dave burn his own nose while trying to light a cigarette. He has unholy trouble with the flies on his trousers.
Once, drunk and unable to help yourself, you had punched him in the stomach. Doubled over he had been even more grotesque. And you had been grotesque too in your violence but at the same time you were pleased with yourself. By targeting someone weaker and more pathetic than yourself for once you had been a success.
But this is your fantasy.
Tomorrow morning you will go right up to the hotel manager, Keith, tell him you are better than this, you once installed staircases!, like Christ you were a carpenter, and you will quit on the spot. There is a whole world waiting for you out there.
And this is it.
You pack your belongings in a rucksack, take a bus to the Holiday Inn, check in under a phoney name, order streak frites, fuck the room service girl, get drunk, puke and the next day hitch to the capital city where you will land a job in software and design an app that App Review! will give three stars and say with a bit more thought and attention it could possibly have been given four.
But instead at 0615 when Angela, the kitchen supervisor, asks for a volunteer to put out the breakfast buffet you raise you hand to the ceiling and hope that it is you.
In the service area, dingy with peeling paint and a broken lightbulb, you find Lorenzo and Leonardo, the hotel’s two Italian snake-hipped, slick black haired Italian waiters, both with their dicks out of their flies, a pot of strawberry jam held between them.
“That bastard from room 103,” says Lorenzo. “He sends his coffee back three times, too cold, too weak, too strong. We will show him what for with some of our special Italian sauce.”
This double shift-handedness is not atypical. Once it had been a pot of mayonnaise and the woman in 207, an unspecified misdemeanour although you yourself had found her near stare somewhat tetchy, another day a couple of pensioners from 306 and a pain au chocolat.
“Their fucking dog,” said Leonardo. “They wanted to bring their fucking dog into the restaurant and it is me who is going to be complained about.”
You are not a homosexual but you find a certain beauty in Lorenzo and Leonardo together, their contorted faces, the clenched buttocks, the flights of the stringy viscous liquid as they described their parabolas through the air.
But it is the revenge itself which fascinates you. Who, in your position, wouldn’t want revenge? You yourself are daily visited by crushing slights. They hit your head, your stomach and then your balls and many hours are spent thinking how you might take your revenge.
This usually ends in the perpetrator dying. You fix them to a metal bedspread, slice off one or two fingertips and watch them bleed out. You hang them upside down by their big toes their head submerged in a bucket of Vimto. Each night you will sneak into their room and shine a powerful sun lamp on a particular naked part of their body.
You have other fantasies more perverse than these.
The dark centre of your heart worries you and nightly you lose sleep over it.