by Bronwen Griffiths
Always the same view — the long corridor — so long it surely must reach the edges of the universe. But the universe is unbounded. It has no edges. Anyway. Hotel corridor. Carefully placed vase in niche. Mood lighting. Swirly carpet — like looking at night stars when you’ve drunk half a bottle of tequila. Doors numbered. Same doors. Different numbers. Different rooms. But once they are cleaned all the rooms look the same. A monotony of white towels and sheets. The carefully placed lotions. Eight tea bags, four sachets of coffee, six sugars and six sweeteners. Air con set at eighteen. Enter the next day. See the stained bed. The rows of empty bottles. Lipstick on the towels. A soiled tissue. One shoe left under the bed. Different messes. Different smells. Different people. The good, the bad, the ugly. From Panama, India, Dubai, England and all the edges of the earth.
The boss thinks you are all the same woman. Conchita, Sofia, Mariana, Jozie, Ana. Interchangeable. You are not. You are Conchita Gonzalez. Hair black. Foot size four. Crooked small toe on the right foot. You like curry, not tacos. You always wear agua de violetas. Only one complaint from you in sixteen years. After that fat old man grabbed your breasts. Tried to force you. Boss shrugged. Boss never cared.
“Knock, knock, housekeeping.” Do you know what it takes to do this job, day in day out? The endless corridors, the monotony of white sheets, the back-breaking tedium, the hairs in the sink, the shit, the tedium, the same, same, same. But just the once. Yes, just the once — a man brought you flowers. Lilies, roses, irises. A huge bouquet. How did he guess those are the flowers you adore? You, Conchita Gonzalez, acknowledged and nothing asked in return, not even a kiss.
Bronwen Griffiths is the author of two novels, A Bird in the House and Here Casts No Shadow, and a book of flash fiction and poems, Not Here, Not Us — Stories of Syria. She lives in East Sussex, UK.