What We Do Not See

At 7 am, she rode the service elevator to the basement. She hoped her dollar store sunglasses would help hide her identity. She didn’t want to run into one of her husband’s friends. She didn’t want to explain why she was working in the laundry room of a hotel.

At lunchtime, she walked through the lobby and smiled at Martin, the concierge. He waved but didn’t approach her. She took her bagged lunch two blocks to her husband’s favorite park. She sat on their bench and told him about her day.

At 5 pm, she said goodbye to her new friends and went home. She was thankful for her new job. It came at the most desperate time in her life. She knew if Martin didn’t vouch for her, she would have died. The hotel certainly wouldn’t have hired her. Even for a minimum wage job, it required three to five years of experience. In that time, those who were lucky enough to afford it could have received a college degree and make three times what she made. Still, she felt lucky to have met such wonderful people and have a reason to get up every morning.

At 11:45 am one morning, her supervisor asked her to deliver a set of towels to one of the permanent residents in room 3240. The man was very particular and a wayward towel used by the regular hotel guests made its way into his bathroom. He demanded it be removed and his Turkish cotton towels be brought up immediately.

She hesitated. She hadn’t had any interaction with the elite residents since she began the job. But she couldn’t refuse an order. She nodded and said she’d do it on her way to lunch.

At 11:55 am, she knocked on room 3240. The man swung the door open and screamed, it’s about time. She presented the gray towels to him with her left hand while she still clutched her lunch bag in her right. He continued to rant, how could they comingle his laundry with the filthy masses? She apologized as she hid behind her sunglasses.

At 11:57 am, he stopped talking. He looked at her for the first time. You, he said. You’re the one from the elevator. You, with your fancy clothes and handbag headed to the penthouse. You never acknowledged me and now I know why. You’ve been stealing from the residents. I’m calling the police.

At noon, she tried to exit the hotel. She had to rethink her plan, her new life. Everything she worked for was at stake.

At 12:01 pm, a policeman stopped and questioned her. In her desperation, she blurted out she lived at the hotel. He looked at her attire and laughed. You need to come with me, he demanded. She explained it was a misunderstanding. She had to eat her lunch and get back to work in an hour. Like someone of privilege, she turned and walked away.

At 12:05 pm, she felt a pain in her head. The officer had hit her with his baton. He ordered her to get on the floor. She rubbed her head and blood covered her hands.

At 12:08 pm, Martin jumped in between her and the officer. The officer told him to get back or he’d be shot. She pleaded with him to go back to his desk but he refused. Mrs., I told your husband I would look after you.

At 12:10 pm, four more officers arrived with their guns drawn. Her accuser also made his way down to witness her arrest. That’s her, he said.

At 12:12 pm, Martin stepped forward and tried to explain her situation. One of the officers opened fire and Martin fell back. No, she screamed. Why?

She lives here, said Martin. Her husband died last year and she was lonely. She asked me to help her get a job. She needed something to pass the time. I promised Mr. I promised.

Her accuser asked why she didn’t admit this outright. They could have all been spared this spectacle. Now, they’d all have to try to erase this unfortunate incident from their minds.

At 12:20 pm, the ambulance arrived. After the EMT told her Martin would survive, she told Martin she’d be at the hospital shortly. She walked across the lobby to her accuser and wiped Martin’s and her blood on his face.

Try to unsee this, she said.

Yong Takahashi
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