I am not sure how old the thick glass door is, but it might be from the early eighties. I swipe the access card, and the push bar lets me free inside the apartment.
Waiting on the elevator now for the second floor, and I hear chattering behind me in Hindi. I peek through a long hallway behind a wall. And at the end of the hallway, I see a group of people in decent clothing, and each holds what appears to be the holy bible. I never heard of Jehovah's witness Hindus, but indeed that is what comes to mind. The sound of their mild manner goodbye and waves to the man in the brown blazer was enough detail for the guess, with him a small boy, and they both are walking towards where I am standing. He faces the group behind him, and he also waves goodbye.
Not sure what is in for me if he passes me by with the boy, and it is not my interest in knowing what it is. The elevator’s door opened just in time; as he was about to turn towards me. I went inside the elevator, assuming he doesn't know anything about me standing five feet ahead. Through the elevator's door small glass window, I could see his smiling head down to the boy, then the lift’s second-layer door closes for the next ﬂoor after clicking the button.
The smell of gas mixed with old grease that I suspect coming from the elevator’s machine drive keeps reminding me to use the stairs. The smell of the elevator is giving me nausea, the cold slice of pizza I ate earlier adding up to it. Before the second layer door opens again and back to the elevator’s small window, I imagine some old wrinkly woman with white hairs would appear on the other side of the glass, just standing with a creepy look in her sinking eyes.Just imagine you saw her already.
So don't be surprised.
I saw her already I thought.
She's not even there anymore.
Just an abstract painting is hanging on the wall across, visually translating a four-eyed ninja. I feel better now; even the cold pizza swirling inside my gut is gone.
So I got out of the elevator and to the laundry room with lights still on. I am a Security Guard at this apartment, and It's time to lock up all the laundries at ten PM. The sounds of shirt buttons clanking and fabric sliding around inside the dryer tell me the clothes are dry enough. But the clock says ﬁve minutes till ten pm. No person is on-site, and I can be an asshole sometimes and lock it. And go on to the next laundry room. They must follow the rules of the house, I thought. Not today, though. I will give this person some times to ﬁnish up and not close the door for ﬁve more minutes, and few more minutes after that. By then, my locking legs from a recovering stroke will punish me later, just standing here waiting.
But wait… I remember this ﬂoor of having rattan bookshelf. The books are ancient, but it can spare me ten minutes to hide.
The bookshelf is over there.
A few steps ahead past the same elevator; there is one bookshelf with one shelf of a selection of dusty books and a window on my left to the outside of the apartment. Out the window, you can see the top of the swimming pool, and far ahead is the gym with the curtain open. There are no residents inside as if it’s teasing me how much I need that elliptical to condition my limp leg.
There is no ventilation in the hallways where I am standing. Indian food aromas from all the units are trapped inside, flooding the hallways with summer humid and still wind. My balding head is getting sweaty, and no one can see my head if I lay my hat down to the empty shelf just below the books. I can also reach the bottom bracket without alarming the calmed aching arm due to a frozen shoulder from the recovering stroke. So I began to read a few pages from the books and thought these old books seemed to follow the same complex rules, but I have a dictionary handy on my mobile phone, and I had to force myself to focus on the pages to escape the space’s scent.
The window caught my attention again with a group of Indian ladies with their kids. They gossip after a walk by the driveways and around the apartment complex, a daily routine they must not skip like a religion. Then they departed from one another, followed by a scene of two typical American young couples walking into the same apartment. They both had a giggle on their faces that made me want to put back my hat.
Nah, just ignore it, and I didn't see them. Heck, they don’t even know I am here.
Back to the pages.
Out of nowhere, coming from the elevator’s hallway, a little girl runs and stops where I am standing, then says, “Hi!”
How did she know I was standing here?
“Hello,” I say.
A man with a belly pot and green polo shirt, possibly her father, went to her and looked at me standing there, exposing my balding head. Shit, I thought. I never pulled the little girl here.
“I am sorry, you came to close the laundry?” he asks.
He’s got thinning hair too, and they look desperately standing supported with musky hair jell. Staring back, I could imagine him also thinking of what I already let go of. Well, maybe not. I am actually planning to grow my hair long again. In the meantime, I keep my head shaven, and tomorrow is my day off to do that, from ﬁve days of work.
Where is my hat?
But I don’t want to show pain from bothering my relaxed arm. “Well, it's not ten o clock yet,” I say.
“Thanks,” he says, and he turns back towards the laundry room with his little girl holding her hands, “Just a few minutes, it has been a busy day?” he adds.
Another man shows up, and I remember him from a different day with his bottom-filled wife; he also entered the laundry room holding an empty laundry basket. I went to the laundry room’s door and hold the entrance door for him. I remember his bottom-ﬁlled wife was pushing her baby in a cart coming out of the same type of eighties push door from another building previously. Their baby has a shocked expression on his face. The silent screaming eyes of the baby, possibly asking where the heck he is, made my head turned elsewhere before breaking a laugh.
I walk back to the rattan bookshelf again and to the books. In each book from the ﬁve books I picked, only a few pages of two books stick to my mind as I am writing this. One is about a guy in a Vietnam jungle not sweating as much as a soft city person would. The more you stay in the bush, the less and less you sweat, he says. And the other book shows the structure of Southeast Asia.
Then I peek over to look at the laundry room's progress, and the little girl is looking up to her dad as he unloads clothes from the dryer and into their basket. His done. I don't want to bother looking at my cell phone. But I bet it's way passes ten by now. The cramp on my legs just needs few stretches, and I can walk again to the next laundry room.
“I am done?” he addresses.
“Have a good night, sir,” I reply.
I waited for a few more seconds until I heard them closing their unit's door down the hallway. Then, I walk inside the laundry room. I check around if there are any people left, and the laundry room is clear. I hold my breath not to inhale any of the dryer’s thick lint that was pulled out and now lays inside a small thick plastic trash bin that is holding the door open. I slide the trash bin away to the side with my leg, replacing my shoulder to hold the door and slipping myself out before turning the laundry lights off. The door then closes followed by warm wet heat from the inside of the laundry room. The smell of musky detergent blew on my face. I inserted the key and locked the door. Back again to the elevator and go on to the next laundry room.