During the peak of the season at the Hotel, we hired a few new people, mostly kids around 18-19 years old. One was a girl named Kelly, who was cinnamon brown like she was of mixed race but later, when I heard her speak about seeing black people in Skamania County (which was a rare occasion), I realized she considered herself totally Caucasian.
“I was walking out of the parking lot at the Fair when I saw a few black people, then I thought, ‘Did I lock my car door?’ So I spun around and ran back. HAHA! Is that racist?” she said, smiling. She had a big smile, brown eyes like a deep mahogany and the physique of an athlete. Her posture always made me wonder which sport ironed out her spinal cord with such a hard distinction, like an exclamation point.
“You are one suntan away from being black yourself,” I said. She laughed warmly, “I KNOW!”
Kelly doesn’t like to work hard, though she will when she has to. Otherwise, she walks around chatting and lighting various things on fire, like straws, paper, pens, anything. On slow days, I got used to her smell of burnt plastic. She and I had an odd connection, we were both kicked out by our parents. She was moved out of her biological mother’s care in the 3rd grade because of a methamphetamine addiction. Her father took her into his new family with a new wife, but disappeared when she was 17 years-old. “He was never around, so I didn’t notice he was really gone until a year later. It was like ‘Wha, haven’t seen Dad in a year? What the hell?” She always raised her voice and spoke like a rapper when she made a joke.
When her father disappeared, her stepmother kicked her out, so now Kelly lives with her best friend. “What is it with you and Kelly, you both have moms that kicked you out?” the Quarterback asked. “We are in the Evil Mom’s club,” I said. Kelly turned and gave me a fist pump. After that, we had a kind of unspoken alliance. No one really knows what it does to you, the abandonment and rejection of being thrown out by the people who are your final safeguard, until it really happens to you. The shock alone takes a major readjustment then the realization that you are totally alone.
Kelly also had a good sense of humor. The kids in general would talk low and fast, it was difficult to understand what they were saying. “I can’t understand a God damn word you kids say. How do you communicate with each other?” I asked.
“Text message,” she answered.
She also liked to slap my ass when walking behind me. “That was …” I slowly turned around, “perfect.”
The other girls laughed and said, “That was not what I was expecting you to say!”
“I feel my eyelid twitch, why am I twitching? Can you see it? My eyeball is twitching and I don’t know why,” Kelly complained one afternoon while we were all setting up a large platted dinner.
“Because you are a meth baby,” I said.
“Too soon!,” she said, “Too soon!”
“Third grade is too soon?” I asked. She laughed. She caught on to my humor a little faster than the other kids. I fell for her too, encouraging her to go to college and reminding her of her potential. She was beautiful and I could see Skamania’s shackles slowly appearing around her ankles. I fought the compulsion to pick her up and carry her out of there.
“Worse comes to worse, get an abortion. They aren’t that bad,” I advised her one afternoon. She chuckled, “Fucking [StarFire], man.” I got used to hearing that close out my jokes. I miss it.
Kelly’s best friend, with whom she lived, was cousins with Harry who started during peak season. Harry was very difficult to understand, when he spoke it was a long mumble. I rarely understood any part of what he said. The thing with Harry was he looked a lot like a 19 year-old version of my ex-boyfriend Allen. It was almost jaw dropping when I saw him, his hair cut, nose and eyes almost identical, but with a small constellation of brown freckles that reminded me of Eric, another ex-boyfriend of 5 years. On top of all of that, something about the way Harry smelled drove me crazy. If he was anywhere in the back hall, I could smell him.
Unfortunately, Harry was kind of a mess. When he ranted about something, good or bad, he would sound like a cartoon character and finish his sentence with a slow exhale that melted his back and dropped his neck below his shoulders with a slight whistle. He would get frazzled around Kelly, their tension from sharing space at home manifesting itself in the stupidest arguments over how to set a table or refill water glasses. She was especially hard on him, following him around and barking at him like a little dog until he snapped. “Shut the fuck up, you stupid bitch! I hate you!” he would shout.
“I hate YOU,” Kelly returned. And so on, and so forth. Or she would come in, “Last night I drove Harry home and he wouldn’t stop talking. He just kept talking and talking, so I turned on the radio. He still kept talking. So I started singing, and I never sing. He still kept talking. He didn’t stop once. So when we got home and got through the door and he was still talking, I had to freak out on him.”
“You freaked out on him?” I asked. “Yeah, it had to be done,” she said. Harry would follow into work soon after, completely silent with rage. The two of them had a troubling dynamic, they skipped being kids and jumped right into being an old, unhappy married couple.
During busy service, Harry would suffer from bloody noses under the strain. He would often be hovering over the garbage can in the middle of service, dropping paper towel after paper towel down until the only thing you could see when cleaning off a dirty plate was Harry’s blood. In addition to handling stress poorly, he also was very moody and would often turn completely off and cold during a busy service.
The first few weeks we worked together, I would stare at him. It was hard to see a younger conglomerate of two ex-boyfriends in front of me, bumbling and tripping like a puppy. It was almost irresistible.
The first few days, he shadowed me and flirted, showing interest in every little thing I did. He opened up to me about how his father held his family hostage at gunpoint once while high on drugs and then went to prison for a very long time. Since then, his father has found God. I watched him rattle through several disjointed and highly disturbing stories wondering who he would become. He was dorky but in that way girls secretly love; awkward, vulnerable, funny. I was surprised when he said he wasn’t going to college because he considered himself a “more active type.” Nothing about him seemed athletic like the others, in fact, he had potential to make it in the entertainment industry. His impression of Ace Ventura was spot on and he was constantly narrating his emotions like a stand-up comic. He just wasn’t self aware enough (or at all) yet.
While cleaning out the Ballroom from a wedding, he kept saying he hated Kelly. I stopped him and said, “Have you ever considered that maybe you are sexually attracted to Kelly and that is frustrating to you?”
“Yes,” he said like a cartoon mouse mumbling through cheese, “but I am sexually attracted to you too. I am sexually attracted to everyone.”
“Thank you,” I said sarcastically, “That makes me feel very special and pretty.”
Later, we were walking dirty linens through the kitchen and down to the Laundry Department. QB, the Quarterback, was walking the trash down with us. He was walking backwards so he could face me while tossing insults.
“You are so ugly, anyone is better looking than you. I think your mother is sexier. Harry, would you ever have sex with something that looked like her?” he said.
Harry paused with his eyes big, a slight smile and turned his head. That was usually his response to anything playful. “He already said he found me sexually attractive,” I said, smiling.
“You did!” QB said, outraged. Harry nodded and belted out a “Yeah, I do!”
QB and I locked eyes. I chuckled. I won that round. The last time QB cornered me with stories of his sexual accomplishments, I knew he was propositioning me in a roundabout way. “I would break you in two,” I said. He fell quiet with a small smile.
This round was pivotal though, from that moment on QB knew he had competition, so instead of insulting me and just standing around like a statue (in the parking lot, by the time clock, at the bussing station) with a blank expression and his middle finger up, he got more aggressive.
While putting seating covers over the chairs for a fluffy, pink wedding, QB asked me questions about sex, about boyfriends and always felt the need to let me know how much sex he has had. If someone entered the room to help us he would force them into the conversation. “Do you know [StarFire] wants to fuck me?”
I would laugh from my stomach, having to stop what I was doing and lift my head up to get it out. “So what if she does?” a girl responded. They never got on that QB was actually flirting with me. If he insulted me, they would smile, “That’s mean.” Eventually, QB was so focused on critiquing my tits and ass that everyone just walked away out of boredom. In fact, QB spent so much time discussing my body, I am pretty sure he could hold a fairly prepared lecture series on the subject.
“She just wants to crawl on top of me and ride me,” he said.
“I am sure that would be a thrilling 60 seconds,” I said, plainly. The others laughed.
“Yeah right, I would last more than 60 seconds. I can go so long, I have had sex without cumming at all.”
“Not sure that is something to brag about at 18,” I said. QB savagely tore at the plastic packages of bows.
No matter when I took my break for lunch in the break room, QB would always show up, even if he was just starting his shift.
“Oh, look who showed up?” I always said, spreading generic peanut butter on a slab of bread.
“I am here for my glass of milk,” he always answered.
“It is too early for you to take a break.”
Then I sat right next to him, so our thighs were pressed against each other. All of a sudden, I felt a wall of heat hit my right side, like QB’s body caught on fire.
“Do you want me to sit on your lap?” I asked.
He suddenly pawed at me, hard and fast like his hands were large, metal shovels then suddenly stopped. “I will give you lunch,” he said smiling. Then he turned back to the television, propped up high on the wall of the break room.
“You have a dirty mouth for a little boy. And I mean . . . little,” I said turning into him. Our eyes locked, our faces were no more than 2-inches from one another and he slowly smiled. My heart stopped.
“You are looking old today,” he said, turning back to the television.
“You Bastard!” I said, dropping my sandwich, “You are funny, though.”
Around this time, Kelly’s ex-boyfriend (also Harry’s cousin) Tate started working there. Tate was young as well, 19 or 20, with black hair brushed completely forward over his face like a pop idol. He was also tall and slender, the acne on his face and neck giving away his age. Tate was more socially adjusted than Harry and very confident, especially with the girls. I got the feeling Tate was considered a heart throb at high school and was annoyed that I didn’t immediately fawn over him.
“God, you laugh at all Chad’s jokes, he is not that funny,” Tate said as we closed out a service rush in the back hall.
“Yes I am,” Chad said.
Tate imitated my laugh, “HAHAHAHA,” then stopped short, “… so stupid.”
“I laugh at your jokes too. We had a very nice conversation passing hor d’oeuvres together,” I said. Before dinner service, Tate and I wandered around a reception holding heavy trays of bacon and scallops. He and I would smile at each other from across the room, so much so guests would stop to look at both of us, trying to get the joke. There was no joke. I just thought he was adorable and he smiled back.
“But you didn’t laugh at my jokes,” Tate said.
“Say something,” I demanded.
“I am not saying anything to you-”
I cut him off with a dramatic “HAHAHAHAHAAAA!”
“You’re stupid. And it wasn’t like your laugh with Chad,” he said.
“Someone’s jealous,” Chad sang out while walking away.
It was sweet. They were all being so transparent about things that it felt nice in contrast to adult men offering beauty secrets or dispersing advice in that passive-aggressive way to dominate me or my confidence. The young boys just tried to make me laugh and made it essential each day at work, even just to start out a shift. I couldn’t help but fall into it. What more could a single, heartbroken woman want than four boys trying to make her laugh all day?
Another day, in the Back Hallway with Chad and QB, they were teasing me as I picked grapes off their breakfast cart.
“You guys have to work every service together,” I said. “Are you in love?”
“We are the A-team,” Chad said.
“Of the A-train,” QB said.
“You know what the A-train is?” Chad asked.
“What?” I asked.
“She doesn’t know what the A-train is,” Chad said to QB.
“Come on, a slut like you knows,” QB said. I narrowed my eyes.
“Do you know how men line up and move like a train?” Chad asked.
“Like a train gang or whatever,” I asked.
“You want the A-train?” QB asked. I should note here that QB’s first name begins with an A. He looked at me, I popped a grape in my mouth and gently rested my knee on the seat of an empty chair before looking up at him smiling. He smiled back at me, and in that moment I felt my cunt throb. I should have asserted my feminist, independent and adult voice and stopped them from speaking that way in a professional environment. I don’t know if it is my sexual nature or my sexual peak, but the woman in me swelled. I looked at QB, as he comfortably leaned back in a chair and gracefully received my first “Fuck me” look of the summer. He didn’t look away and that impressed me.
“First dibs,” Chad said.
“Nu uh, we flip for it,” QB said.
“Do you know what we are talking about now?” Chad asked me.
“Of course. A gang bang,” I said.
Both QB and Chad chimed in over each other, “WHAT!?!? Oh my God, you are so sick. How could you think that? Pervert!”
“Fuck you!” I laughed.
“Right here?” Chad asked, he was now getting competitive as well.
“QB is rubbing off on you,” I said, polishing silverware.
“I could be rubbing off on you,” Chad said.
“Yeah? You gonna make a woman out of me?”
“If that’s what you wanna call it,” Chad said. He was short, maybe 5’5, Hispanic with a large head. Though he was a slacker and always stoned, I liked him.
“You would need a stepping stool to make love to me,” I said.
“Who would you rather do, me or Chad?” QB asked.
“Chad is more experienced,” I said, wiping water spots off a fork.
“I have had way more sex than Chad.”
“Are we going to start this again?” asked Chad.
“Sex gets better in time, way better. Of course, biologically I am at an advantage- my orgasms are longer and more intense with age. But also my partners get better. You know the best sex I had was with a 28 yr old,” I said.
“How old were you?” QB asked.
“32. He put two vibrators on me but didn’t turn them on while he manually rubbed me until I was just about to cum and then he turned them both on. That was hot,” I said, putting down the silverware and looking them over. They both studied the silverware on the counter.
“You said manually,” QB said lightly, “That’s weird.”
“And I guess I discovered this tid bit by myself, but I told him that when my G-spot and clitorus are stimulated at the same time, it makes the orgasms way more intense. He gave me so many, I had to beg him to stop. God, he was hot. Its a shame it didn’t work out,” I said.
Then there was silence. I looked over at them, the levity and laughter stopped. Both stood frozen in front of the silverware realizing I was way out of their league.
I didn’t expect the Quarterback to come back strong the next day but as he walked past me the air filled with a heavenly odor, making the hair on the back of my neck stand up and my head grow light. “Is that you I smell?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, smiling, “I switched my deodorant to Old Spice.”