They let the weather man forecast the time the world would end: eleven o'clock on the dot. I watched him over a bowl of cheerios. He seemed happy to have said it. Probably the best forecast any weatherman ever gave. A good thing for a grave-marker: "Here lies the man who forecasted sunny at the world's end."
He implored people to spend time with their loved ones, but I didn't listen. I showered, shaved, combed back my hair, and got dressed for work. My family lived half a continent away. I had a friend I would've called up, but he killed himself the day before. So I hear. They gave a list of suicides before the weather.
When I got out the door it looked overcast, but no clouds rolled overhead. I ignored it and got in my car, taking Highway 17th north to the resort. I worked as a housekeeper.
I left the windows down and the stereo up. Not many people were on the road, those that were got frustrated with my pace. One lady almost rear-ended me when I stopped for a red light. She swerved into the oncoming lane and ran it. Everyone ran the lights today. On the overpass I got a good look downtown and spotted smoke rising. No one would bother with the fire. I bet some person started it so he could see things burned. Just like another man would loot a Best Buy or kill their neighbor. I knew somewhere else a little boy had snuck away from his parents to find the girl he loved to tell her as much so they could hold hands. When I pulled into the resort I parked in a handicapped spotit was a day for rebellions.
The office didn't have its usual bustle. One of the managers, Cynthia, sat at the desk speaking Spanish with the only other housekeeper. When the door shut behind me they both looked up. Cynthia said, "Oh, you came in
"I was scheduled today, right?"
"Eh, yes. Go ahead and clock in and I will give you both your rooms," she said. Spanish clipped her English. She was a portly woman with wide shoulders and hips. Typically she kept a sizzle at the tip of her tongue, but not today.
I smiled at the other woman. She was my age, her dark hair bunched in a braid, skin a little darker than Cynthia's. She accented it with eyeliner and a crimson lip-gloss. She smiled back with her short, thin lips. Her name tag said "Rosalyn Iglesias."
While our manager navigated the room schedule on her computer I asked, "There a lot to turn today?"
"We're supposed to do fifty, but only one checked out," she said.
"I hope more people show up. I don't want to be cleaning rooms all night," I said.
"I'll make calls," she said. The printer hummed and spat out two copies of our schedule. She handed them to us and said, "Call me when you finish." She told Rosalyn the same in Spanish before she gave her the key to the room. It was a penthouse in the south tower. We grabbed our supplies and went that way.
The elevator didn't have any traffic. We both shoved our carts in and I pressed the "PH" button. The doors slid close and we began our ascent. I asked her, "So what made you come in today?"
She frowned and leaned in a little, her head cocked to the side.
I said slower, "What made you come to work?"
"Ah," she shrugged. "Habla español?"
I shook my head. "Sorry." We both leaned against opposite walls and didn't make eye contact. It was a long ride up.
When the door opened I let her through first and followed. I wasn't a very good housekeeper, so I never saw a penthouse before. It was business as usual for Rosalyn. She knocked once and said, "Housekeeping!" so quiet I almost didn't hear her. She opened the door; a small hallway led into a large kitchen. Beyond the granite countertops spread out the living room and a wide glass wall that led onto the balcony. The view faced the ocean.
Rosalyn went to work in the kitchen while I drifted to the balcony. When I pulled the glass door aside I saw the beach unoccupied. I never saw the strand so abandoned, like we were the only two people alive. For a minute I thought about tipping over the guardrail. I checked my watch. If I planned on committing suicide
Pots in the kitchen clanked together. I thought how cruel it'd be to leave Rosalyn to clean up this suite by herself, so I sighed and pulled away. Went to the master-bedroom and to strip the bed. On the desk in there I found a check written out to "Whomever Finds This." It was signed and dated and everything, for 500,000 dollars. I took it into the kitchen and held it up to Rosalyn.
When she took it I asked, "What should we do with it?"
She tore it in half and went back to cleaning. I stared while she wiped down the stove, busied about her duties until she turned on me and said, "You clean?" Her brows were furrowed.
I said, "Right, sorry. I'll get to it."
I went back to the bedroom, but I didn't do anything. I sat on the bed and looked out the window. The alarm clock already read 10:13. I wondered how time got so ahead of me. When I moved out here I planned on doing so much. Back home on my laptop was a half-finished novel. Along with a paper on 17th Century French Literature, and the calendar for the canoe trip I skipped out on the last four years. I thought for a minute about the dating profile I set up last month, and all the exes mingled in my memory for a minute. I felt one touch my shoulder, I expected her soft laughter when I turned around.
It was Rosalyn. "Why you no clean?"
I said, "Well why bother?" Maybe she couldn't understand the news. Maybe she was just as alone as me and didn't have anyone to tell her the world was ending. I bet our boss didn't. She wanted to turn as many rooms as possible before the day was done.
Rosalyn's hands shook a little before she slapped me. She cursed in Spanish and pointed at the clock: 10:45. I guess she hoped to clean the room sooner. I told her, "I'm sorry."
All the rage went out of her. Rosalyn sat on the mattress beside me and didn't leave a ripple in the bed-sheets. She trembled, a tear slipped down her cheek while she clenched and unclenched her fingers, manicured nails digging into her palms. It was awful. I gazed back out the window and saw mists of water vapor spiraling in the distance. At first I thought it began raining. It looked like dusk outside but no clouds. I realized gravity was pulling the water into the air.
The glass cracked.
Beside me Spanish began to spill out of Rosalyn, hand in hand with broken-sobs. She cupped her face, her body heaved. The clock said 10:53.
I hugged her close and rubbed her back while she kept speaking her Spanish, the tones bitter and hateful. I wondered if she resented me. If she resented fate for making the last person she talked to was someone who couldn't comprehend.
I said, "I know, I know it's awful. But hey, we're going to be okay. You believe in a heaven right? You were a good girl I bet, Catholic even? I bet your chances are better than mine. I was never even baptized you know"
The building began to rock and sway. All the windows in the suite exploded and the suction yanked us across the room. She clung onto me and we both hit the wall underneath the window. I shook my head, thinking the blow caused a concussion. She was suddenly bald. The wind had torn her wig off. Some stupid part of me had the nerve to laugh.
The alarm clock defied the inevitable for a minute more, got all the way to 10:59 before its chord came out and it flew out the room. The wind was so loud my ears popped. We both hung on while the walls began to crack under the pressure; if we wanted any real intimacy we should have hid in a closet.
Still, I kissed her. Rosalyn pressed her lips into mine and I felt her nails dig into my back. Our tongues twined, our bodies did as if we would anchor each other. I wanted so badly to believe all those poems that made love sound like the most powerful force in the universe.
Her lip gloss was cherry flavored.