Day Five: The Bellhop
He sat awake in his bed, unable to sleep. He had been unable to sleep many times before because of nightmares that triggered his PTSD, to be sure. There had been times where he had made himself too much sweet tea before trying to go to bed only to have a long caffeine rush that kept him from sleeping, but never before in his memory had he been asleep because of what he was thinking about. With the help of his quasi-girlfriend Kate he had brought an unconscious and unresponsive Ashley back to her room and Kate had agreed to keep watch over her as long as possible. He figured there was something that he should be doing, but he wanted to be very careful about his words first. He was sure that she had tried to escape from the hotel. It was only natural that she should view the hotel as some sort of prison. Perhaps it was a prison free of the threat of rape or economic exploitation for its inmates, but he could not imagine that anyone who had even half of one’s wits would think of the place as anything other than a prison. And he was sure that Ashley had tried to escape and narrowly failed, but there was much he did not want to speculate on, and much he could not say without implicating himself. To be sure, he had not been explicitly told that he was some kind of involuntary prison warden on the inside, nor told why the young women were were. He knew enough to know that there was some higher purpose involved with their being here and that the purpose was not going to be explained to him no matter how curious about it he might be. So he would have to be very careful, but he also knew that what he had seen would have to be reported. There was no other way about it.
Although it was still night, he got up from his bed and abandoned all intent to sleep for the rest of the night. Instead he went to the lobby and read the relevant portion of his employee handbook that specified the sort of reporting information that had to take place concerning mishaps to the guests. He then typed a message as eloquence as his exhaustion and concern allowed, and it said something like this: “To whom it may concern, Last night, while I was off-duty, I responded to an alarm and found one of the two guests at my hotel crumpled in a heap on the driveway at the gate unconscious and unresponsive. The other guest and I carried the guest back into her room, where the other guest promised to keep watch over her. As there were no other people present, the circumstances of the case are such that I believe the guest was trying to escape. I have not had a great deal of conversation with this guest as my attempts to enter the room have always been foiled by the “Do Not Disturb” sign that remains placed outside the door at all times I have passed by the room during the course of the week. In order to help our guests feel safe I have not pushed into the room, as I think that it would have a negative effect upon their morale, as there is at least some suspicion, I think that I would have harmful designs towards the unresponsive guest. I hope that there is some intent to communicate the purpose of the guests being here before too long, as it is my concern that the guests as a whole may feel themselves imprisoned, and may behave in an unpredictable fashion. I am not suggesting how this should be dealt with, although I did feel that according to the rules and regulations I am duty bound to follow I thought it was necessary to bring the matter to your attention. Regards, ____________.” He looked at it before sending it with a bit of a frown. The message had been a bit more fiercely worded than he had wished, but he supposed there was no alternative. Overall, he thought he had kept a friendly tone, or at least a polite tone, and seeing no way of making it more polite without making it more wordy and filled with artful dodges and circumlocutions, he sent the message into the black hole of silence where his messages generally went.
He looked at the time and returned to do some reading. Although he had only read the passage a few days ago, he had a sense of intuition to read the passage after he finished his Bible reading for the day. He went back and read the following: “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” More than most people, he was convinced that there was life after death. It was not for him a matter of faith, but rather a matter of experience. He knew why, for example, he did not need to eat but could choose to eat. He knew why there was no escape from this place, why there was no connection with the outside world so that he was not even aware what was going on outside of the narrow walls of his hotel. He knew that there was no chance for Ashley to be more dead than she already was. What he did not know is why any of them were here, and why especially all of them were here together. And it was not knowing the reasons why that was bothering him so much. He supposed that since he still had some vestigial awareness after so many decades of solitude that there was still hope for him. He believed that once his fate was decided that he would be allowed to sleep in peace like so many, but for some reason he was kept in some indeterminate state, a state that he found to be unceasing torment.
He turned his head and saw the book No Exit in Esperanto, for which he had wanted to thank the fellow who had translated it from the original so skillfully. His current existence was so much like that discussed in the play that he was amazed that he had not seen it before. Of course, there were differences. There the bellhop had a brief role of introducing the characters to each other in a room that they were stuck in, and here he was both the bellhop and one of the people stuck and they were stuck in a larger place than the room itself, and the love triangle was not quite the same as it was, here there was a clear couple and one odd party out, rather than the perfect triangle that Sartre had written about. Still, Sartre had some serious insight into the problem of hell being other people. The problem was that hell was not only other people on the outside but also the other people inside. We could not escape torment while we lived and breathed, or while we were conscious in some place at any rate, because there were always other people, even if we were all alone by ourselves. He had been terribly isolated for so very long, at least as he understood it, but he always had voices in his head, always had some sort of tormenting dreams or the knowledge that his fate was being influenced by others who he did not trust to have his best interests at heart. And whether or not that was true, or whether or not there was anyone else who thought of him at all in any light, he would be tormented by that thought, and would thus be aware of there being some sort of outside aspect to his existence. There was a wider world that he was barred from, and he could not help but to be deeply saddened by the thought. He wondered if Kate and Ashley were as tormented and bothered as he was by that thought. They were in prison and they did not even know why.
Putting down the books, he saw that he could at least do something productive with his day instead of wallow in his sadness and gloominess, and so he showered and put on a clean uniform and went about his business. He saw there was no response to his message or any of the other ones he had sent over the past week, and he had nothing new to report about his relationship with Kate. And so he went to the fifth floor and did his customary thorough inspection. Of course, there was nothing unusual about the rooms except for a slightly fainter scent that was in the fourth floor he had looked at previously. But now he had a better idea of what it meant. It meant that Ashley had been looking through the rooms on all the floors, trying to find a window to the world. She had been outside, and probably seen that there were windows on the outside, but nothing on the inside. Surely she would suspect that this place was not a good place if it did not give people a glimpse into the world around them. She knew that there were no balconies and precious few exits, and would likely take whatever chance she could at getting out, only she had failed. He had to admit that this hotel had foiled his own attempts at escape throughout the years, especially at the beginning when he to thought he could escape, and it was a far more secure place than it appeared to be. Yet he thought that he would refrain from telling these experiences to Kate and especially to Ashley, because it might only discourage them further and they would likely not appreciate the discouragement. Their reservation had only been for a week, and so he did not feel it would be wise to force anything upon them, much less force them to realize the reality of their existence. They would have to come to that on their own, and he trusted the reality would come soon enough.
He came at last to the end and then went to the middle of the floor and looked at the drawing. The fifth day of Creation was the day when fishes and birds were created, and the drawing was a beautiful one of these two creatures, the birds frolicking in the air and the fishes enjoying the sea where their loving Creator had made them. And yet the same was not true for mankind. As much as he disagreed with Rousseau when it came to politics, he did agree with the statement that mankind was born free but everywhere he was in chains. That was the fate of mankind, to struggle with the chains of heredity and environment, of addictions and duties and of consequences and repercussions. With some difficulty he broke his reverie and went back down to the first floor. He saw that the sign on the door was still there. He returned to his desk and sat down, somewhat sleep deprived but still in full control of his behavior and not even feeling the desire to sleep at this point. Before he had the chance to sit there and stare out into space, though, he received a call that startled him. “Good morning,” he replied as cheerfully as possible. “This is Kate,” as if it could be anything else. “I trust all is well with Ashley?” “About that.” “What about that?” “I think it would be better if you came over here,” was the concerned voice. “Will do. Would you like some fresh towels?” “Would I ever!” “I’ll be right there.” With that they made their pleasant farewells as awkward lovers sometimes do, and he put the phone back on the hook. At least he had something productive to do now, he said to himself as he went to the laundry room and got the cart and pushed it over to the room. At least this time he would be able to do this task, with permission and welcome. With only a slight hesitation he gave his familiar knock at the door, and it was not very many seconds before Kate’s shining face greeted him and he went inside, and the door was shut behind them.