Day Six: The Bellhop
It was the same nightmare again. It did not matter that he had seen bits and pieces of this same nightmare hundreds or even thousands of times, the end result was the same. His body produced chemicals that led his heart to pump blood faster, and he was often frozen in panic and unable to move for minutes. What he saw may have had slight variations from day to day, but tonight’s nightmare was not too dissimilar from what he had seen too many times before. This time he saw himself put the gun to his chest  and pull the trigger. He had remembered that this was what the great football player Junior Seau had done when he reached the end of his tether, only to find that his brain had been greatly damaged by tau proteins that had been the result of repeated trauma as a result of his days playing football. By good fortune, someone had wondered if Tau proteins, which at this point could only be identified in the brains of people after death, were the physiological basis of PTSD and many of its related problems like depression. On a lark, a doctor who had been trying to prove this thesis took a look at the intact brain and saw that there were a great many tau proteins in someone who had never been a part of the military or been a football player, thus demonstrating the causal link of tau proteins as being the result of irreparable brain trauma, in this case that he had suffered as an early child and endured during the entire course of his tormented existence. This was, in time, to produce a great deal of beneficial treatment for PTSD that focused on ridding the brain of the proteins that were the cause of so much agony and suffering, but it would be too late to benefit him. Many times before he had seen the trial, and the reminders of his despair and having to answer for it in front of a heavenly tribunal, and the severe mercy that had led to him being here for so long so alone until lately. He did not realize, though, that this was the last time he would ever have this nightmare forever.
He got up and went about his routine as he had done thousands of times before. He read the chapters for today and reflected upon the curse of the law. Curses were something he knew a thing or two about, after all: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” He had long known that the curse was not the existence of the law, but rather that mankind had a bent that was contrary to God’s ways, and so people had to live lives of continual struggle against their self-destructive tendencies. He knew those tendencies, and he had always had compassion on those who found the burdens of their lives to be more than they could bear. People less awkward than he did had always found a great deal of comfort in community and in relationships out of a knowledge of the crushing weight of the burdens they carried, and he had always been aware of that weight on his shoulders and in his inability to find the succor for his longings as most people did. He certainly did not take for granted the moments of joy in a generally bleak existence that he found.
He showered, and put on a clean uniform. It was laundry day, so he took up the dirty uniforms and his pajamas and got them ready to wash. So far all of these preparations were like those he had taken before the Sabbath many times before. He knew that it was a quaint custom among many people he had known to consider the sixth day of the week to be the preparation day, and this was certainly the case for him in his labors. He worked far harder on this day of the week than any other, since he did his laundry on this day so that it would be clean before the Sabbath and also inspected two floors worth of rooms, double his usual. He was so busy, and so distracted, that he did not recognize that the box was missing from the desk. Without so much as even glancing at the desk to prompt himself to wonder what was missing, he was in his uniform and out to the lobby. He saw no messages from the management about the e-mails he had been sending them all week, and so he was off to the sixth floor. Once again, as usual, he found there to be a still lingering scent of Ashley’s perfume, but the rooms themselves were otherwise undisturbed. It was remarkable to him that such ephemeral actions as entering a room could linger for days and days. This was a strange world, he reminded himself. He went to the place between the two hallways and saw that the sixth floor had a large drawing of the familiar Renaissance drawing of Vitruvian Man. On the sixth day, God created mankind. Male and female He created them. He went to the seventh floor and did the same thing. When he had finished looking through all the rooms he went to the area in between and saw that the painting for the seventh floor was a large frame of Van Gogh’s “Midday Rest After Millet.” Van Gogh was the sort of person he could understand, a brilliant and somewhat temperamental author who had to struggle, like so many people do, against the darkness of despair.
By the time he returned to the lobby, a good deal of time had passed by, and his clothes were well on their way to being cleaned. He saw, though, that there was a message. He felt his blood pressure rise given the ominous title of “EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY” in all caps. The e-mail met his worst possible fears, and he was a fairly pessimistic person by nature. “Your termination is effective immediately, and you will be reassigned shortly. Please give your company belongings to Kate _________ and inform her that she will be filling your position as bellhop of the hotel. Thank you for your many years of loyal service. Regards, The management.” He was in shock and didn’t quite know what to do with himself. He had been working this job for decades. He tried to parse the bland and entirely inappropriate language of the message for something that suggested warmth and fondness, but there was nothing. There was the bit in there about reassignment, but he hardly knew what that meant. The message did not seem like the sort of way one would handle the imminent departure of someone who had worked loyally and unobtrusively for decades. You threw a party for such a person, and made sure that they felt appreciated. You didn’t ignore their messages and then send something this devoid of warmth and life. Was this how he was to be rewarded for his long years of solitude and isolation in what was a thankless task that would have driven lesser people to absolute despair? He tried to avoid feeling too much self-pity and restrained himself. He saw there were two things that he needed to do, and so he set about to do them.
First, he gathered up his modest belongings and sat them on his bed, something that did not take long to do at all. He found a pad with a pen on it, and started writing a note to Kate. He knew that the following years were likely to be quite lonely for her, and so he wanted to know that she was remembered and that her existence was important to someone. She would have to keep her spirits up, as it appeared that her time of judgment was approaching. He did not believe that she had been judged yet, but it appeared that her case was now on the docket, for what it was worth. He labored over his words, in part because writing was unfamiliar to him and he had never been good at it, but after some time he had a note that he hoped she would appreciate for a long time to come. He had, over the course of his existence, written many notes and most of them were not appreciated, and he hoped this one would break the trend. That task accomplished, he thought it would be necessary to inform Kate that she would be taking his place, and that he would be going elsewhere. It would likely require a long conversation and they would probably want to do it soon. He went back out to the lobby without ever having given the box or what was inside of it a second’s thought. He picked up the receiver and called their room number. The phone rang a few times and a surprised Kate picked it up. “Hi, this is Kate,” came the concerned response. “Hey, it’s me,” he replied, somewhat shy about using his Christian name. “What’s going on?” “Well, the hotel decided to ‘reassign’ me,” he said with air quotes, “And they have decided that you are to take my place.” There was quite a pause. “I don’t know when you want to begin talking about it, but it’s about 3PM now and this hotel stops work on the Sabbath day, so we’ve only got an hour to an hour and a half of any work to do today.” There was more talking as she said what she was going to do. “I’ll meet you at your room in half an hour then, dear,” he said gently, sure that she was as shocked as he had been. This had been a day full of bad surprises, to be sure.
He felt at this point as if there was very little to do. His laundry was being washed, the rooms had been inspected for the week, and an orderly transfer was in the offing. He knew that he was forgetting something but he could not bring it to mind. His memory had not been so good these past few decades, he said to himself. He did decide, though, to write one more e-mail in reply to the one that had nearly made his heart stop earlier this afternoon. He hit reply on the computer and typed something very much like the following: “In response to the preceding message, I have prepared my belongings for reassignment and informed Miss Kate ____________ that she will be taking my place. We will shortly discuss the rules and procedures of the hotel before the Sabbath begins. I will be clocking out shortly. Regards, ___________.” He looked at it and figured that there was little more to say other than that.” He felt as if all of the sudden it was a time for goodbyes. For decades he had done the same things over and over again, and though he knew the time would come when all that would end, he was not prepared for it to end now. He wondered what wheels within wheels were operating, and why he had not been clued in on the thought process as to what was going on. He wondered where he was going and what he was to do, and he was quite out of sorts, unsure of what to do and unprepared for what came ahead. Although he did not know what would happen to him, or why the sudden and abrupt change had been made, but he did know how to put one foot in front of the other, and with that he arrived at the familiar hotel room exactly half an hour later, as he had said, and gave his customary knock offering a shave and a haircut for a quarter.
 In a previously published chapter, I had commented that the bellhop had shot himself in the head, but this has been edited in the canon version of this novel in light of the following comments.